Photography Tips: Shooting in Aquarium

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After visited to the SEA Aquarium and had a large collection of shootings (over 500+), I have some thoughts of shooting in aquarium to share with you guys.

1. Bring an Extra Battery or Two

If you never or rarely visit to the aquarium, it is very easy to over-shooting. You may have multiples shots for each scene to ensure that you have at least one or few good shots for that scene. I almost used up 2 full-charge batteries throughout the tour. Each of them shot for around 300 shots.

2. Use a Lens with Short Focal Length and Large Aperture

Focal length of 24 – 50 mm (in 35 mm equivalence) is recommended because they have a wider angle of view and allow you to shoot closer to your subject. A larger aperture allows more light so that you do not need to bump up too much ISO. Be careful here, aperture of F 2.2 and larger will have very little part of subject in focus. I used the Sel24F18Z and kept my aperture from F 2.8 to F 5.6 to get an enough DoF while having a large enough aperture to keep a lower ISO.

3. Use Manual Mode

The lighting condition in the aquarium is complicated due to the artificial lighting and mostly in a very dark situation. If you are using A mode then the shutter speed may fall below the safe shutter speed easily and blur your shots. Besides, the fish are not “static” for you to shoot. They are always swimming and you may need a shutter speed of 1/80 to 1/125 s in order to shoot a clear image of fish.

4. Bump up ISO

After set the shutter speed and the aperture to your desired settings but you still experience a badly underexposed then it is time to bump up your ISO. ISO 400 to 3200 is capable to capture enough light while maintain a reasonable image quality (It depends on how good your camera handles with high ISO). Most of my shots were shooting in ISO 800 or ISO 1600 and the quality is acceptable.

Alaska Crab Exif: ISO 1600, F2.5, 1/100s

5. Shoot in RAW

Most of us may not have so much experiences for shooting in the aquarium. The entrance ticket is not so cheap and you probably won’t want to pay again just for shooting some previous missed/bad shots. RAW files allow you to have more control and adjustment in the post-processing. It will save your shots and tje most important is to save your money!

6. White Balance

Auto white balance works well in most of the case. If you are going to shoot some portraits in the aquarium, set your temperature to a higher value, usually it will need a value of over 7K so that your face won’t look like blue and green (unless you want to take some horrible effects).

7. Think About the Composition

What do you want your shots to be? A closed-up “big head” shot?

An innocent look

Or you want to capture the environment together with fish?


You may try different look and feel for your shots. Just ensure you have enough memory space and battery for your remaining tour.


8. Patient

There are many fish in each display panel and they are “LIVE”. The fish may give you a “U-turn” suddenly at the moment you have pressed the shutter. Do not give up, be patient, observe the behavior of the fish, compose your shoot nicely and wait the fish to reach the desire spot and then shot it.


9. Shoot Closer

A quote from a famous photographer – Robert Capa “If your photographs are not good enough, you are not close enough”. For shooting in aquarium, shoot closer will also remove the unwanted reflection too. If you have a soft rubber lens hood, attach it to your lens and stick on the glass of the display panel. If your lens hood is made by plastic or other hard materials which does not allow you to stick your lens hood on the glass, then you may shoot perpendicular to the display panel.

10. Forget About Your Flash

The most important tip to be remembered, keep your flash light in your bag or off it when shooting in aquarium. You will notice that there are many notice/warning board pasted above the display panel which disallowed any flash photography. Please be considerate and show people that you are a respectable photographer even you are using a compact digital camera. Besides, on camera flash will yield the undesired reflection of the glass of the display panel.  So keep your flash off is good for both of your shots and image.

That’s all for today post and hope that you may get a little help from it. You are welcome and appreciated to share your experiences here so that to help each other as well =)


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