Tips for Photographing in Public Aquariums

Aquarium photography is one of the hardest challenges for a photographer. Unlike zoos, the lighting conditions are not in favor of the photographer, it is dark and often the water is cloudy. The area is crowded and has hyperactive kids running around, many exhibits have a small viewing area and not to forget the thick glass between the camera and the marine life. In many places, flash is prohibited and so is using a tripod or monopod.

Photo by Dracoart-Stock

Here are some tips and techniques which can help you with aquarium photography:

• One thing which you can do is to be there as soon as the doors open. This way you can avoid the crowd to an extent, and have a clear view of the marine life you intend to photograph.

• Fast Lens :
A fast lens comes in handy while shooting aquariums. The lower the f-number the faster is the lens. The low light and restricted flash usage means you need a bigger aperture. It is recommended to use a lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or faster. This helps in getting a shallow depth of field and can make the glass you are photographing through, invisible.

Photo by Flemhead

• Shutter Speed and ISO :
Fish keeps on moving constantly. Hence, it is recommended to use a fast shutter speed to avoid blurry images.
The lighting condition at such places is very poor. Plus, using a fast shutter speed means that you are allowing less light to come in. This might give you very dark images. To avoid this, you will need to crank up your ISO setting to at least 800, and if it’s possible up to 1600. You can apply a noise reduction in the post-processing stage with a photo-editing software.

• Keep the camera stable :
Using a tripod is generally restricted at aquariums. The easiest way to keep your camera stable is by pressing the lens against the glass. Don’t forget to use a lens and UV filter to protect the lens from dust and scratches. Also, using a lens hood will largely eliminate the risk of reflections caused by the glass.

Photo by kittykitty5150

• Focusing :
As your subject is always moving, avoid using auto-focus. Auto-focus needs to keep track of the moving subject, hence, producing unfocused blurry images. Use manual focus with a short depth of field to keep your subject in focus.
Keep the camera perpendicular to the glass and the subject. Keeping the camera at an angle to the glass, will distort the light and the image might get out-of-focus.

• Avoid flash :
Switch off the flash of your camera. Using flash will reflect the light off the glass. Also many sea creatures have sensitive vision, using a flash might harm their eyes.

Photo by Gursesl

• Patience :
Patience and persistence are really important to achieve good photographs of the marine life in aquariums. Hyperactive children, crowds, small viewing areas, thick glass between your subject and the camera can really stress you out as a photographer. You need to be calm and patient, let the crowd move and wait for your turn. You can focus at one area and wait for your subjects to swim in front of you. The result will be satisfying.

Photo by O-Renzo

• Don’t just shoot fish :
Don’t just focus on the fish. Aquariums also have beautiful coral and plants. Even the people around you can make really good subject for the photograph.

• Take more than one picture of your subject from many positions and distances. This will give you more pictures to choose from.

These are some tips and techniques which can help you achieve beautiful aquarium photographs. Post-processing your images in Photoshop or any other photo-editing software can help you in making your photographs look better. You don’t want to miss out a good photographic opportunity because your batteries are dead or the memory is full. Hence, it is important to carry a spare battery and extra memory cards with you.

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