Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tips for Taking Photos in an Aquarium

Fishes and other aquatics could be great subjects for photography. Unfortunately, many conditions make taking photos in aquarium more challenging. They include reflections from the glass surfaces of aquariums as well as weak light condition. Hopefully the following tips can shed some lights (sorry for the bad pun!).

Turn off the Flash
When you use flash to photograph any object behind the glass surface, you will end up capturing more of the flash, and less of your subject matter.

In fact, most aquariums would have a sign to warn against using flash photography. Apart from harming your own photos, flashes also blind visitors. The aquariums' aisles are usually dark, and the flashes could be quite blinding as people have getting used to indoor lighting conditions.

The people who use flashes are more likely because they have automatic setting on their cameras, which would set off the flashes when it detects low light conditions. Apart from annoying others, you also depleting your battery level rather quickly.

These days just about every camera - even the humble phone cameras - let you turn off the flash.

Use High ISO
The lighting in aquariums are quite weak. Without the flash, your only other alternatives are opening up the aperture and a slow shutter speed. A slow shutter will lead to blurry photos, and there's only so much you can open up your aperture. So the only ammo left for the photographer is to increase your ISO number. With high ISO, you will end up with pretty grainy photos, but it's more preferable than blurry ones.

Use a Lens Hood
One nagging problem with taking photos of any subject matter behind glasses is the reflections. While the aquariums these days make the viewing and photography easier by dimming the lights in the hallways to minimise reflection from the aquariums' surfaces. Sometimes reflections are inevitable. They could come from sources like an doorway, the lit sign of an exit or toilet, somebody's phones, or simply lights from nearby aquariums.

One way to completely eliminate this glare is to lean (not too hard) your camera lens squarely against the glass surface leaving no gaps in between. If bringing your camera right up to the glass surface is too close to photograph your fishes, then add on a lens hood to extend the distance between your camera lens and your fishes. One more benefit for resting your camera lens on the glass surface is essentially using it as a tripod (more like monopod) to minimise shaking from your hands.

Tulip and tubular lens hoods
3 Tulip and 2 tubular lens hoods
Source: wikipedia
Don't use tulip lens hoods as there are gaps letting outside light into the lens hood, use the tubular ones instead.

Even better, use the rubber one like this one instead of hard plastic. The flexible rubber and wide opening allow you to tilt the camera ever so slightly to get your desired angle. It also protects your lens as you accidentally hit the glass surface (when you couldn't see very well as you push the camera towards the glass surface). For our purpose, the more flexible the lens hood, the better.

Rubber lens hood
Rubber lens hood
Source: Wikimedia

Visit there on a Weekday
In general, aquariums would be more quiet on weekdays and make your shooting easier. Of course,
if you're going there with your kids, you have no choice but do it on weekends. Going there on weekdays on school holidays probably just as busy as normal weekends. If possible, go there on weekdays during non school holidays.

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