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Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 3

Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 3
Photo Information
Copyright: Loot Eksteen (loot) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-04-11
Categories: Fish
Camera: Canon EOS 350D, Sigma 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 HZ DG Macro, Digital ISO 100, UV 62mm Kenko
Exposure: f/11, 1/200 seconds
Details: (Fill) Flash: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Theme(s): _Fotos adicionadas por 5 ou mais membros, Fishes from around the world, Underwater World #2, 5 favs. and up - PART 3, Different Fish, A study in Ichthyology (fish) 1, Tips and Techniques, 80-89 Points I, Underwater Wonder World 3, RARE or SIGNIFICANT contributions to TN 2 [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-07-25 21:32
Viewed: 11911
Favorites: 5 [view]
Points: 88
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Orange-lined triggerfish - Balistapus undulatus

Another tropical marine specimen that was captured at the fabulous uShaka Marine World aquarium, in Durban and it is the first photo of this species on TrekNature. This triggerfish was captured in a different tank than my previous 3 postings. There is no natural sunlight shining into this tank and so it was not possible to attain the same bluish background. When a diver take to the water he/she does not expect to find the same scenario or environment repetitively as the underwater wonder world are filled with variety and amazingly diversified habitats. So, with aquarium photography one should also guard that all the photos or images do not end up looking the same, with the same background, the same plant or coral life, the same habitat, etc. A variation in spice is the flavour of life.


No groove in front of eye. Greenish to dark brown with oblique curved orange lines on posterior head and body; an oblique band of narrow blue and orange stripes from around the mouth to below the pectoral fin; a large round black blotch around peduncular spines; rays of soft dorsal, anal and pectoral fins orange; caudal fin orange. The curved orange-striped colour pattern is unmistakable for this species. Max size = 30cm.

Indo-Central Pacific: Red Sea south to Natal, South Africa and east to the Line, Marquesan and Tuamoto islands, north to southern Japan, south to the southern Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia.

Occurs in coral-rich areas of deep lagoon and seaward reefs from the lower surge zone to at least 50 meters. Has a territorial nature. Eggs laid as one cluster in a shallow excavation on sand or rubble along channels.

Feeds on a variety of benthic organisms such as algae, echinoderms, fishes, mollusks, tunicates, sponges, and hydrozoans. Source

With that out of the way, let's continue with our topic…

Tips and Techniques for Aquarium Photography – Part 3

I very quickly realised that aquarium photography is not as easy as one might tend to think. The glass (reflection, scratches, and smear marks) is a definitive, but conquerable handicap. Add to that the density or clarity of the water, the shiny surfaces of the fish (especially so with silvery specimens), other fish that continuously dart in between, the colourful and sometimes close proximity of water plants, coral, and certain other reef associated organisms, crowds of people (particularly children – Please see the workshop) who may shove and jostle for a better view. All these variable factors often culminate in a rather difficult shoot. Fortunately we have digital which means we can experiment and throw away what is not quite right at no real loss or cost. However, there are numerous precautions and actions we can perform to ensure success. The technique used and how it is applied will determine the overall success of the end photo. Let's discuss some of these issues…

Understanding the LCD image
One of the essential aspects for successful aquarium photography is the ability to correctly interpret the captured image on the LCD display of the camera. Do not only trust the image display on the LCD. I cannot deal with this extensive subject here and for those of you who perhaps don't know how to work with the "histogram” and the overexposure "blinkies" on the display it would be advisable to do some research to learn more about this very important aspect of digital photography. For your convenience I have included two links that adequately explains the use of the histogram on Link-1 or Link-2 and if you want to know more about "blinkies" you are welcome to do a further Google search on the Internet. You will find many forum sites dealing with this aspect.

Once you are back home after a visit to an aquarium it might be very disappointing and highly frustrating to find that many of the photos that looked so good on the LCD actually were either over exposed or under exposed. Sorry, that would be too late, because once back home the aquarium might be too far away and there might be no second chance for a re-shoot.

The fish or subject
It is best to photograph fish that are well established and settled in a tank and thus obviously stress free. This is especially so for the home aquarium photographer as we see a number of these postings here on TREKNature. Make sure you work with healthy, attractive specimens with flattering fins that are relaxed and appears natural. Stressed fish clearly show their out-of-condition or unhealthy state on photos and more than likely these fish might be infected with some disease.

Habitat or background
Aesthetically this is one of the most important considerations. The backgrounds of most good fish photographs contain some natural elements, but one should be very careful that the sometimes highly colourful corals, live plants, rocks, driftwood, and gravel do not become overwhelming on the shot. Too much background colour could rob the actual fish subject from its visual appeal. One also needs to make sure that there is no unsightly aquarium gadgetry or paraphernalia like electric cords or air tubing visible in the shot. It seems like the best results are those photos where the background is somewhat isolated and just faintly reflect the natural habitat. I would normally study a specific tank to find those "sweet spots" that meets or satisfy the needs as already described and that is the place where I want the fish to swim or stay when I shoot my photos. This is where patience is the essential key. You cannot coach a fish to go where you want it to be and you need to wait for the opportune moment when the fish might "someday" decide to go to those spots or areas. Once the fish is in a sweet spot, I simply focus and shoot, being assured of an attractive and hopefully problem-free background.

Sorry, but we're out of space once again. To be continued...

Post Processing was done with Adobe Photoshop CS2

Aaltjie, dew77, mayuresh, Janice, peter_stoeckl, pablominto, parthasarathi, SunToucher, Proframe, marhowie, ellis49, uleko, Silke, vanderschelden, lovenature, Chaga, ramthakur, Silvio2006, jhm, hester, Dyker, jmp, thor68, saeedabbasi, Alex99, c_rapp, SkyF, snowfalken, Luc, anavazao, jeanpaul, Miss_Piggy, betsie, Rehanna has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Proframe: Many thanks.loot 2 07-28 07:16
To Janice: No water?loot 1 07-27 22:41
To peter_stoeckl: Welcome back stranger.loot 1 07-27 22:14
To SunToucher: I prefer staying dry thanks.loot 1 07-27 21:53
To ellis49: Fisherman and other tall stories (ha-ha-ha).loot 1 07-27 21:17
To marhowie: Histogram, etc.loot 1 07-27 21:04
To Aaltjie: And the winner gets...loot 2 07-27 06:40
To joey: Tips?loot 3 07-26 07:45
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Critiques [Translate]

Hurrah! Hurrah!

For the first time, I am first in the line to critique this stunner.
Well done on both the photo and the very detailed information.
I remember in my parents house was a lounge suite covered in material that nearly looked likes this fishes’ style. I hated that set and couldn’t stand the colours and patterns. It made me nauseous just looking at it. But now I must admit, it looks prettier on this fish. This is truly a beautiful fish with warm and exotic colours and very interesting features.

Once again well done, and thanks for ALL your hard work put into the education of fellow members like me. I am always first in line to suck up everything you teach us by ways of your photos and notes.

Kind Regards

  • Great 
  • dew77 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4432 W: 248 N: 4028] (13270)
  • [2007-07-25 23:48]

Hello Loot,
Magnificent close up.Details,sharpness,vivid colors,contrast between fish and dark BG,exposure and cross framing are exclelent.Your note is perfect as always.Have a great day!

Hello Loot,
thanks for informative notes.
superb close-up shot with great exposure,marvellous colours

Hi Loot
Ek is elke keer meer en meer verstom as ek na jou vis fotos kyk. Dit is ongelooflik!! Ek geniet jou notas baie. Dit is baie leersaam - mens neem alles altyd net vanselfsprekend en besef nie altyd die wonder daarvan nie. Dankie loot - ek leer en sien elke keer wat ek op hierdie website ingaan meer en meer.


Hello my friend,
Another sharp and colourful fish. Excellent clarity - and once again I don't think there's any water in that tank!!
Just 150% perfect this time Loot, and now I'm waiting for the fourth installment - thanks and kia ora

Hi Loot,
another excellent fish portrait coming with a lot of equally excellent considerations. Very nice to see and to read after a long absence from home and computer. I very much like the well structured, richly but subtly coloured and well distant background, and the smoothly dynamic diagonal movement!
Very aethetical and well informing contribution. Great work!
Thank you!
My best regards,

Hello Loot,
Amazing details and wonderful colours!
I don't know much about aquarium photography as I have hardly tried, but judged by the result this must be close to perfection...
Super work, including effective framing of the subject!
Pablo -

Hi Loot,
This is an excellent serie of aquarium photos.
It is really good the sharpness and focus on the fish, as well as its vivid and brilliant colours.
The effect of the fill flash works great here, and I like a lot the composition made.
Congratulations and thanks for share it.
My best regards,

Dear sir,
Thanks for your detail note. I beleave it will help all.The picture you had taken is as good as your note.

Hi Loot,
A great series of Aquarium photography and the tips are very usefull to us all. I might have a tip for you as well. Buy a wetsuite, diving equipment and underwater housing for your camera and use your natural charm to let you in the tank. I am sure that you will succeed getting the special VIP treatment.

Just a wonderful photo with superb details and colors. The flash illuminated the colors of the fish wonderfully.

BTW, I do hope you have fully recovered and are running around as a young boy.

TFS my friend.


Dear Loot,
You did surpass yourslf again with this great colorful fish image.
What an awsome beauty this is.
Superb lighting, colors, details and sharpness.
Thanks again for the great note.
Perfect work. My compliments.
Thanks for sharing.
Kind regards, Harry

hello loot,
what a beautiful fish, i liked the vibrant colours very much, sharp image with good details, nice pov, well composed shot, lighting and exposure are juct perfect,
well done,
tfs & regards

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-07-26 8:13]

Hello Loot,
This is absolutely magnificent! I mean both the fish and the shot!! You've captured the details and the colours so well, they're really brilliant. It is amazing how well you manage to catch these fish through the glass!
Many thanks and best wishes, Ulla

WOW !!! thats a great pic , with amazing details .... Love the way this guy is looking at u and posing for for this perfect great shot.

Tfs loot.


  • Great 
  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 729 W: 98 N: 1707] (5458)
  • [2007-07-26 9:03]

Another superb image (delightful composition) and with amazing notes as well.
I love this series
Thanks for sharing it with us all.

HI Loot,
you have become a reall "fisherman" ;-)
You have post o many great pictures of fishes but I think this one must be one of your best,
You manage to get out all the fine details and the small colour tints in this well composed picture.
I do love the pose of the fish, with head up and tail down.
All together with a perfect DOF and a great note makes this to a amazing picture.
Beautiful work, my friend.

  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2007-07-27 3:14]
  • [+]

Hi Loot,
an outstanding shot of this exceptionally beautiful fish.
Sharp with vivid colours.
Excellent quality.
Very well done,

Another Excellent post in this series Loot.
I think the links to histogram use will be the most useful to many here at TN. Maximizing your initial exposure is essential of course..Early on I relied too heavily on the LCD for exposure settings using 1/3 stop increments, and erring on the side of slightly UE when I missed. Less wiggle room in this difficult "public" aquarium setting I'm sure.
Anyway, you have done an excellent work here, not only the notes/tips, but a maximized image as well :)
Very well done.

Beautiful colours, Loot.
Well done...
One should expect the impact of the 'coloured aquarium glass' and the 'flash on glass reflections'.
Well done

Hi Loot,
A intriguing image of this Orange-lined triggerfish. His colour pattern is very unique and so colorful! Your tips and tricks are helpful...thanks! The detail you captured through the window is awesome.
TFS Janice

A truly marvellous capture, Loot.
I am pleasantly stunned by its beauty.
Your tips and techniques would be immensely useful to people wanting to do photography of this kind. Unfortunately, I am not one of them (chuckle!).
Thanks for sharing the great image and warm regards.

Hi Loot, elegant fish with splendid colors, excellent sharpness and wonderful details, I like all your splendid gallery, bravo, very well done, have a nice week end, ciao Silvio

Hi Loot,
Another awesome shot! Amazing how well you handle the fill flash thru the glass with no reflections or hot spots. The colors and detail are just superb. Good to hear you fully understand the Histogram. You have given some excellent advice for people to follow. I am heading to Las Vegas in September to attend Photoshop World Convention there. 4 days of nothing but the best photoshop training you can possibly get. Many sessions are geared to the digital photographer, so I am hoping to learn alot more on proper PP work.
Great series my friend!


  • Great 
  • Ken52 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 636 W: 93 N: 1243] (4195)
  • [2007-07-28 13:19]

Hi Loot,
For those interested in aquarium photography, your series is a gold mine.
Before I forget, I found the workshop photo very interesting. Although you did not want the reflection, in many circles this would be appreciated as artistic and creative.
The original post is stunning. The bright colors and the details are amazing. I can hardly believe the texture you achieved in your shot considering the glass and water between you and your subject. The exposure/light on your subject is perfect. CONGRATULATIONS! (left you a dedication in my gallery).

Hi Loot.
Another stunning image, super sharp with superb detail and colouring. This has a 3D look to it, like you can just reach out and touch it. Wonderful notes and tips.

New Zealand

  • Great 
  • jhm Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 893 W: 0 N: 507] (1853)
  • [2007-07-29 10:52]

Hello Loot,

I'm no underwater specialist, but I find this wonderful, the colours and presentation of this fish is superb.
Your technic is very nice.

Best regards,

  • Great 
  • hester Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1515 W: 18 N: 3165] (11638)
  • [2007-07-29 12:04]

Hi Loot

Interesting note. I haven't managed a decent aquarium shot yet but I may have to try it at some point. You have certainly produced a lovely image. The colours are vibrant and the details on the fish are well seen. Excellent composition and well focused. Lovely shot



  • Great 
  • jmp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1659 W: 95 N: 2273] (8415)
  • [2007-07-30 14:48]

Hi Loot,
Technique in action! Colours, lighting and details can't be better. Glass, water, reflections, dirt, people... everything vanish under your lens!
TFS and best regards, José Miguel

bonjour loot
c'est un vrai soleil en aquarium,ses couleurs sont vraiment tres vives,la vitre ne semble pas avoir d'incidance sur la qualité et la netteté.
bien vu et merci de partage des cliché comme cela.

  • Great 
  • Dyker Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 136 W: 0 N: 57] (170)
  • [2007-07-31 12:14]

Hello Loot
Awesome photo, detailed & highly informative notes, and an incredible series seen in the whole. Whatever needed to being said was said. Even the big guns called it great or one of your best fish photos, so who am I to dispute that fact. Somebody once joked, in one of your previous posts that you should please err for a change as your work is always of such a high standard. Maybe she would have loved to thrash you for a change for we never get that opportunity. Kind of something like what Neil Young said, after all his success that he shied from, that he purposely made some bad records so that he could return to the ditch (hehehe). Thanks for all your effort you put into this series. We have so far already learned a lot about the topic and it looks like there are still a couple of editions waiting in the flanks.

  • Great 
  • manyee Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3089 W: 230 N: 6774] (23770)
  • [2007-08-02 9:16]

Hi Loot,
I love the colors and the patterns on this fish!
Your techniques seem to have brought out the details to their best,
and your ability to turn the yellow stripes into shimmering gold is very impressive.
Seriously, this is a wonderful shot.
And thanks for the series of tips.
Waiting for more with bated breath.
TFS. ; )

Hi Loot,
Amazing details and wonderful shot!
Thank you for tips.

Hi dear Loot ,
excellent work.
great details and amzing colours.
really this colours are wondeful.
thanks for sharing

Hello Loot

What an excellent lesson in aquarium photography you have given us here in these series. Very nice pictures. Fantastic patterns and colours these fish have. Hard to believe that such colours should work as camouflage but of course the surrounding they live in are very colourful too.

Well done and thanks for the educational note.

  • Great 
  • Alex99 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4072 W: 133 N: 7096] (23735)
  • [2007-08-11 0:44]

Hi Loot.
What a perfect shot of this beautiful fish. It is simply outstanding at every respect. Fantastic exactness of reproduction of all details and features of the animal. Superb diagonal composition, lighting and colours are excellent, shadows and BG are so impressive and DOF is selected precisely. Extra-class picture. Bravo and my congratulations.

What awonderful series each one beautifully captured. Gorgeopus colors and markings. WOW! TFS

  • Great 
  • SkyF Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2234 W: 188 N: 1912] (8073)
  • [2007-08-13 5:30]

Hi Loot,
this fish series is fabulous such clear and sharp images and all that through the glass of the aquarium. Excellent work, one gets to really appreciate the colors and the details in those close ups.
Hoping you have a great summer


Hi Loot,
Beautiful capture of this oranged lined triggerfish, the colors are very intense and all with super fantastic detail. Another excellent aquarium tutorial that accompanies this wonderful shot. And yes I remember how people can be careless and invade in the photographers space, one just has to be patient. :)

Hello Loot,

I hope you have your monitor back in the meantime so you can enjoy all the great pictures on TN again! This is another great post from you and also a valuable photography lesson! You spoil us again with these tropical colors.


You composed the image very well to present this beauty in all its splendor. You wisely avoided the boring middle of the frame and also gave the fish enough space to look into. I guess this had to be done very fast while the fish was close to the glass window. The background was also well chosen to isolate the subject.


The colors are spectacular and complement each other! Even the background adds a lot of aesthetic value to your picture. Saturation is also very good! I love the blue fringes on the underside and the blue base of the dorsal and anal fins of the triggerfish.


Excellent contrast between the dark background and the much lighter subject. It helps emphasizing the fish!


The poor artificial aquarium light was well compensated with the flash. It led to a well exposed image without loosing details in shadows and highlights. No reflections from the glass of the aquarium is visible.


Focus was achieved accurately on the subject. The details are sharp and look perfectly. I love the details in the scales and the pattern on the triggerfish's body. The f/11 aperture allowed to include more of the surrounding area.

Thank you for sharing this colorful image and your valuable knowledge about tips and techniques for Aquarium Photography!

With Friendly Regards,

Hi friend,
Lovely colors! Amiazing sharp image! POV and composition are great! Take care Ana:)

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-09-01 13:59]

Hello Loot

Amazing colours in this shot.The focus is sharp with excellent details.I like the little eye and how the fish tilts it's body to get a look at you.The patterns on the fish are wonderful.very good POV and DOF.The colours are vibrant and rich.TFS


Salut Loot
Superbe photo avec cette macro !
De belles couleurs pour un poisson que je ne connais pas du tout.
Bravo et merci...JP

  • Great 
  • wuta Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 855 W: 2 N: 617] (2142)
  • [2007-10-20 11:06]

Hallo Loot , Het is weer een schitterende foto van deze mooie vis ,wat een mooie kleuren heeft hij , leuk mondje , en volgens mij zag hij dat hij op de foto ging ,want hij keek naar jou , Groeten Teunie .

Hallo Loot
Lovely markings, colours and details captured on this Orange-lined triggerfish. It almost looks as if there is a light shining from behind the fish, highlighting the orange lines to its best. The detail captured through the glass is really great, as there is no trace or evidence that it is taken through a window. The vivid colours, the sharp details and the exposure is done excellently. Detail captured around the mouth and eye is really exceptional. Thanks for sharing this beauty. Love

Great work of Aquarium photography. And I really like the detail note and Tips to make such a great pic, of course I need a lots of practice to achieve this result.


Calibration Check