When I was getting into photography I had a look around the web for guides to taking photographs of fish as I have an aquarium and wanted to take some pictures. I found that there weren’t any really good guides to taking photos so I thought I’d write my own.
I got together three cameras, a Panasonic DMC-FX40, a Nikon D40 with the standard 18-55 kit lens and a Nikon D90 with a 105mm Macro lens and SB900 flash. These are meant to represent the three types of camera user, the beginner, intermediate and advanced. Choose which guide best fits what equipment you have and get clicking!
Regardless of which you go for here are some general tips to get the best from your photos:
You’re going to be getting some amazing photos really quickly if you have a similar set up to this. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dedicated macro lens, I’ve used a Nikkor 18-200mm and a Nikkor 35mm and both have given really good results. To get the best out of your photos you’re going to have to brave your ‘Manual’ mode. If you’ve not done this before then don’t panic! If you have then hopefully this will be a breeze for you.
Even low end DSLR’s can be used to get great photos of fish in an aquarium. You don’t need special lenses or expensive off camera flash units to get good results. You can get some great photos using the built in Sports Mode but to get the best photos you’re going to have to flick around to your Manual Mode (M).
If the images are blurry you can experiment with changing the autofousing options, such as using continuous focusing mode to follow the fish around or selecting the centre weighting mode to only focus on what’s right in the middle of the frame.
If you’re using a kit lens which you don’t think zooms in enough then don’t panic. This is really easily sorted out. Take your photos at the highest possible size and quality settings and then use either the on-camera crop tools or a computer based image editor like Photoshop or GIMP (which is free). Just crop the image down around the fish and you can instantly get a great looking image.
This is a great little camera and the features on it are very similar to most compact point and shoot cameras available on the market. The biggest challenge with a camera like this is getting enough light so that you can shoot quickly. Speed is really important when photographing fish as they move really quickly. Light is also a problem as the water will suck out the light leaving pictures often very dark. If you want to try simple photos then first off try the Sports Mode on your camera. You can get pretty decent results just with this. Top tip: shoot using the highest quality and largest file size possible so that you can crop the images after to focus in on the fish.
To get the best from this sort of camera though you need to go into the menus and have a play around. First off, find your ISO, this is what used to be film speed in 35mm days but now is how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to light, artificially creating the same effect. (If you really want to know more about ISO in lots more detail then check out Wikipedia’s entry). When you find where your ISO settings are they will probably be on “AUTO”. Change it to the highest possible value, it might be 800, 1600 or if you’re really lucky 3200. If your camera has a “HI” ISO I’d recommend not using it as the pictures will probably be very grainy.
Next you want to try and find your shutter speed if you can. A fast shutter speed keeps the image sharp so when your fish move you capture a still fish and not big blur! The best thing to do here is to have a play around with the settings. ½ means a shutter speed of half a second, which is very long. Ideally you want to try around the 1/60 to 1/120 shutter speeds which are, surprisingly one sixtieth of a second to one one hundred and twentieth of a second, much faster.
So, now you want to get yourself ready. This isn’t a quick thing. Patience really is needed. You’re going to take loads of photos. Most won’t work, some will. If you aren’t getting results you like then try changing your shutter speed settings around to have a play.
Top tip: Take photos at 45 degrees, not 90 degrees (flat on to the glass). This ensures that if the built-in flash fires then you won’t get a reflection.
Don’t give up when you’re using a point and shoot. When I was using a DSLR I got a usable photo every two or three shots I took. When I was using the point and shoot I had to take about fifteen photos just to get one half decent one! The best thing is though you can just delete the ones you don’t like.