Photography in Aquaria 1997
by Andy Horton

Digital cameras have now caught up with 35 mm SLRs and in some cases surpassed them
Most of the post 2000 photographs on these web pages are from digital cameras,

There is only one type of camera that is capable of producing prints or transparencies of an acceptable quality, or as good as the photographs on this web page. (This is out of date now, year 2000). This is the camera known as the single lens reflex, SLR for short, and it is these cameras that are still used by most serious photographers and photo-journalists. The modern zoom compacts and digital cameras, although excellent tools for general photographic work, are not sophisticated enough for this specialised type of photography.

Single Lens Reflex

The most important characteristic of the SLR camera is that the photographer when looking through the viewfinder actually sees what he is going to photograph through the lens of the camera. This is achieved by mirrors inside the camera. This is crucial in close-up work. If you look through a viewfinder without the mirrors you are liable to miss the target and this is what happens when you try to use the compact cameras.

The ability to change the lens is the strong point of the SLR system. These 35mm SLR cameras come usually, but not always, with a standard 50 mm lens. For aquarium photography, the best extra you can buy is a close-up filter that screws into the front of the standard lens. With one or two of these filters on the front of the lens most aquarium fish will fill the frame.

Modern SLR cameras come with automatic focus, but also with a manual focus function. For aquarium photography it is best to use the manual focus. I usually pre-set the focus and move the camera to and fro until the subject is sharp in the viewfinder.

 Aperture and Flash Lighting

Modern SLR cameras also come with automatic exposure so that the novice can just point and shoot. However, the automatic exposure can overridden or various different program modes can be used. The best choice is to use the mode known as 'aperture priority' and choose the smallest aperture which is the highest f. number of the lens, usually f.16. This gives the greatest depth of field and ensures that the maximum amount of the subject is in focus.

It was only when I started using a flash gun that I began obtaining successful pictures. The reason for this is because the amount of lighting in most aquaria is inadequate for photography.

The flash gun cannot be mounted on the camera as the flash light bounces off the front glass and straight back into the camera lens. Instead the flash gun is used off the camera (OTC) angled at 45 ° or greater to the glass tank, and often mounted at 90 ° immediately above the surface of the water.

These special flash guns are linked to the camera by an electronic lead. A sensor on the flashgun determines the correct flash duration. Some models of SLR cameras have through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering and can use a dedicated flash gun. This is the easiest method but you must make sure that the flash gun can be used connected to the camera by a special lead and still retain the special TTL flash metering.

I have used 100 ASA transparency film for almost all of my photographs. You cannot save money on film by using the new digital still cameras as they not suitable in low light conditions for high quality work.

 World Oceans Day 1998

The British Marine Life Study Society will be holding a few photographic exhibitions to celebrate World Oceans Day , which occurs on the 8th June each year. Readers are invited to send in their prints of the wildlife of seas around Britain and pictures taken on the shore and in the aquarium for public display. If you have any high quality prints you want to put on show, please Email at the address on the page below. All messages will receive a reply.

Seashore Snaps

One last thought, which should be within the bounds of the casual visitor to the shore. Take your camera with you, adequately protected from the corrosive sea spray and fine particles of sand. I like to see well composed pictures of rocky shores, especially at low tide, showing the pools, rocky terrain, vegetation and the general scene. The idea is to get a portfolio of seashore photographs to help in the documentation of the coast around Britain. This means that the name of the beach should be included. The best shots can be included on the BMLSS web site. If you wish your photographs to be returned, please include your return address.

British Marine Life Organisations

Nature Photography (including LUX readings conversion)

Scientific Photography (Daniel G. Geiger)

 Article by Andy Horton 1997  EMail:

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