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TFF Founder
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Jan 17, 2002
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I wrote an article about photographing fish which I posted recently for people to add tips and comments to. Don't know necessarily whether it is suitable for this forum or the members tanks one.

Earlier post found here:

Original article below:

Getting good pictures of your fish and Uploading them.

I have spent a lot of time on TFF and have found a few pinned articles on taking and posting photos but nothing that seems that thorough or which covers everything all in one single post, so here is my attempt.

Why take photos in the first place?

You’ll be surprised at how much the layout and formation of your tank changes over the course of a few years. Mine resembles nothing like the rather poor effort I produced back at the beginning of my tropical fish keeping career. So from a sentimental point of view it’s nice to be able to look back and see where you came from. You can also look back at plants, rock / wood formations that maybe worked well before but you have moved and now forgotten how to put them back.

Laying out where things are to go in your tank, for me, is the most exciting aspect of fishkeeping followed by the fish themselves. Getting things laid out with a good balance and flow from one aspect to the next is actually quite an art and doing it well is difficult. So by posting your tank layouts in the members photos forum you can get good constructive criticism. Look to the AGA aquascaping contest here for inspiration and ideas:

Japanese photographer and designer Takashi Amano is also a master at the art of aquascaping, his tanks are huge!! and look amazing. Well worth looking at for inspiration.

Finally, a picture always speaks a thousand words. If there is a fish, plant, type of algae you want to identify or a disease to diagnose, it’s always easier doing it from a picture.

How do you take good photos to post online?

This is difficult to comment on as it depends hugely on your digital camera and photo editing software, but there are a number of commonalities. In a nutshell, the basic quality of digital photos is measured in terms of their resolution. Essentially the number of tiny coloured pin prick sized dots that make up the photo. The more you have the more detailed and closer to the original the picture can be. Resolution is either quoted as 2 numbers which tell you the number of pixels across by the number from top to bottom. e.g 1024 x 768 = 786, 432 pixels. Or this same picture size can be quoted as 0.7 mega pixels.

Digital cameras today take photos with as many as 10 million pixels or more (10 mega pixels) compared to about 3 only a few years ago. So the greater the number of pixels the better the picture then? Er no, not really. Things like the quality of the lens, size of the sensor the image is recorder on etc. also play a major part in the final image quality. That’s why a 3 mega pixel camera can take better quality picture than a 5 mega pixel camera.

Easy Tips

1. With photographing fish one of the most important things I would say is to take as many shots as possible. Out of 50 shots I usually get 1 or 2 I’m happy with if I’m lucky.

2. Turn the flash off or to its lowest output if you know how, to prevent glare off of the glass.

3. Clean off smears and water marks from the glass before you start, you’ll be amazed at how much they show up in your photos otherwise.

4. Move thermometers and other bits to the side of your tank before beginning, they look unsightly in photos.

5. If you want to photograph your whole tank then do just that. Fill the whole frame with just the tank if possible. Usually, people aren’t that interested in seeing the bookshelf it’s sitting on.

6. Always take photos at the highest resolution and lowest compression possible on your camera. You can then always reduce the size of the photo or crop to a certain area without too much quality loss using a photo editing program at a later date. Whereas if you take it at a low resolution and high compression to begin with there is no way of upping the detail later.

Close ups

These are more tricky but very satisfying if you get them right.

1. Put your macro setting on to allow for a tighter focus.

2. Don’t be tempted to zoom in too much as you’ll often miss things or end up with a blurry shot if you do. I go for no zoom but lens right up to the glass.

3. Start with your slow moving or sedentary fish first (the ones that sit still). These are usually much easier to capture. Look out for interesting shots though, where they sit somewhere strange, do something unexpected or have some interesting background material behind them.

4. For faster moving fish you really need to go for manual settings. Aim for a low ISO 50 – 100, shutter speed around 1 / 125 or a little faster and an aperture (f value) of around 4. If things look really washed out without much colour try increasing the f value, this reduces the size of the aperture and hence less light can get in. If the photo looks really dark and lacking in colour then try reducing your f value. A low level flash can often bring out colours. Just tweak things around these settings and experiment to see what works best on your camera.

5. To capture faster fish you need to pre focus your camera. Pick something at a middle distance in your tank. Half hold your shutter button down to focus in on it then wait. If you watch your fish closely they will usually have a set movement pattern they follow. Just wait for them to return to where you are focusing and fully depress your button. I find this leads to better + less blurry shots than following them all over the tank.

6. Consider getting a small tripod, as this really helps to steady your camera for good shots, especially with certain manual camera settings.

7. Once you upload your photos on to your computer immediately get rid of any that are out of focus. Then look to see if there are any that just need cropping to improve the composition, you’ll be surprised at what you can save with a good crop.

For photo editing I use a combination of:

Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Good for cropping and basic brightness + contrast stuff. Also great for resizing pictures to specific sizes in order to post online.

Paint.NET A free photo editor with some powerful effects you’d expect only in a more expensive package.

Irfanview Excellent little freeware program for batch conversion of names, resolutions, photos effects and more.

Preparing photos to post online

1. Resize them.

Photos to post online do not need anywhere near the detail or size you need to print off for home use. Reduce pictures to a maximum size of 640 x 480 (ideally 320 x 240) if you want to post them within a forum or website. Otherwise people will have to scroll across miles just to see your whole photo. Just to give you an idea, an 800 x 600 photo will completely fill most people’s monitors when viewed online.

2. Save as a JPEG

When preparing photos to post online, save them in the .jpeg format, not as a bitmap or TIF file. The jpeg format compresses the original photo with some loss of quality but is not noticeable when posting a photo online.

3. How do I post photos in a forum?

Some forums at TFF, like the planted tanks one, allow you to upload 100k of photos directly. This is about the size of two 640 x 480 jpegs. Otherwise:

1. Go to a photo hosting website like
2. Browse for your edited photo on your computer.
3. Upload it.
4. Copy and paste the link in the section called "Hotlink for forums 1" into your post.
5. Preview to make sure it's there.
6. Voila!

I hope this article helps you to take better photos of your fish and I look forward to seeing more of them in the members tanks and photos section.

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