Cichlid Room Companion

Internet lectures

Fish photography

By , 1995. printer
Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, 2010

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1995-Dec-13 "

Juanmi has muted audible commands.

Juanmi says: 1 2 3 trying, trying

Juanmi says: Well, thank you very much for letting me take Dev place in this meeting, I know is not what you all expected but, what the hell, something worst could had happen.

Juanmi says: Well, I will try to give some advises on fish photography that I have learned over the years, they will be first on aquarium photography and later, if you still stand me, I could talk to you about underwater photography, I should point to the fact that I concentrate on Cichlids but have also taken pictures of many fish, including marines, in aquarium and natural habitat, so any question is welcome.

Juanmi says: Go to the advises. First and most important, you should know the fish you are trying to photograph, it makes a lot of difference if you know the habits of the subject, the fish if kept in aquarium shhould be healthy and happy, a unhealthy or frightened fish will just produce garbage pictures

Gustavo says: what about trying to photograph a sickness...

Gustavo says: nevermind

Juanmi says: You should better consider the equipment you are going to use, 99% of those magnificent pictures you see in magazines are taken with 35 mm cameras and slide film, the better the lens you use, the better the picture, that applies in a lesser degree to the film.

Juanmi says: The lens is very important, you should better use a macro lens, a 55 mm is appropriated for photography of large fish, and you will need a 105 mm macro for small fish like dwarf Cichlids.

Juanmi says: Lightning should be provided by means of a flash, two or even more. A flash light on top of the camera will do an splendid job, two or more flashes separated and mounted on their own stands will also do a great job, perhaps even better, but one flash on top is good enough for magnificent pictures.

Juanmi says: Forget that histories that fish are frightened by a flash, those are garbage, the fish wont even notice. A strong light on top of the aquarium as has been suggested for providing lighting doesn't work, then you frighten the fish, change the temperature of color and loose depth of field.

Juanmi says: You always use the smallest of the apertures for your pictures and give always full flash power, forget TTL through the lens light measuring, the full strength of the flash will give you the greater depth of field you need with macro lenses.

Juanmi says: Well, once you have your equipment and your healthy fish, MOST important, have the water crystal clear and the glass also in top shape, anything less will produce sh*t pictures.

Juanmi says: I mean it, anything less, don't feel lazy about it.

Juanmi says: Well, you have to provide always a non reflective surface at the rear of the tank as background for pictures, that could be rocks, logs, plants or whatever non reflective, otherwise you will get a nice reflection on the rear pane that will spoil your picture completely.

Juanmi says: For taking aquarium pictures and avoiding the reflection on the front glass you have three choices, 1) get close to the front glass, that will avoid reflections, lets say no farther than ten centimeters (4 inches), 2) take the pictures at a 45 degree angle from the front glass, that will also avoid reflections and 3) Use the two (or more) flashes laterally mounted method, that will also avoid reflections.

Juanmi says: Be very patient, it is better one good picture than 100 bad ones, However, you should be ready to expect that just one in many, many pictures will be perfect, that's everyday stuff even for the best photographer, as you get better pictures 'perfect' will be farther for you taste everyday.

Juanmi says: also forget about auto focusing, you will never get a clear picture of a fast fish, you should always keep focusing and try to get the eye in focus, that will make your picture a good one.

Juanmi asks: Well, that is some basic stuff for aquarium photography, any questions about it?

Roger asks: what about the use of macro filters?

Dev says: macro filters are not a good idea Roger, usually lose some depth of field and decrease sharpness if the filter isn't of high quality.

Gustavo asks: what kind of film?

Juanmi says: Gustavo, I will use slide film with the slowest speed, let say ASA 50 for aquarium shots, I like Fuji Velvia the best, although the new (and cheaper) Fuji sensia is very good also, before that I preferred Kodak Echtachrome because is gives you colors closer to real.

Dev says: if you want print film, Fuji Reala is tough to beat.

Roger only uses Kodak films.

Dev says: the newest and most expensive Kodak print film (I forget the name) is the most comparable to Reala, but Reala has an edge on color saturation.

Juanmi says: Old Fuji films gave you colors very bright and non existent.

Roger asks: how about a comment from personal experience?

Juanmi says: Well as I said, be patient, know your fish, expect many bad pictures and get rid of them, I have taken thousands of pictures and many have been published, and just a fraction of them rally convince me. Of course, the more picture you take, the more good pictures you get, I mean proportionally.

Dev says: Not to belittle Juan's method since the direct flash method works well, but there are other methods that may work better, depending on what your goal is. There are different techniques for photographing an entire tank as a "landscape" versus taking closeup photos of your beloved specimens...

Dev says: Those of you with plant tanks will realize that photos look outstanding with some plants in the background, and this may require a bit more than the direct flash-forward lighting.

Juanmi says: Yes Dev, but I was talking fish photography, you can take long time exposures for lighten planted tanks that will come awesome.

Dev nods his head in understanding.

Roger says: I tried a digital camera, with horrible results.

Kenkearney nods his head in understanding.

Gecko asks: why horrible results with the digital Rog? Just low resolution or something else?

Roger says: the main problems were not having any macro capabilities (if you got close enough, everything was blurry), and the fact that the viewfinder did NOT look through the lens...

Roger says: So the fish would be in the center of the viewfinder, but no where near the center of the lens view.

Gecko smiles.

Roger says: for the shots on my webpage, I used a Minolta 7000 with a 50mm lens and macro filters. direct flash and Kodak Extra Gold 1000 film.

Dev says: another tip- buy rolls of film with 20 or less exposures each. it'll save money instead of force you to blow 24 or 36 shots during your test

Roger says: good tip

Juanmi says: Yep, your first pictures will require you to make tests, they will be trial an error, you will be forced to bring down a couple of aperture steps because of the light that reflects in and out the front pane of the aquarium

Dev says: with a test roll, bracket your exposures so you can quickly pick out the correct exposure (keep a log of the shots' exposures and request at the photograph lab that they number your pictures).

Dev says: with regards to focusing, if you set the picture up so that the depth of field just reaches the mid to back of the tank and ends in front of the tank, then anything that swims within this region will be in focus, making your shots more predictable.

Juanmi says: That won't be possible with a macro lens Dev, Unless you have a 2 inch deep tank and that make the fish unconfortable, small fish wont be in focus even in those tanks.

Roger exclaims: that's the way Axelrod does it!

Dev grins.

Juanmi grins.

Melissa grins.

Dev says: well, I'm not sure why you wouldn't be able to adjust the depth of field with a 55m lens, so long as you have control of the aperture still while using the flash.

Juanmi says: Because you will be taking pictures at a very short distance with a macro lens, that will reduce your depth of filed considerably.

Dev says: a 55mm is not really considered a macro lens Juan, at least by Nikkor standards it's a "micro" lens. And a 105mm is considered a portait lens.

Juanmi says: The sell as macro, whatever Dev, we are referring to the same, semantics...

Melissa asks: Getting technical Dev?

Dev says: "macro" tends to be a bonus feature that comes normally with your wide-range zoom lenses.

Juanmi says: I will advice fixed length lenses, you get better quality pictures with them than with zoon lenses.

Juanmi says: get also the best lens you can buy, that will make the difference, put the camera in second place, all you need is a 35 mm manual camera.

Melissa says: Just make sure the lens can fit on the camera. Won't tell you of the stories I heard from people who bought a lens only to find it didn't fit their camera.

Juanmi laughs.

Dev grins.

Juanmi asks: any other comments?

Juanmi says: Ok thanks a lot for your attention, any other time I may tell you about underwater photography.


Artigas Azas, Juan Miguel. (May 27, 1996). "Fish photography". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on October 21, 2017, from: