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"It Looks better in Person"

Discussion in 'General Aquascaping and Planted Tank Discussions' started by John N., Sep 24, 2008.

  1. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    How often have we heard or said that? Probably too often. So how do you get your aquascape to look as good as it can be in a photo?

    You folks who just completed the IAPLC and entered into the AGA Aquascaping Competitions we would love to hear some tips on how you do it. ;)

    -John N.
     
  2. defdac

    defdac New Member

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    I think that is because our brain is fooled quite a lot by movement. We focus on completely different things when looking at an aquascape IRL and when looking at a static photo of the tank. Things that comes to mind is equipment, dirty glass and algae on the silicone etc. Our mind seems to filter those out when looking at the tank IRL for some unknown reason.

    Next big thing is dynamic range. Our eyes have so much higher dynamic range than the camera. If you expose the image in full auto you will blow out highlights, especially the tops of the plants near the light. The shadows probably also is too dark still. Then you stop down the camera, but then the shadows get even darker and you can only see the top of plants.

    Already by changing f-stop most folks have come out of their comfort-"full-auto"-zone. There is a big problem.

    Next comes digitally developing the pictures. Everyone shooting RAW must develop their digital "originals" into correct colors etc and there you can do some really nice magic with colors and exposure. You can shoot full auto and fix all exposure errors afterwards - and also add lightness to shadows or bring back information from blown out highlights. Remove high ISO color blotches. Remove fringing and vignetting. Really powerful stuff...
     
  3. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer New Member

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    For me, the biggest improvement is to get the flash gun off the camera and fire it from above the tank.

    I have a 120cm tank that I will use two flashguns from above, as soon as all the gear is together ($$$$$$$:-?).

    Other things to do are:

    Make sure there are no other light sources around, such as windows etc.

    Switch off the filter so the plants aren`t swaying and blurring in the picture.

    Use a tripod with a remote shutter release.

    Add movement to the water`s surface with a hair dryer.

    Backlighting the background with an additional lamp can create a nice effect.

    Take zillions of pics to ensure you get the fish where you want them.

    Carry out a series of water changes leading up to the photo session, for clarity.

    Clean the glass until it is spotless.

    If you are using a shallow depth of field, manually focus on the target, especially when working in macro.

    Get your camera off auto, and experiment.

    These are just off the top of my head, but I am sure the list will be added to.
     
  4. J House

    J House Moderator Staff Member

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    Dave that's a really good list, thanks for posting it. Personally I'm trying to get into the photography end of things. I just purchased a new camera, but I'm yet to buy a flashgun. Can you tell me and anyone else that might want to know. What do you need in terms of flashguns to get that piece in place. In other words what kind of equipment do you need (flashgun, stand, etc.) and how does the flashgun improve picture when comparing it to just putting additional reflectors on top of the tank to improve light?
     
  5. Rastaman

    Rastaman New Member

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    For best result use Lightbox - Simple lightbox for Flashlight - DIY

    Flashlight Advantage on Aquascape Photography

    Aquascpae photography by Flashlight & Lightbox
     
  6. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth New Member

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    You cant get the sense of depth either on a photograph,
     
  7. J House

    J House Moderator Staff Member

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  8. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer New Member

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    Here is a picture i took using a light box on a 60cm, with just one flash fired from overhead.

    The set up for this was a Nikon D40 with an SB 600 flash gun remotely connected via a sc 28 cable that connects to the camera hot shoe and the flash gun.

    [​IMG]

    The diffused light gives a nice warm glow, but I needed to sort out the background colour. I should use my light box more, but it is a bit of a PITA setting it up.

    Dave.
     
  9. plantbrain

    plantbrain Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Then go video:proud:


    Much harder to play around and you can actually see fish swim etc.
    Do you want and desire a static aquarium that does not move?
    Is that really your goal?

    I think few would say yes.
    This is the 21 st century and digital video is easy and Youtube is plenty popular. Yes, this takes some skills as well, but it's far and away more representative and fair when it comes to comparing the tanks.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. John N.

    John N. Administrator Staff Member

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    Video may be the way to go. Here are a couple that people have posted in Video of Planted Aquariums. In many ways however, the artistry is very different in videos. Perhaps this difference is why I think videos don't offer as much visible/appreciative detail.

    As an analogy (that may or may not work), imagine looking at a video of the Mona Lisa painting verse a photo of it. To me the photo of it would be more interesting to view.

    -John N.
     
  11. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer New Member

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    I think videos are very fleeting, whereas a still photograph is a moment in time frozen and indelibly stamped on the mind.

    The picture of you American chaps raising the flag on Iwo Jima carries far more weight than the video footage of it.

    Dave.
     
  12. StanChung

    StanChung Aspiring Aquascaper

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    Aha-good topic!

    Snapping a few then looking at it in the computer LCD would help greatly once you get the technique of shooting out of the way.

    I do think most tanks look better slanted. Creating depth from the front is very difficult with 2D image. Lighting for aquarium photography tends to be toppish and flat. The flash+light boxes if too diffused create an unpleasant pallor that's very soft without shadows.

    Making a few holes in the diffuser help remedy that.
     
  13. Shadow

    Shadow Moderator Staff Member

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    I prefer photo, the fish movement on video will distract the aquascape focus. I probably end up watching the fish swimming instead of admiring the scape.
     

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