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I've been practicing taking pictures of my husbands two aquariums (125g and 55g) in preparation to hopefully take some good pictures of my planted tank once it gets up and running. There are so many wonderful pictures on here so I thought it would be fairly simple. Well, it's not. I think I have a fairly decent camera... it's a Kodak C875. I've been playing with the aperture and the shutter speed, etc... and have gotten a few (very few) good ones but overall they're horrible. Any tips and/or suggestions to make it a little less frustrating?
 

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I'm in the same boat as you in that I'm far from professional, but want to be able to take some decent pictures of my tank. After messing with my camera a bit (Canon A630 - 8MP), I eventually got some worth looking at. Not being a trained photographer, I can't really give you specific advice, but make sure you turn the flash off and turn down the lighting on the tank, if possible. Use something (tripod would be ideal) to keep it steady and resist the urge to zoom unless you have some kind of nice macro lense. If you want to get in closer, just physically move the camera. I sometimes use the 10 sec timer on the camera, as it eliminates any camera movement caused by pressing the "trigger". Just fyi, I usually take 20+ pictures and sort through to find my favorite one or two.
 

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Point and shoot cameras can be very challenging for a number of reasons, I'll suggest some solutions after each.

1. Shutter lag: there's a delay after you push the shutter, you need to do everything you can to minimize that delay. If the camera has a manual mode, selecting manual and finding an exposure that works, then continuing to shoot in manual mode may reduce the lag. The camera would otherwise be calculating exposure while trying to focus...see below.

2. Focus: many cameras, even the expensive ones will struggle for focus when looking through the glass, that algae on the inside of the glass makes a very tempting target! Again, you need to select a focus mode or method that reduces shutter lag. One way is to use manual focus if your camera has it, select a focus depth that works for what you're trying to capture and use it for all the photos of the same distance to target. Alternatively, your camera may have a function that sets focus and exposure when the shutter is depressed half way. By doing so (and you may need to enable it in your menus, not likely, but possible) you remove the time it takes the lense to focus (struggling back and forth between the inside of the glass and the fish/plant). Now when you depress the shutter the second 1/2 way you'll have reduced lag and hopefully better results.

3. Minimum focus distance: If you don't know what it is, find it out! Anything nearer than that distance is impossible to get in focus optically, you must know this distance. There will likely be a macro mode (flower) as well, it will have its own minimum focus distance. Also, you must be using macro mode for any of the shots that are in tighter.

4. Lense speed: Many point and shoot cameras have fairly slow lenses, this means that there's a limit to the maximum amount of light they can let in. This causes a couple things, first it means that the exposure must be longer to adequately capture the image. Longer exposures mean reduces sharpness when there's motion involved (be that water, fish, waving plants or earthquakes). Second, because the lense is operating wide open to get the exposure time down, it looses clarity. This is just the reality of lenses, they have a 'sweet spot' that's usually around F8, if your camera is struggling to get the exposure down to 1/60th it will have the aperture wide open. Basically, as you move from F8 to F3.5ish(the min of your lense) the image clarity will degrade.

There are but two real solutions for this. First a faster lense, since you've a point and shoot, you can't change this. Advanced amateurs and pros have fast lenses that allow the exposure to be as little as 1/3 of what your exposure time is yielding much sharper images. This doesn't mean you doomed, it means that you are more susceptible to movement and have to take more photos to get good ones.

Second, add more light. Pros use flashes that are wirelessly controlled by the body, these allow for lighting from different angles at higher levels. With a point and shoot, this liklely is not going to happen (it could but $$, I'd suggest camera upgrade). In your case, something as simple as moving the cabinet forward 4 or 5 inches to better light the foreground or portion of the tank you're working on may help. Another alternative is placing a light hood/fixture of high intensity atop or beside the tank.

At first glance all this mumbo jumbo may seem a bit daunting, but success really comes down to two things, know your camera(while its not exciting(immediatlely), read your camera manual from front to back and understanding all the functions) and know the photography fundamentals. Only then can you discover the limitations of your setup. The great news is that a lot of the learning can be done by taking photos, try tonnes of setups, take hundreds of photos and eventually you'll start to see some patterns. Enjoy!
 

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I've been practicing taking pictures of my husbands two aquariums (125g and 55g) in preparation to hopefully take some good pictures of my planted tank once it gets up and running. There are so many wonderful pictures on here so I thought it would be fairly simple. Well, it's not. I think I have a fairly decent camera... it's a Kodak C875. I've been playing with the aperture and the shutter speed, etc... and have gotten a few (very few) good ones but overall they're horrible. Any tips and/or suggestions to make it a little less frustrating?
Keep practicing, and learn from the results. Digital "Film" is cheap, perfect for trial and (lots of) error. It shouldn't be frustrating either, unless you expect to get perfect results from the get-go.

A couple of things for full tank shots:

1) Turn off any ambient lights. Take pictures when it is dark outside, make sure the tank is the only lit thing in the room.

2) Turn off the camera flash, use the tank lights only. Don't turn them down... the more light, the better.

3) Fill up the tank to the rim, to prevent any overlit stripes that distract from the tank and mess with the overall exposure.

4) Use a tripod, and a self-timer if your camera has one. Instead of a tripod, a chair back, table with books, etc will steady your camera. Don't try to handhold, it will not result in sharp images.

5) For long tanks, you can take pictures of each half separately and stitch them together in an image editor. That might result in better details compared to a full tank shot from further away.

6) Play with exposure bracketing. Blown out highlights in the upper part of the tank are as unpleasant as murky shadows in the lower part. What you see on the little camera LCD is sometimes not what you see on a large computer screen.

7) Play with different aperture/shutter combinations if your camera allows for it. While a wide open aperture gives you the shortest shutter time, many lenses perform better (sharper) at a medium setting, like 5.6.

8) Clean the glass from inside and outside. Remove thermometers, heaters and other things that distract from your aquascape.

That's all I can think of right now...
 
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