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Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 2

Aquarium Photos - Tips & Techniques 2
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/14.0, 1/200 seconds
Details: (Fill) Flash: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Fishes from around the world, Underwater World #2, Different Fish, RARE or SIGNIFICANT contributions to TN 1, A study in Ichthyology (fish) 1, Tips and Techniques, Underwater Wonder World 3 [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-07-10 20:42
Viewed: 15790
Favorites: 3 [view]
Points: 62
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Threespot angelfish - Apolemichthys trimaculatus

This angelfish was captured at the fabulous uShaka Marine World aquarium, in Durban and it is the first photo of this species on TrekNature. Some of their large display tanks have a limited amount of natural light coming in through the top. This I find especially useful for the illumination of the background as the light tends to give the background a nice, natural, bluish tone. I think this provides a better visual result as the fish (or the subject) don't have to compete against the bright and spectacular colours of the surrounding coral, anemones, etc. The soft light also brings out some lovely detail of the aquarium environment and it makes the subject stand out far better compared to a featureless solid black background, which we see on so many aquarium photos.

Another advantage of these tanks is the spatial design. The background is mostly placed way back with plenty free swimming space in the front of the tanks (as seen on this photo) and this tends to blow the background well out of focus.


Body short and deep, and strongly compressed. Overall colour is bright yellow with a broad black band on the edge of the anal fin and a broad white zone above it. A black spot is on the forehead and an ocellated dark spot just behind the head (often faint or absent); the lips are bright blue. Juveniles have a false eye-spot at the base of the soft dorsal fin and a thin black line over the head, running through the eye. They can grow up to ±26cm in length.

Indo-West Pacific: East Africa south to 28°S and east to Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to Australia.

Inhabits lagoons and seaward reefs. Found mainly near coral in pairs, solitary, or in small groups. Juveniles secretive and occur below 25 m.

Feeds mainly on sponges and tunicates. Source

Tips and Techniques for Aquarium Photography – Part 2

Because I tend to be rather critical of my own work I would study a tank very carefully before I shoot any subjects inside it. If the requirements are not met I would rather skip that tank and find one with the right conditions. A number of factors could influence the results of ones work and this may lead to sour disappointment since it is not always possible to pay a quick return visit to the aquarium to try once again. Obviously with some of these conditions there are very little one can do to rectify it, but that is when one needs to make the disciplined decision to move on to the next tank and hopefully find better circumstances. Let's take a brief look at some of these conditions…

Often the water in older aquariums contains excess tannins (a brownish or yellowish substance used in tanning, dyeing, or as an astringent). It's released by the plants, and the driftwood, or it comes from discolouring metabolites from fish waste. This tends to make the water look yellowish and it will cut down the amount of light in a tank. Sometimes this may be difficult to see with the naked eye, but the camera and the results will most definitively give you an unbiased opinion. The best advice is to avoid tanks with yellow looking water.

Floating debris in the water will also spoil a photo. It may not appear like much when one gaze into a tank, but once it's illuminated by the strong light from a flash the debris will look like shiny white specs. It could even look like the fish might be infected by "Ick" or "White Spot". A disease that's caused by a protozoon which imbeds itself in the skin of the fish and causes small white blisters to form all over it’s body.

Something else about water; light does not travel very far in water so the deeper or wider a tank and the further the subject might be away from the glass the more light will be required to achieve proper results.

Evenly coloured, shaped, or sized gravel appear very artificial and monotonous on the background. From an aesthetic point of view, try to avoid having gravel as a background. This is normally the result when one tends to aim downward at the fish. I find results far more pleasing when the shot is taken at eye level to the fish. Of course when you are shooting bottom dwellers then it is unavoidable to include the gravel, but if possible try to choose a tank or area that has attractive, natural-coloured gravel of varying sizes and shapes to add to the natural look.

The influence the glass or acrylic panes will have on the results will depend and vary from one aquarium or tank to the next. This is determined by the type and quality of the medium used during the construction of the tanks. The degree or amount of distortion from the specific glass affects various aspects of aquarium photography:-
1) It determines the angle one can or should work on at a specific tank.
2) It has a direct impact on the ability of light (flash) to penetrate or pass through the glass. (I will later discuss this issue under the subject "Flash Photography and Lighting".)
3) It confines the ability of the camera (censor) to absorb or take up the reflective light needed to capture the image.
4) Sometimes auto focusing cameras might experience problems to focus properly.

While there is not much one can do about the cleanliness of the inside of the glass at least one can do something about the outside surface. I normally make sure that I take a couple of "Wet Wipes" and a small hand towel with me to remove those unwanted finger or smear marks on the outer surface of the glass. It may not look bad to you, but once you zoom in and fire the flash you may suddenly end up with a fish that is barely visible behind that dirty glass.

Avoid scratched glass. If possible rather wait until the fish swims away from the scratch or, I suggest you simply move on to another tank.

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

Post Processing was done with Adobe Photoshop CS2

manyee, jcoowanitwong, pablominto, uleko, Janice, Aaltjie, Silke, marhowie, nglen, pirate--s, kjpweb, pilonm, pankajbajpai, Dyker, saguzar, dew77, CTP, Proframe, Luc, thor68, Bee-Eug, M_Detay, elizabeth, Miss_Piggy, Rehanna, betsie has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • manyee Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3089 W: 230 N: 6774] (23770)
  • [2007-07-10 22:00]

Another splendid aquarium shot, Loot.
Your masterful use of the available light and the flash brings out the magnificent colors of this angelfish. You certainly chose the right BG and DOF to bring out the fantastic details of this beautiful fish. He definitely looks regal in his resplendent yellow.
We are still waiting for your secret with baited breath!!!
TFS. : )

Hi Loot,
Perfect aquarium photo. Your good techniques solve the problems of thick acrylic pane and water mass. Attractive and well seen image. TFS.

Hello Loot,
A wonderful colou palette!
Most impressive details, this is done by a pro...
Well composed presentation and an excellent note!
Pablo -

Hi Loot
Was hierdie foto in die winter geneem?? Blou lippies? Sy is pragtig in houding en kleur.Dit is ook nie moontlik om te sien dat hierdie foto deur glas geneem is nie. Dit is uitstekend. Baie goeie foto en notas Loot. Doen asseblief tog iets verkeerd vir 'n slag! jou werk is van uiters hoe standaard.


  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-07-11 1:26]

Hello Loot,
I love this series of fish you're posting and the notes are very informative. I only wish we had a tropical aquarium here as well!
Superb capture of this Angelfish in lovely colours that stand out against the blue background. Excellent sharp details too.
TFS and best wishes, Ulla

  • Great 
  • Janice Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
  • [2007-07-11 3:50]

I really don't think there is any water in this aquarium - I can't see any between the fish and you!!!
beautiful bright colours, nice and sharp - excellent clarity.
And thank you heaps dear Loot, for the notes...

Hallo my friend

Long time no speak.
Luckily I had the opportunity today to critique the latest photo you have added to your portfolio, and to read the next chapter on Tips & Techniques of aquarium photography. Thank you so much for this very special step by step information guide on this very interesting topic. I am sure that this series Tips & Techniques are bookmarked by many even though the amount of points does not proof of that. I am convinced that many jealous photographers envy you for the standard of photographs you have submitted on fishes. Not to mention all the other categories.

What is wrong with the people? Can't they see something good and applaud it for what it is worth? I think I'll have make an announcement with an intercom, like when there is a big sale.

New Photo! Come and see! Do not miss out! Picture of the century!

As always, I must congratulate you on this one. I am sure this must be a Hindu fish. Just look at the dot on the forehead! I think the lipstick was tampered with, or maybe the fish is cold. Blue of all colours. I have never seen something as unusual as this. But just because it has blue lips I like it so much more, (as you know blue is my favourite colour). I like this photo a lot, but I must be honest that I liked the lighter background on your previous posting more.) Not that there is anything wrong with this one, maybe my eyes cannot focus properly on this background. But I have to ask like (what is his name again?) old Gerard troos my. “Eh. . Where you made this photo?” Eish, I see he is still were he was. Maybe his engine has stalled. Still just one photo. Perhaps he is also trying to make a photo somewhere. He is definitively not a formula one driver like the new chappy (I think Hamilton?)
I better say goodbye. Just now the moderators threaten to chuck me of the system. Ha-Ha. For talking garbage. Is honesty garbage? Take good care of yourself and of course you’re Shorty. Send my regards to her as well.

bonjour loot
le verre de l'aquarium est invisible sur ce splendide poisson.
ses couleurs sont magnifiques,cependant il a les levres toutes bleues c'est surement qu'il a froid!il ferait mieux de sortir un peu de l'eau!!!ha ha ha.

  • Great 
  • Silke Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 729 W: 98 N: 1707] (5458)
  • [2007-07-11 9:39]

Another fabulous capture (with outstanding colours and details) and another perfect lesson

Hi Loot,
I agree, the light from above, and bluish BG looks smart.
This is a beautiful, detailed image, very well contrasted with vivid colors. A superlative note with very helpful insight/tips..I'm taking notes from your notes :)
Now I just need a camera. And an aquarium exhibit would be helpful I suppose ;}
Very well done.

Hello Loot.

Excellent picture, very good details and colors.


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2007-07-11 13:16]

Hi Loot. This is amazing again. the colours and deatil. i have enjoyed the notes very much thanks for taking the time to write them. waiting now for No3. very well done TFS.

  • Great 
  • smitha Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 348 W: 73 N: 1165] (4409)
  • [2007-07-11 20:44]

Dear Loot,
Excellent picture. Very colourful and good details.Looking forward to next upload,

hi loot and thank you very much for taking time to write us all this!
very impressionant picture!WOW!

Great capture with gorgeous color and detail! Kudos! Cheers, Klaus

  • Great 
  • pilonm Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 588 W: 90 N: 975] (3321)
  • [2007-07-13 7:30]
  • [2]

Hello Loot,

WOW!!! Let me take the time to put back my lower jaw which felt on the floor after looking at this splendid picture................ Ok! It's back at the right place!

Loot, you did a wonderful jewel here by combining the inner soft light of the tank with the mastering of the flash! You did so well on the exposition too letting us see the different variations of yellow!

Seeing the environment in the bg brings a 3rd dimension and life to the picture putting the fish within it!

Colors are wondeful and you managed to create a great compo...

Look at those blue lips! Incredible!!!

Great job, master!!!!


hi loot,
another fine shot of your aquarium series, the colours are lovely, very nice contrast, the scales on the body shines beautifully, lovely composition,
tfs & regards

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-07-14 19:09]

Hello Loot

I think the water is a little too cold for this fish...it's lips are blue.Happens to me too.lol.What a beautiful fish with amazing colours.The image is wonderfully sharp and well focused.Nicely composed . A superb shot.TFS


Wooooow - look at those colours, I love it!
Hi Loot, the colours are so brilliant and the fish seems to glow. What lipstick does he use?
Waterproof and blue, that's good quality ;-) haha! Thanks and greetings
Sabine - wishnugaruda

  • Great 
  • Dyker Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 136 W: 0 N: 57] (170)
  • [2007-07-16 3:19]

Hello Loot
Another beautiful fish photo taken with extreme precision, processed with utmost care, and presented in professional style with very useful notes to compliment the posting. This little angel is a real "Angel" and cute as can be. I have to agree with Aaltjie as it is mind boggling how a contribution like this, in true Trek Nature fashion, does not get the credit it deserves. It is clear that you have spent a good deal of time thought, and love into the preparation of this package so that other people can enjoy it and benefit from it, but the number of critiques or feedback does not nearly reflect the appreciation it is worth. All I can say is "Sorry, big guy", but I know you will not be desponded and that it will rather encourage you to try even harder. I love your series so far and I can't wait for the next episode. Keep it coming.

  • Great 
  • jmp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1659 W: 95 N: 2273] (8415)
  • [2007-07-16 13:29]

Hi Loot,
Techniques described in your exceptional note about underwater photography must surely work as you have demostrated in this impressive fish, that seems to fly in the air. Perfect lighting, bright colors, sharpness... Great job as usual!
TFS, José M.

Hello Loot,
this pic don't seems to be taken in acquarium but undersea. The composition is realy great as the fish colours and illumination. Details ares superb despite the thick glass in front.
We have a very good acquarium, about 150 Km from my house, but unfortunately are prohibited to take photo with flash and results are poor without it. Zoo employes tells that affect fish vision and perturbs it behaviour.

  • Great 
  • dew77 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4432 W: 248 N: 4028] (13270)
  • [2007-07-17 8:19]

Hello Loot,
Very nice close up of this beautiful fish.Blue lips are interesting.Well exposed and composed.Vivid colors,lighting and framing are also excellent.

  • Great 
  • CTP Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 644 W: 6 N: 946] (2726)
  • [2007-07-19 12:23]

Hi Loot,
Stunning fish capture my friend.
I like your pov,colors,fish's pose,fishy expression,focus,sharpness,DOF,Blue lipstick,lighting,composition and note.TFS
PS.I am glad you like my self-portrait :)

Hello Loot,
Don't know how, butI I've missed this great colorful one :)
The one is even more beautiful than the other.
What a perfect series of shots you are showing us here.
A great joy to look at and thanks for the perfect note.
I've learned a lot from it sofar and hope to learn much more from you :)
Thanks for sharing.
Kind regards and have a great weekend,

Hello Loot,
A Very Very NICE shot.



A brilliant shot. Amazing colours and a great POV. Well done.
Best wishes,

An excellent capture with super results from your technique. I know and probably most other people know that it can be difficult task to achieve flawless results when taking pictures of aquarium fish especially with reflection(s) being a big issue as well as the odd lighting scenarios and the timing of that shy fish being in the right spot at the right time(lol). What a wonderful idea to share your technique on aquarium photography. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Loot. :)

Hello Loot

Mag, ek is sommer lus vir so 'n bietjie kretiek skryf as teenvoeter vir vannaand se koue, maar ek sien daars niks nuuts om oor te skryf nie so ek gryp to nou sommer so 'n oue of wat. Iemand noem toe mos dat hulle dink hierdie outjie kry dalk baie koud en dit is hoekom sy lippies so blou is is. Nou ek glo nie rerig daai wolhaar storie nie, maar dit klink nogals na 'n baie goeie oorspronklike verduideliking soos dalks vertel deur 'n Kaapse klong met so 'n rapsie te veel Paarl Perlé agter die blad. In elk geval ek sien die outjie het selfs so 'n bietjie 'eye shaddow' aan gesit. Die foto is so duidelik skerp dat ek amper die skubbe kon tel. Pragtig verby.


Hallo Loot
A whole new world opened in front of my eyes the day you started with photography. If it was not for you I would never have guessed or even thought about the fact that fishes can have coloured lips and not just any colour – shocking blue like this Threespot Anglefish. This is really a great eye opener off the wonders of the Creation for those who do not think about these kinds of things, or even wonder how it all came together. You have captured this fish in fine style and applied excellent technique’s resulting in this brilliant display. The yellow and blue is a lovely combination and the details of the fish’s scales are so clearly visible. It is so clear that one’s eyes follows the contours on each one individually, and not once it fades away or into one another. The black dot on the forehead and the blue linings under the eyes and on the tiny front fin adds a special touch to this already brilliantly captured photo. Thanks for sharing this lovely presentation.

Another beautiful photo from deep sea.

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