An aquarium is a great place to spend time indoors—whether it is a scorching hot day or a frigidly cold day. It is also a relaxing space to see the colorful fishes meandering through the water. But do you know an aquarium can also help improve your photography skills?
Intrigued? Let’s dive in to learn more.
Aquariums are indoors with less light than usual. Plus, your subject, the fish, is quick. So you have to know the correct camera settings and be creative with your composition to take striking pictures. If you’ve tried taking pictures in an aquarium with not-so-ideal results, here are some tips to avoid those dark, blurry, and unappealing images.
1. Use a Fast Lens
With any indoor photography, it is a good idea to carry the fastest lens you have. A fast lens has a large maximum aperture that can let more light into your camera than a normal one.
If you own the famous 50mm prime lens, it is a perfect candidate for your aquarium photography. With f/1.8 as the maximum aperture, the lens can tackle even the darkest corner of the reef.
Most of the fish in the aquarium are fast-moving, so you must maintain the shutter speed. A fast lens will let you keep the shutter speed high without compromising the depth of field and image quality.
2. Don’t Forget the Lens Hood
Have you taken beautiful photos in an aquarium but found ugly reflections all over them? Well, there is glass everywhere in an aquarium. Unfortunately, with glass comes the trouble of reflections.
One way you can avoid distracting reflections on your images is by using a lens hood. If you’re in the habit of leaving your lens hood at home, remember to pack it when you visit an aquarium.
You have to go closer to the fish tank, almost touching it, to cut out the reflections on the tank.
3. Avoid Using Flash
The on-camera flash is never flattering, and it is true in the case of aquarium photos too. Plus, you will have a bright glare from the flash to edit out later. More than that, we don’t yet know the impacts of flashing intense light on those gorgeous creatures.
A video posted on Reddit made a stir, calling for a flash photography ban in aquariums. In the video, a tuna fish reacts dramatically to the flash by charging into the aquarium glass and killing itself.
Whether the aquarium you visit has a flash photography ban or not, it’s better to err on the safe side and turn off the flash.
4. Increase the ISO
If you are a stickler for image quality, you will try to keep the ISO reasonable. But, in an aquarium, you can encounter some challenges. For instance, your favorite subject may like to hide in a dark corner, the fish may be fast, and you cannot add external light like a flash. So, your only option is to play around with ISO.
Even with a fast lens, you may have to up your ISO a bit. But the good news is you can edit out the noise later in post-production. Also, if you have one of the latest cameras, it should handle high ISO quite well.
5. Do Your Homework
Before actually visiting the aquarium, try to learn more about the fish that call it home. Then, browse the aquarium’s website and social media pages to learn more about the prominent creatures and other highlights. This way, you can carry the best possible camera-lens combination and be prepared with any other techniques you may need to use.
When you’re in the aquarium, prepare to spend some time at each tank to try different compositions. You have to look for subjects that are not only vibrant but also cooperative. Patience is crucial in learning more about your subject and capturing it perfectly.
6. Try Burst Mode
Burst mode is handy for capturing fast-moving subjects like fish. In burst mode, your camera will take many images in quick succession, and you will not miss any of the action. So, you will have the option to choose the best picture out of many similar compositions.
You can nail the focus every time by using continuous focus mode along with burst mode. Your camera will track the moving fish and focus on it correctly in continuous focus mode.
7. Use Different Compositional Techniques
Focusing on the eyes of animals and people is a rule of thumb to get intimate and striking photos. The same goes for shooting at eye level. But some aquariums have tanks on the ceilings too. In such cases, keep this as a general guideline, and feel free to try other perspectives.
Look for light rays streaming through the water. Fish or other creatures against the rays of light can make for a compelling composition.
8. Include the Narrative
Individual and group fish pictures are nice, but add some story to strengthen your composition. Try to look for fun and exciting fish behavior to capture. Play around and find different angles and perspectives.
Including the staff or visitors interacting with the fish can make your images more interesting than simple fish profiles.
9. Edit Your Photos
To make your fish photos stand out, you must make some tweaks in post-production. Along with adjusting shadows, highlights, and saturation, look for noise in dark areas. This is especially important if you shot your images with high ISO settings.
Another potential issue you will face is chromatic aberration. But you can easily fix chromatic aberration in Lightroom.
Push Your Creative Boundaries in an Aquarium
An aquarium is a place for relaxing and having fun. But, at the same time, it is also a place for potential learning and improving your photographic skills.
Are you an enthusiastic wildlife photographer? Zoos and aquariums are excellent places to practice your skills before chasing wildlife in the field. And if you have aquatic skills, you can practice taking pictures in an aquarium before diving into underwater photography.