Your Fish tank is the main area where you will photograh your fish, you don’t need to neglect it. Find the best way to use fish tank in photography – learn the hidden secrets
- How to clean your tank
- How to build your own photography tank
- How to use different backgrounds
The Photography Tank
Fish can be a difficult subject to catch on film, so you need to do everything possible to improve your odds of getting quality photos. If you plan to photograph your fish in your main tank, you must take a few important factors into consideration to insure good quality photographs.
Clear up the water
Avoid glare (reflected light) by making sure that the aquarium’s water is as clear as possible. Any debris or suspended particles (your toddler’s uneaten lima beans from dinner) may reflect light and produce spots in your finished photos.
It’s a good idea to add extra mechanical filtration to the tank a few days before you take the pictures. Another effective process is to filter all the main tank water through standard floss (the same type you put in many filters and can be bought at your local pet store). The only drawback to this procedure is that it is quite time-consuming and can take anywhere from two days to five years, depending on the size of your tank.
Clean the tank itself and the decorations.
For a better use your fish tank in photography, remove all unsightly algae from the glass of the aquarium; otherwise your photos may end up resembling a bad still-life of chunky pea soup. Clean all plastic plants, rocks, and other artificial decorations before your photo session begins.
The gravel in the tank should be vacuumed prior to shooting — a photographic lens does not miss nearly as much intricate detail as the human eye does.
Clean the lighting
If you’re using overhead or hood lighting in the photography session, make sure that the cover glass is clean so that it allows maximum light to enter. It is mandatory that the outer glass covering each light remains translucent and clean.
Check the aquarium glass or acrylic surface for scratches
The surface must be scratch-free to obtain the best photos. Several commercial scratch-removal kits on the market remove imperfections from acrylic walls.
Shut off all tank lights at least thirty minutes before you clean, for safety purposes. (Photo lighting can be very hot and can cause serious burns if touched or electrocution if accidentally knocked into the tank while cleaning.)
Building your own photography tank
One of the easiest and most practical methods to insure great photos of your fish is to construct a miniature aquarium to use exclusively for photo sessions.
This technique was founded by Dr. Herbert Axelrod and is an important part of the famous Axelrod technique of photographing fish.
The Axelrod technique involves using a small photo tank with an interior restraining glass embedded in fine sand and angled from the bottom front to the back top of the tank. The angled glass restricts fish movement when the restraining glass is gently leaned forward.
A photography tank is much smaller than any standard aquarium and offers several unique advantages over a larger tank:
- Keeping the water in a mini-tank clean and clear for your pictures is easier in a small tank.
- Arranging plants, rocks, and other decorations is simple.
- Water changes are a snap for good photos.
Building a photography tank (if you don’t choose to purchase a small aquarium) is something even a beginning hobbyist can do. It doesn’t require much time, knowledge, or lessons from Bob Vila to complete a simple tank 7 inches high by 7 inches long and 2 inches wide.
You can build tanks of other sizes to accommodate the size of the fish you’re photographing and the materials at hand. The glass you use to construct your mini-tank should be thinner than standard aquarium glass to help promote good photos.
The four sides and the bottom glass of the new tank can be easily positioned using clamps and then siliconed with aquarium sealer or aquatic-safe cement to obtain a small rectangle. No frame or supports are really necessary if the glass you used in construction is thin.
The newly siliconed sides should be allowed to dry for 48 hours before water is added or the tank is moved (unless you plan on checking out your new galoshes). This will ensure that the seal is tight and waterproof. A sixth piece of glass should be cut to size so that it fits into the tank like a partition.
The glass should slide in easily without scraping the sides of the tank. The safest way to do this is to go to a glasscutter and have it done for you, because glass cutting can be very dangerous.
Gently place the fish you’re photographing between the front glass on the photo tank and the restraining glass — which works like a cover slip on a microscope slide. (If your fish’s eyes start popping out like Marty Feldman’s, you might want to back off on the pressure a little bit.)
Another advantage to this restraining technique is that you, the photographer, have the freedom to place the fish in creative arrangements that aren’t possible in a larger tank. This glass restricts movement of faster swimming fish and keeps them safe during the photo shoot.
Using different backgrounds
Because flying off to the Cayman Islands or Cancun every time you feel the urge to photograph fish is not financially practical, you can use simple nondistracting backgrounds to allow the natural attributes and colors of your fish to capture center stage.
Many materials found around the home, a towel, solid-color wrapping paper, and thick construction paper — make excellent backdrops.
When choosing a background, take into consideration the color of your subject.
A darker background is appropriate for a light-colored fish, such as a glass catfish. On the other hand, you’re better off using a light background for a dark-colored fish, such as a tiger oscar.
Try to avoid cluttering the tank or the glass with too many objects (three plastic divers, a shipwreck, and Donald Duck on a life raft is too many), they may take away from the natural beauty of your fishy subject. Keep all decorations, such as gravel, plants, and rocks to a minimum, especially in a smaller photo tank.
But these decisions are a matter of personal preference and ultimately rest with the individual photographer. Some of the best fish photos come about as a result of the trial-and-error method of artistic arrangement.
Displaying your work
Once you have taken a bunch of fish photos, you will want a place to store them. For printed out photos, you can use a photo album just like you would for family snapshots.
Try to group shots of different species and aquarium backgrounds together if possible, so you don’t have a large group of photos all showing the same fish. If you want to display your digital photos, many different types of photography computer software allow you to create electronic photo albums to display your shots.