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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am really enjoying all the responses to Razzo's thread on Alto photos. I fall somewhere between a cell-phone shooter and an expensive digital photographer and do not fill the spot well. One problem I have is I can't seem to light a tank well for a photo-Op. Do any of you add top lighting in the form of a 2nd or more strip light B4 shooting? It seems one flash and my shooting is over, and I can say "say cheese" and it accomplishes nothing. Wouldn't a big increase in general lighting intensity cause the fish to pale? Can good looking photos be taken without post-enhancement? I have read the articles in TFH and AFI and in our forum but they are beyond my eqt. technological capacity and my skill level. :(

What can a duffer like me do to improve my shoots? :-?
 

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There is a point at which too much light is not a good thing, but I'm pretty sure any amount of light up to a lightning flash can be worked with. :lol:

But seriously, more light allows the camera to capture an image with lower apertures. Lower aperture allows for more depth of field, allowing more of a 3d effect in your image.

Adding light above the tank helps with focusing and with shooting flashless, but it doesn't make a whole lot of difference in the actual image itself when using flash.

But light from above is the best source of light for photography. Remote flashes placed above the tank is the best way to go. Not everyone is interested in spending the money on this and dslrs are much better suited for being able to take advantage of flashes placed above the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have lightiing for a 29g tank at about 1w/g fluorescent. If I increased it to 2w/g and used the flash on my little digital camera would it improve my pictures without causing my fish to fade out? How about 3wg---etc, etc. I can build fixtures where I can switch on or off multiple strips to control light instensity, since I prefer the lower lighting level for normal viewing and fishkeeping if it will help.

I really would appreciate ANY help I could get on this gals and guys. :-? My camera doesn't have the capacity ro control a remote flash, and only very basic capacity for aperture control. I don't have the dollars to upgrade my photography equipment. But I do have 2 daughters with excellent digital cameras that do, so feed me ideas. I would just as soon take my everyday pictures myself though. I just want to get the best with what I have to work with so my basic question is what I most would appreciate an answer to.

I confused myself with this one. :p

Les
 

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So long as you continue to flash the fish from the side, you will more often than not get that washed out look.

I'd suggest increasing the light above the tank and either shooting without flash or taping some tissue over the flash in order to subdue the flash. Often, the sports setting on point n shoot cameras works quite well with fish. The idea is to stop flashing the fish from the side and try to have most of your light come from above.

Which camera are you using?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks -that is the kind of stuff I am looking for.
I have a Kodak Easyshare V705 dual-lense with an X5 ultra-wide lense. I know that a dual lense is not supposed to be the best for what I want to use it for, but that is what I have. One of my daughters gave it to me for Christmas. The ultra-wide lense seems to work well for my needs. :)

Les
 

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Getting enough light is the biggest problem in aquarium photography. Generally even well lit tanks are fairly dim compared to pretty much any outdoor situation. A couple of watts more or less don't make a huge difference to what's a drastic shortfall.

The problem becomes worse because you want a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of fast moving fish AND you want a small aperture to get lots of depth of field so you can have everything in focus. Both of these things require lots of light. With a DSLR people compromise on film speed, meaning they choose a high ISO which causes a slightly grainier image. With a DSLR the quality will still be acceptable, but with a P&S image quality at the same high ISO (I often use ISO1600) is likely unacceptable.

So the next thing you do is actually get more light in the tank. As I said, a slightly stronger lamp will probably not make much of a difference, and you probably need more light to make a fish lookedpale than you can ever hope to get. That's where a flash comes in handy, but an on-camera flash will almost always cause reflections. With a camera that can not trigger an off camera flash, your chances of success are slim indeed. A DSLR does not have to cost an arm and a leg these days. A used Canon 20D or Rebel XT from a reputable store like KEH can be had for around $225. A 18-55IS lens will ad another $120 to the bill and you are in business.

One thing I have not tried, but will probably soon check out is what Vinny Kutty recommends in this article. In a nutshell, he uses AC slave strobes (see eg here). They look almost like regular light bulbs and you would screw them into some regular fixture from the hardware store. They are triggered by the flash on your camera, meaning as soon as they see another flash, they will fire as well. Even your P&S camera could trigger them via the built-in flash. If the built-in flash still causes reflections, you could block it with a piece of cardboard or some such thing, so that it just flashes into the room. I am probably going to get myself two of these to use in addition to the off-camera flash I use with my DSLR. For your purposes, you could try two with the P&S, putting one over the tank, and one at the side. If you ever upgrade to a DSLR, they'd still come in handy.

> Can good looking photos be taken without post-enhancement?

No, you can't. It really is as simple as that. In the film days your lab would do the post enhancement when they turned the negatives into prints. If you ever used a professional quality lab, you would have noticed a remarkable improvement in quality of your very own shots compared to those processed at the drugstore. In the digital age cameras offer a lot of options to do processing in camera. If you perfect that, it can be as good as drugstore processing with film, which was also very much automated. If you want pro-lab quality, you need to learn how to use image processing software to you full advantage. It's a bit of a learning curve, but the good news is that one of the best image processing programs is GIMP, and you can download it completely free of charge eg here.

HTH!

Frank
 

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fmueller said:
One thing I have not tried, but will probably soon check out is what Vinny Kutty recommends in this article. In a nutshell, he uses AC slave strobes (see eg here). They look almost like regular light bulbs and you would screw them into some regular fixture from the hardware store. They are triggered by the flash on your camera, meaning as soon as they see another flash, they will fire as well. Even your P&S camera could trigger them via the built-in flash. If the built-in flash still causes reflections, you could block it with a piece of cardboard or some such thing, so that it just flashes into the room. I am probably going to get myself two of these to use in addition to the off-camera flash I use with my DSLR. For your purposes, you could try two with the P&S, putting one over the tank, and one at the side. If you ever upgrade to a DSLR, they'd still come in handy.
These photos were taken with AC slave strobes:





Since the light output isn't adjustable, they do take a bit of playing around with to get your exposure right. But, it's a decent alternative to spending a bucket load of money on flash units.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks. The AC slave unit looks like what I need to work with. I will let you know how it works out in a future post.

Frank, you know how I feel about your beautiful photo work, and jrl those shots look great too :D . I hope to come somewhere near them in the future, but if not I will do the best I can. :)

ps: my comps are finally starting to show signs of growing and the males coloring up. But the girls have only grown a quarter inch in the last year. I bought them at a GCCA auction and they weren't ID'd. I still love them though.
 

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jrf - awesome shots. Let me ask you one question, since the AC slave strobes have a constant output, the camera you use them with has to allow fully manual exposure setting, right?
 

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fmueller said:
jrf - awesome shots. Let me ask you one question, since the AC slave strobes have a constant output, the camera you use them with has to allow fully manual exposure setting, right?
That's how I use them, yes. You could also get fancy and put a gel or two in front of the strobe to reduce the light output. Either way, you need to be able to control some of the camera's settings since the camera will not account for the extra light added by the strobes when shooting in full auto.
 

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jrf said:
Either way, you need to be able to control some of the camera's settings since the camera will not account for the extra light added by the strobes when shooting in full auto.
Obviously that wouldn't be a problem with any DSLR, but after I made the recommendation for AC flash strobes it occurred to me that this is something Les should better check with his P&S before he buys strobes. If the camera has no way to manually set aperture and shutter speed, then I can't see how you would achieve a correct exposure with strobes.
 

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> Can good looking photos be taken without post-enhancement?

No, you can't. It really is as simple as that. In the film days your lab would do the post enhancement when they turned the negatives into prints. If you ever used a professional quality lab, you would have noticed a remarkable improvement in quality of your very own shots compared to those processed at the drugstore. In the digital age cameras offer a lot of options to do processing in camera. If you perfect that, it can be as good as drugstore processing with film, which was also very much automated. If you want pro-lab quality, you need to learn how to use image processing software to you full advantage. It's a bit of a learning curve, but the good news is that one of the best image processing programs is GIMP, and you can download it completely free of charge eg here.
I have to disagree with that answer, and, it is a great way to discourage people that are learning. As a hobbiest, I strive to take the best photos that my skills, equipment and luck (sometimes) will allow me to. For me taking a photo that doesn't need any post processing is the ultimate goal and the reason I continue to try to learn and experiment with my camera in different situations, fish related and otherwise. While it is true that technical errors with regards to exposure and framing of the image can be corrected with post processing, you just cant fix a blury out of focus image at the end of the day.

All of that said, I do use post processing once in a while to adjust for exposure errors and to crop for better framing, but, not on all of my shots :wink:
 

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RayQ said:
I have to disagree with that answer, and, it is a great way to discourage people that are learning.
I am trying to encourage people to learn about post processing. The software I advocate is FREE! What do you have to loose?

I totally agree that no amount of post processing can safe an image that was blurry and out of focus when it came out of the camera. Those images aren't even worth working with, and should simply be deleted. Only the best 5% or so of my images will ever been seen by anybody but myself. That we can all do this now at no cost is another beauty of digital photography.

But even an image that was perfectly in focus and tack sharp in the camera, will appear in the JPG format on the web in the overwhelming majority of cases. Any JPG image that did not have digital sharpening applied to it looks blurry. Now you have a choice, you can let your camera apply some random amount of sharpening and hope for the best, or you can take control and get the most out of your images. All it takes is a bit of time to learn.

I see beginners spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on better lenses for their DSLRs. They might as well use a mid level P&S if they don't take control of digital sharpening.
 

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NorthShore said:
Uh oh, canon vs nikon, p&s vs dslr, purist vs post processing. I'm staying outta this one. ;) :lol:
Nothing to do with Canon vs Nikon and P&S vs DSLR. Photographic purists distribute archival silver prints to friends and family via snail mail. There is no danger of bumping into any in an online forum :dancing:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks and keep it coming. Frank, I missed the trap of using slave strobes when my camera may not be able to handle the extra light. I will be looking into this.

I always have the option of roping in my twin daughters who both have good digital single lens cameras with lots of control options and getting a crash course in their use. The only drawback is lack of spontaniety of use. I missed that cloud of almost invisible fry when they first emerged. What are left are now 3/8" long with what I believe are 5 subsequent spawnings growing up behind them. (N. helianthus) In the meantime I want to get the most of what I have.

Thanks again.
Les
 
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