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Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile
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hayath_dyno
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:16 pm Post subject: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Was  thinking  of  doing  an  article  for  my  buddies  here  @  IAH  about  photography  and  this  was  pending  with  me  for  a  long  time.
 
 Would  like  to  get  feedback  over  this  and  post  this  as  a  better(?)  article  here  Smile
 
 Did  this  article  over  a  period  of  4  days,  so  here  goes  Thumb Up
 
 Understanding  photography  and  challenges  of  photographing  fish  
 
 Photography  is  the  most  popular  hobby  in  the  world.  This  can  be  attributed  highly  to  the  fact  that  a  "picture  can  speak  a  thousand  words"  and  often  we  "capture"  the  beauty  of  the  moment.
 
 
 Photography  quite  literally  means  "painting  with  light"  and  to  take  good  photographs  one  needs  to  understand  how  light  interacts  with  subjects  that  we  intend  to  photograph.
 Before  we  start  I’d  like  to  iterate  the  fact  that  a  photograph  is  taken  in  the  â€œeye”  and  a  camera  is  only  a  means  of  capturing  that  photograph  digitally.
 
 All  cameras  are  basically  "pin-hole  cameras"  where  light  enters  through  a  small  pin-hole  and  the  image  that  the  light  represents  is  cast  on  a  film.
 
 
 It  is  essentially  the  same  design  that  mother  nature  has  used  in  the  best  camera/lens  ever  -  The  human  eye.
 The  human  eye  has  the  capability  to  adapt  "automatically"  to  varying  conditions  and  hence  gives  us  good  eyesight  in  most  decently  lit  situations.
 
 Unfortunately  cameras  can  never  achieve  that  level  of  engineering  brilliance.  Hence  it  is  important  we  understand  how  light  interacts  and  what  are  the  various  factors  that  decide  the  kind  of  photographs  we  get.
 
 The  most  important  factors  for  a  photograph  are  -
 1.  Available  light  -  For  painting  with  light,  we  require  "light"  in  the  first  place  Smile  The  better  lit  a  subject  is,  the  better  it  would  be  for  the  camera  to  capture  details.
      The  best  source  of  light  known  to  man  has  been  the  Sun.  Unfortunately,  the  Sun  does  set  and  we  do  have  situations  where  sunlight  would  not  be  enough,  Hence  most  of  today's  camera(s)  come  equipped  with  their  own  built-in  "flash"  systems  which  emit  light  for  a  fraction  of  a  second  hence  providing  the  camera  with  "light".  However  Flash  does  have  it's  limitations  of  being  able  to  provide  for  light  only  within  a  few  feet.
 
 2.  Shutter  speed  -  Defines  how  long  the  shutter  of  the  camera  is  kept  open.  The  shutter  of  the  camera  is  like  a  curtain  which  is  raised  for  a  specified  amount  of  time  to  allow  light  (and  hence  the  required  image)  to  fall  on  the  film/sensor.  The  longer  it  is  kept  open,  the  "slower"  the  action  becomes.  For  "action"  shots  where  we  would  want  to  "freeze"  the  photograph,  we  would  use  a  high  shutter  speed.  A  high  shutter  speed  means  that  the  shutter  is  kept  open  for  a  lesser  amount  of  time.
 
 
   Due  to  this  the  amount  of  light  available  will  directly  define  the  shutter  speed.  Think  of  a  situation  where  you  are  in  high  light  and  the  eyes  would  blink  more  often  to  control  the  amount  of  light  entering.  Higher  light  would  call  for  a  higher  shutter  speed.
 
 Lower  shutter  speed  would  be  used  otherwise.
 There  are  times  when  one  would  want  to  use  the  variations  "creatively".  For  instance,  this  "slow  shutter  speed"  experiment  at  night  with  very  less  available  light.
 
 
 
 The  shutter  speed  can  be  set  by  using  the  "S"  mode  in  most  of  today's  digicams.
 A  setting  of  "1000"  would  mean  the  shutter  is  kept  open  for  1/1000th  of  a  second.
 
 3.  Aperture  -  Think  of  looking  with  one  eye  into  a  long  pipe  which  has  a  covered  end  with  a  small  hole.  The  larger  the  hole  gets,  larger  amount  of  light  is  able  to  enter.  A  smaller  aperture  would  mean  lesser  amount  of  light  coming  through.  A  more  important  feature  is  the  "depth-of-field"  (DoF)  that  comes  with  aperture.  Aperture  is  referred  to  as  a  "F"  number.  A  F  number  of  2.8  would  mean  that  the  area  around  the  intended  focus  are  is  less  detailed.  For  e.g.  when  taking  macros  where  we  need  a  small  area  in  focus  with  the  background  nicely  blurred,  we  would  use  a  small  "F"  number  of  2.8  to  4.0  
 
 
 For  photographs  requiring  details  around  the  subject  (a  landscape  or  a  full  tank  shot),  we  would  need  to  use  a  higher  "F"  number.
 
 
 
 
 A  few  schematic  diagrams  to  show  how  Aperture  affects  focus  area
 
 
 
 
 
 This  photograph  taken  by  my  friend  Sudhakar  explains  how  the  aperture  decides  focus  control  -http://flickr.com/photos/chandamama/2276156861/
 
 
 4.  Exposure  balance  -  Allows  the  user  to  "expose"  the  photograph  by  a  few  "stops".  If  we  decrease  the  exposure  balance,  we  would  get  an  image  that  is  darker  by  that  amount,  increasing  the  exposure  balance  would  result  in  a  brighter  image  (however  this  compromises  image  quality)
 
 5.  ISO  sensitivity  -  It  defines  how  sensitive  the  camera's  sensor  is  to  available  light.  Often  digital  cameras  come  with  a  ISO  range  of  100  to  1000.
 An  ISO  setting  of  100  will  need  more  light  and  will  give  fine  detailed  images.
 An  ISO  setting  of  400+  would  need  lesser  amount  of  light  and  introduces  some  amount  of  "noise"  that  show  up  as  grains.
 
 6.  Minimum  focusing  distance  -  This  defines  the  minimum  distance  required  between  the  camera's  sensor  and  the  subject  below  which  the  camera  cannot  focus.
 This  would  be  important  when  shooting  at  close  quarters.  
 
 7.  White  balance  â€“  This  allows  the  user  to  specify  the  kind  of  light  the  shot  would  be  taken  in.  This  greatly  decides  the  â€œtrueness”  of  the  colours  that  show  up  in  the  photograph.  Various  sources  of  light  have  different  behaviour.  For  instance,  fluorescent  lighting  tends  to  have  more  of  the  â€œblue”  spectrum,  whereas  sunlight  would  have  more  of  â€œred”.  The  balance  is  calibrated  against  â€œwhite”  and  hence  the  name.  Most  cameras  allow  the  user  to  specify  the  white  balance  and  would  have  settings  such  as  â€œFlash”,  â€œTungsten”,  â€œFluorescent”,  â€œSunlight/outdoor”.  Most  often  keeping  the  white  balance  in  auto  mode  does  the  job,  but  in  tricky  situations,  it  does  require  a  manual  over-ride.
 
 These  basics  are  most  important  and  hold  good  for  a  pin-hole  camera  (the  most  basic  type)  as  well  as  a  high-end  "medium  format  camera".
 I  firmly  believe  no  matter  what  make/style  of  camera  it  is,  it  is  a  basic  pin-hole  camera,  the  way  light  behaves  is  pretty  much  the  same.
 
 Now  that  we  fairly  understand  the  terminologies,  we  will  move  on  to  applying  these  learnings  to  photographing  fish  Smile
 
 We  as  aquarists  take  utmost  care  of  our  wet  pets  and  do  like  taking  photographs  of  them  for  various  reasons  -  
 1.  As  archives  to  keep  track  of  fish  that  we've  kept
 
 2.  To  share  with  fellow  hobbyists,  sometimes  for  identification.
 
 
 
 
 And  many  more  varied  reasons...  No  matter  what  the  reason  is,  a  good  photograph  depicting  the  required  details  and  coloration  of  the  fish  is  always  preferable.
 
 Fish  unlike  other  pets  are  quite  mobile/agile  and  pose  quite  some  challenges.
 Some  of  them  would  be  -
 1.  Very  minimal  usable  light  by  the  camera  in  the  tank.
 2.  Fish  keep  moving  very  fast  and  often  cameras  fail  to  lock  on  with  good  focus.
 
 
 3.  When  we  do  seem  to  have  gained  good  focus,  at  the  instant  the  photograph  is  taken,  some  other  fish  comes  in  the  way.
 
 
 4.  Glare  off  the  aquarium  glass  when  flash  is  used.
 5.  Getting  very  blurry  images.
 
 
 6.  Fish  going  into  hiding  when  you  get  very  close.
 7.  Flash  bouncing  off  silvery  fish  resulting  in  "flashed  out"  images.  Also  the  eye  of  the  fish  reflecting  the  flash  giving  an  unnatural  look.
 
 With  digital  cameras  available,  it  no  more  costs  an  arm  or  a  leg  to  go  about  clicking  our  beloved  underwater  beauties,  it  would  however  be  more  satisfying  to  get  a  better  percentage  of  "better"  photographs  for  the  amount  of  time  spent  with  the  camera.
 
 It  pays  to  know  the  behaviour  of  the  fish  we  intend  to  photograph  so  that  we  can  adjust  the  camera's  setting  accordingly.  Smaller  fish  like  Tetra  move  pretty  fast  and  do  not  stay  in  one  place  for  long.  Larger  cichlids  would  tend  to  stay  in  their  favourite  hangout  and  also  tend  to  rush  towards  the  front  of  the  glass  wanting  attention.
 
 Often  blurry  images  are  due  to
 a)  Slow  shutter  speed  -  this  is  how  the  camera  would  adapt  to  low  light.  We  can  avoid  this  by  using  various  techniques  such  as  
  *  Using  flash  to  "freeze"  the  fish  in  the  frame
    
 
  *  Using  a  fairly  high  shutter  speed  coupled  with  the  right  ISO  and  Aperture  setting  (will  require  changing  over  to  "manual"  mode)
 
 
 b)  No  focus  of  the  fish  -  This  could  be  due  to  a  host  of  reasons  like  the  fish  moving  too  fast  for  the  auto-focus  to  work,  murky  water  inhibiting  auto  focus  to  get  a  nice  focus  lock,  etc.  This  "can"  be  offset  by  using
  *  Macro  mode  which  indicates  to  the  camera  to  focus  on  closer  objects.
  *  Tracking  the  fish  needed  with  the  shutter  button  (clicker)  half  pressed.  This  allows  the  camera  to  attain  focus,  once  focus  is  achieved,  the  shutter  can  be  pressed  fully  to  take  the  shot.
  *  Focus  on  an  object  in  the  aquarium  with  the  shutter  half  pressed  and  then  click  full  when  the  required  fish  is  near  the  focused  object.  This  could  be  a  plant/rock/accessory  around  which  the  fish  often  visits.
  *  Use  a  plain  background  which  would  allow  the  camera  to  pick  up  the  color  contrasts  and  focus  a  lot  more  easier.
 
  *  Clean  the  aquarium  glass  prior  to  the  shoot  using  damp  newspaper
  *  Perform  a  water  change  a  day  before  to  ensure  there  are  no  floating  particles  in  the  water  column.
 
 A  few  quick  tips  that  I've  learnt  -
 *  Glare  on  the  aquarium  due  can  be  avoided  by  shooting  at  a  slight  angle.  We  need  to  ensure  the  angle  is  not  too  great,  else  we  would  get  images  which  show  the  fish  pretty  skewed  and  out  of  proportion.
 *  Flash  does  introduce  a  nasty  element  -  it  "washes  out  the  colours".  This  can  be  avoided  by  decreasing  the  flash  intensity  by  a  stop  or  two.
 *  Use  the  right  ISO  setting  to  get  detailed  colours
 *  Spend  time  in  front  of  the  aquarium  to  allow  the  fish  to  settle  down  before  shooting.
 *  Try  to  include  a  fair  bit  of  the  fish's  environment  in  the  shot  to  evoke  interest.  A  detailed  shot  of  a  fish  with  it's  immediate  surrounding  showing  will  evoke  greater  response  than  one  with  a  plain  background.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 *  Shooting  with  digicams  does  not  cost  much,  so  try  the  manual  mode  of  the  camera  and  see  what  kind  of  results  you  can  come  up  with
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 *  Think  like  a  camera  before  you  click  the  shutter  button.  
 
 These  tips  can  only  better  our  odds  of  getting  a  good  photograph.  It  pays  to  have  patience  on  your  side  as  fish  really  do  not  understand  the  term  "CHEESE"  Smile
 For  every  "Decent"  photograph  we  get,  we  will  in  all  probability  be  discarding  tens  of  photographs  which  will  be  nowhere  close  the  kind  of  result  we  expected.
 
 I’ve  tried  to  pen  down  my  thoughts  in  the  most  common  way  possible.  A  lot  more  exists  to  photography  than  what  I’ve  mentioned  above.  These  are  only  to  help  us  â€œstart”  understanding  it  Thumb Up
 
 References:
    A  lot  of  resources  and  people  whom  I’ve  learnt  a  lot  from,  they  need  the  kudos.  A  lot  of  friends  and  hobbyists  who  have  allowed  me  to  try  my  experiments  on  their  tanks/fish.
 A  few  links  that  helped  me  when  I  started  off  (with  technique  and  inspiration)  
  http://flickr.com/groups/digitalps/
  http://www.pbase.com/pschia/oddballs
 
 A  few  of  my  public  albums  â€“
 http://picasaweb.google.com/hayath.m/Fish
 http://flickr.com/photos/hayath/
 
 Happy  clicking!
 Hope  this  helped  Smile
 
 Cheers,
 Hayath
 
 *Edit:  Edited  the  image  size  to  be  512


Last edited by hayath_dyno on Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jessica
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:35 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Aaaaawesum  and  so  very  helpful  for  beginners  like  me...  Thanks  so  much  hayath  Smile
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Seetharam
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:37 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Buddy....Thats  one  well  written  article     Clapping   and  im  sure  lot  of  us  here  are  going  to  benefit  from  it  (Including  me   Very Happy  )  and  those  pictures  are  just  beautiful   Thumb Up  
 
 Thanks  a  lot  for  your  time  and  effort  !!!
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rasikanayak
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:46 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Fantastic  hayath,
 
 Can  this  be  made  a  Sticky  by  the  admins,  Please?  Smile  
 
 Regards,
 Nayak.
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aquaboy
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:47 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Great,  Informative  post  Hayath.   Bow  
 
 Thanks,
 Aquaboy.
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Kaushik
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:58 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Dear  Hayath
 Thank  you  from  the  bottom  of  my  heart  for  the  well  written  article.  Actually  I’m  on  a  learning  path  and  I’m  enjoying   as  well  as  rediscovering  every  important  facts  of  the  article.  Now  the  Gizmo(camera)  and  the  reqd.skills  are  more  clear  to  me.  You  can  remember  that  on  several  occasions  I  request  to  you  to  enlighten  us  regarding  the  tricky  subject  in  which  I'm  a  novice.  Now  you  full  filled  my  and  others  demand  and  on  behalf  of  the  members  once  again  I'm  thanking  you.  Request  Admins  to  make  it  sticky.
 Best  Regards
 Kaushik
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Matsyapremi
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:58 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Hayath,
 
 Very  well  written  and  good  visuals  for  better  understanding  by  novices.
 
 In  the  basics,  I  would  like  to  add  one  more  point  -  which  is  
 
 Angle  of  View  and  the  relationship  to  focal  length  of  the  lens.
 
 In  a  35mm  format  film  camera  the  following  holds  true..
 
 Normal  lens  -  50  mm  -  having  a  coverage  of  45  degrees  which  is  the  same  as  a  human  eye.
 
 Wide  angle  lens  -  below  50  mm  -  could  be  35  mm  or  28  mm  as  the  case  maybe  -  which  gives  a  wider  coverage  than  normal.
 
 Extreme  wide  angle  lens  -  below  20mm  -  also  called  as  'Fish  eye'  lens  as  they  mimic  the  angle  of  vision  of  a  'fish'
 
 Tele  lens  -  above  60mm  -  usually  80  mm  to  300  mm  or  more  -  which  gives  a  narrower  angle  of  vision,  but  a  magnified  view  of  the  subject.
 
 Super  tele  lens  -  which  are  in  the  range  of  1000  mm  and  above  -  usually  used  in  '  Wildlife  '  and  'Sports'  photography.
 
 A  combination  of  any  of  the  above  is  what  is  termed  as  'Zoom  Lens'.
 
 Hence  one  could  have  a  'Wide  angle  zoom'  or  '  Normal  to  Tele  Zoom'  or  even  a  'wide  to  tele'  -  all  in  one  Zoom.
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hayabusagsx
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:02 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Awesome  !!!!!
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gmankekar
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:18 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Great  initiative,  Hayath.  Clapping  Clapping  Clapping
 Thanks  a  ton  for  your  valuable  tips.
 Now  I  hope  to  get  some  decent  shots  of  my  fish  which  would  do  justice  to  their  beauty.
 U  really  rock!!!  Rock On
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sgravi2k
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:20 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 @Hayath  
 
   A  nice  and  informative  post.  Thanks  a  lot  for  sharing  with  good  samples  and  corrected  images  Smile
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rohansd
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:34 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Very  informative
 and  the  pics  on  the  article  are  very  good  too  Smile
 
   Thumbs Up
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Nanu
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:35 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 @Hayath.
 Thanks  a  lot,  This  is  simply  a  great  post  and  initiative,  
 I  will  be  viewing  this  thread  more  than  my  camera  manual.
 Thanks  a  lot,  and  I  hope  to  learn  a  lot.
 
   Thumb Up
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Bala_Kavi
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 3:01 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Thanks  a  ton  for  sharing  those  valuable  tips.  The  way  you  have  explained  is  exceptional  not  just  quoting  the  quote  '  A  picture  can  speak  a  thousand  words'  but  actually  supporting  your  text  with  appropriate  pictures.
 
 Regards
 Bala
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kunalrsingh
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:13 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 this  is  one  of  the  best  written  article  for  a  layman  to  understand.  very  easy  to  understand.  
 MODS:  how  about  putting  htis  article  on  the  home  page?
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diwan
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:14 pm Post subject: Re: Understanding photography and photographing fish Smile Reply with quote

 Thanks  for  sharing  the  info  Hayath   Thumb Up  
 
 Regards
 Dinesh.
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