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How to take and edit fish photos

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Post Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:02 am
Tanya User avatar
Level 5 Member
Level 5 Member

Posts: 381
Location: Coon Rapids, MN
I am fairly new to aquarium photography myself. This article is not written by a professional. This is just something that works for me and hopefully will work for some of you who are just starting in aquarium photography.

I don’t have any special equipment for taking aquarium photos. All I have is my digital camera and this is what I am going to be working with.

This article divided into two parts. First is Shooting your image and second is Editing your image. You can start practicing editing right now by going to the second part of this article.

Part 1 – Shooting your image

Step 1 – No flash. I don’t like using camera’s flash for taking aquarium photos. In most cases it washes out fish colors and it’s almost impossible to fix it later. It will be much easier to brighten up fish photo taken without flash instead.

Step 2 – Lighting. Most of us have our tanks in the basement, so for this article I used tank in my basement. It’s 3-foot 45 gallon tall tank. My lighting setup was very simple. One 3-foot fixture with 2-foot Coralife 50/50 bulb on the back of the tank and one 4-foot fixture with 4-foot ZooMed 50/50 bulb on the front of the tank. I borrowed 4-foot fixture from my 75-gallon tank.

When I am taking pictures I turn room lights OFF.

It does not matter if your fixtures are a little bigger or smaller then your tank. In my case one was too small and one was bigger then my tank. However it’s important to put two fixtures on top of your tank because it’s going to be the only source of lighting when taking pictures. If you only have one fixture – try to move it right above the point where you think you are going to be shooting your photos. Make sure that point is well lit.

Step 3 – Shooting with shutter speed priority mode. Most even simpler digital cameras allow you to choose this mode. If you shoot a moving object at higher shutter speed, it appears as if frozen on the image. At a lower shutter speed, the object appears blurred. And we don’t want blurred. Therefore we are going to be shooting at higher shutter speed. The higher you set the shutter speed the less blurred your object will appear, but it also going to make you photo darker, because less light can get in within such a short period of time. So we need to find a happy medium. I usually shoot my images with shutter speed set between 1/30 and 1/60 of the second. Red zebra photo was taken with shutter speed set to 1/60.

Step 4 – Other camera settings. These are some other settings I use when I take pictures of fish. ISO set to 100 (on my camera the higher I set it the more noise I get, so I keep it low). Macro setting is ON. Everything else is set to auto including focus. Alternatively you can use manual focus. Focus on one of your rocks, wait until the fish swims in front of the rock and shoot.

Step 5 – Shooting your image. I don’t use a tripod, because I like to be able to move my camera around a lot. If you are doing the same thing make sure to completely stop moving right before you push that shoot button. Otherwise you may want to use a tripod. Even with these settings it takes some practice to take good pictures. It takes me about 10 ”so-so” shoots to get one “good” shoot. Also if you think your photo did not turn out well, it’s too dark or too light or a little bit out of focus, don’t rush to delete it. You may be able to fix it.

This is a good example. It’s a red zebra photo I took with setting described above. This photo is of good quality with a lot of details, we just can’t see it yet.


In my understanding a good aquarium photo is the one that shows your aquarium inhabitants as close as possible to what you see in your tank with your naked eye. Obviously my tank and my red zebra does not look as dark as this photo shows therefore I’ll need to adjust it. This brings me to the second part of this tutorial – editing.

Part 2 – Editing your image
Now after we got our photo it’s time to start editing.

You will need to download and install PhotoFiltre photo editing program. It’s free, fast and has all the functions we need.
Click here to download

Follow this link to open red zebra photo used for this tutorial ... iginal.jpg
Right click on the photo and save it on your computer.

Before you start working with your own photos I advise you to practice with this photo first.

Note: There are many functions in PhotoFiltre. I am only going to show you the basics. After you get the feel for the program you can try using other functions. Don’t worry you can always use “Undo” button :)

First of all this is what we are starting with.


Now let’s crop this photo. On the left side select “Rectangle” tool. Make rectangular selection of any size. To do that just click-hold anywhere on the photo and then move your mouse to the opposite corner. Now you can make your selection larger or smaller simply by clicking and pulling the sides of it. Make it look like this.


Now go to “Image” and select “Crop”

Go to “Adjust” and select “Gamma correct”. Set it to 1.80

Go to “Adjust” and select “Brightness/Contrast”. Set Brightness to 10% and Contrast to 24%

If you are using one of your photos change these settings accordingly.

This is how the red zebra photo looks now.


Looks pretty good, but it will look even better if we make it sharper.

Go to “Filter” and select “Sharpen”. There you will find 4 fixed options for sharpening your image. You can use just one or many different combination depending on the size of your photo. Basically “Sharpen” means minimal sharpness, “Sharpen more” means medium sharpness, “Reinforce” means maximum sharpness and “Sharpen edges” means it will make edges of the objects on the photo sharper.

For the red zebra photo use “Sharpen” and “Sharpen edges”. If you are editing one of your photos use these options accordingly. You can always click “Undo” button and try again.
Now this photo is done with just a few simple steps. And this is how it looks now.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now you may want to make it smaller.
Go to “Image” and select “Image size”. Change “Width” for your photo and “Height” will be changed automatically. I usually like to make my photos between 500 and 800 pixels wide. The photo above has a width of 800 pixels.

I hope some of you will find this post useful.

Post Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:55 am
Rinko Level 3 Member
Level 3 Member

Posts: 99
Location: Des Moines, Iowa

WOW! :shock:

Very informative & useful. Thanks! 8)

Post Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:59 am
Kimfish User avatar
Level 9 Member
Level 9 Member

Posts: 1701
Location: Columbia Heights
thank you Tanya. very helpful.

Post Fri Dec 02, 2005 9:32 am
loverland User avatar
Site Admin
Site Admin

Posts: 1295
Location: Eagan, MN

Thanks Tanya. This should help a lot of people.

I'm going to lock this and make it a sticky.

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