02-27-2011, 01:28 PM
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Aperture, Shutter Speed, Flash
Theres a few things to take into account when taking pictures of fish. Let me say first though that SLR cameras are probably the best in that you can set the aperture and shutter speed while adding flash. The trick here is taking MANY pictures at different angles to get what you want. You may be taking pictures for a while and after say 100 exposures you might get around 5-10 great pictures to use. So keep shooting that camera.
I personally like to leave the light on and use no flash. I have a Nikon d3100 which is a newer model dSLR. The lens is key here as it has an f-stop of f/1.8 which is a very wide aperture lens. This also gives you a shallow depth of field that blurs out what isn't in focus. Shallow depth of field allows the exposure to set the subject apart of the background and prevent the background from being a distraction but also add interest. In a Nikon SLR you can set your camera to "A" mode (Aperture Priority) and use the dial to set your Aperture to the lowest number possible. The lower the F-Stop the wider the aperture. The wider the aperture the more light that enters the lens onto the sensor. Remember though that the wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field becomes causing the background to blur more. If you want everything in focus then you'll either need to step back physically from your tank and take the picture and crop it later to show only what you want OR you'll need to set a smaller aperture (higher F-Stop number).
Shutter Priority or "S" mode on the Nikon dial allows you to set the Shutter speed while the camera figures out the rest (aperture, exposure, ISO, etc.) You can keep the shutter open longer but then you risk movement blur which I am sure you don't want at all. A faster shutter speed is best for stopping movement blur.
Flash can sometimes not work in your favor unless you are using something called fill flash where the flash is filling in the dark areas of your subject as a secondary light source. In fill flash mode you are allowing the natural light to be primary and your flash to be a secondary light source to fill in the shadows for more detail. I personally like the natural shadows the tank provides so I most of the time stay away from using a flash. If you decide to use one though, don't take the picture head on like most people here are already suggesting. Take the picture at an angle or right up against the glass. Be careful not to damage your lens though while the lens is focusing when up against the glass.
Last thing I can think of is post-processing. I have a mac so I use a program called Aperture or iPhoto should work as well. Photoshop will work too. I almost always crop my photos to capture what it is exactly that I want the viewer to see. For this reason I take an exposure that has more of the aquarium in it allowing me a wider margin for error and then crop the picture later. In post processing, you can color correct the exposure to brighten the shadows lower the highlights, etc. If you have aperture, I can give you specific tips on what to do to optimize your photo. Let me know what program you decide to use and maybe I can help.
Most of the tricks up there might be accomplished on a regular point and shoot camera so read that manual and see what things you can do. I always tell people when they get a new camera to be sure to keep the manual handy. You don't need to know everything right away but being able to reference your manual to achieve what you want to accomplish is important to knowing what you're doing.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. I am always more than happy to help.