Photographing Your Aquarium

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Photographing small creatures

I photograph all sorts of subjects, but I have become fascinated with photographing small elusive animals which are hard to photograph in their natural habitat or their habitat is hard to reach and expensive to get to.

So I decided to construct several small to medium size aquariums to use in my home studio, but not before doing a little research in how to take photos in an aquarium.

By following some of simple steps to familiarize yourself with aquarium photography and you can see your small creature photography improve.

The most important thing that I learned is how reflections from a glass surface can ruin any photography therefore using a lens that allows you to get in really close to the glass is essential as well as how to position the light source.

Some of my subjects have been kangaroo rats, snakes, several types of crickets, beetles, insects, tropical fish, lizards, geckos, tarantulas, exotic tropical roaches, various spiders and rain forest frogs (the hardest for me since I have a phobia towards them!)

You don't have to buy your subjects, often you can rent them from pet shops and all it usually takes is to provide the owners with copies of the photos. Several pet shops in my area are using my photos to advertise their stock and gladly supply me with new subjects. In some cases they have allowed me to do the shoot on location and this is much easier than having to cart the creatures to and from since it eliminates having to subject them to undue stress.

Making these aquariums is not really hard. Get glass panels or Plexiglas, clear silicone and a tank top, except for fish photography. Glue the sides of the panels with the silicone to make a box or rectangle, don't glue the top just make sure that it is larger than the tank opening.

Also make sure that the tank top allows for aeration ( I only use Plexiglas for the tops and drill holes in them).You should make the enclosure with at least an extra glass or Plexiglas panel which you will use as a divider to coax your subject close to the side on which you plan of taking the photos.

Research the animal that you are interested in; their habits, locations,greenery, food supply etc. Once you have carefully obtained your subject and pre-set the enclosure with local habitat materials, plants, etc. place your subject in the enclosure and give it about a day to settle in and become accustomed to its surroundings.

Make sure that the background is not reflective. You can make them by spray painting cardboard with non-reflective paint.

Use the widest aperture in your camera to trow the background out of focus, light the tank from above or from the sides and be mindful of the heat that the light produces and if necessary, adjust your camera's color balance for the type of light that you are using.

Put your camera's lens as close to the glass as possible without touching the glass. Pre-plan your shots to minimize stressing your subject.

If macro photography is something that you are interested in, all of the above suggestions apply except that your tank can be made from microscopic slides which come in several small sizes. Mosquito and other insect larvae are good subjects for this and so are several types of diving beetles.

Once you are ready to begin take the shots as quickly as you can or risk over exciting the creatures which is never a good thing. Once done, leave them alone for at least one day and afterwards either release them or return them to its owner.


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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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