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03-05-2015, 10:36 AM   #1
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Led/ flourescent photography

Hello every, I am pretty much a beginner with photography. I was hoping someone can help me in regards to how to take pictures of flourescent lighting without the heavy exposure of lighting in the picture. I have a reef tank and I would like to take pictures of my corals and fish. I want to be able show the corals under led light. My problem is that I have no idea on how to do it. i have a k-30 with an 18-135mm. I was also thinking of investing in the 100mm macro or the 70-200 macro tamron. Any help and advise will be greatly appreciated. Thank you


Last edited by photolady95; 03-05-2015 at 01:01 PM. Reason: fixed typo
03-05-2015, 10:55 AM   #2
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Your auto balance would be a help, but even better shoot RAW and adjust the colors in post-processing. Use that 18-135 to get an idea of what field of view (FOV) the 100mm macro would give you. It's a pretty tight FOV. The 18-135 is really nice around 50-70mm, so you may get enough resolution with that lens alone, considering you're shooting through glass. If you don't want to shoot RAW you'll need to experiment with white balance presets in the camera - auto, fluorescent, chosen values etc.

If corals, not fish are your target I'd probably turn off the circulation, allow the water to calm, then shoot with Av mode around f11 and ISO100 - allow the camera to decide shutter speed. Then you'll need to play with the parameters, you might need to bump the ISO higher to keep the shutter speed under control if you have shrimp or other critters.

You'll want a tripod, of course.

BTW, I've taken pictures at Shedd Aquarium and got some good results but the reflections were always annoying. If you can operate in a dark room it's your best bet. You may also need to step to the side to avoid getting your reflection. And remember all lenses have minimum focal distances, don't be surprised if you need to be close to a foot from your subject.
03-05-2015, 10:59 AM   #3
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Some tips:

You want the room as dark as possible so you don't get reflections off the glass. Do it at night so no sunlight, and turn off room lights.

Use a tripod if you have one, or support the camera on a sturdy table. That will let you experiment with the same composition but different settings.

Shoot in Manual mode. I think the 18-135 is sharpest around f8 and that should also give enough depth of field. For corals without fish, go with ISO 100 for low noise and set the shutter as slow as needed (assuming you're using a tripod or other support). For moving fish you may need to boost the ISO or decrease the aperture to avoid motion blur.

If you use jpg format, try different white balance settings. Try auto, fluorescent, maybe others to see what gives the best colors.

Consider using DNG (aka "raw") plus jpg. It will take some effort to learn how to process DNGs but will give you more leeway for adjusting white balance, shadows, and other elements after the photo.

If you need more light in the tank, place a lamp near the glass, out of the frame, and where reflections from the glass won't show.
03-05-2015, 08:30 PM   #4
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Buy a plastic 18% grey card and stick it in the tank. Take your white balance off of that, either in the camera or in Lightroom.

03-06-2015, 10:37 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnmflores Quote
Buy a plastic 18% grey card and stick it in the tank. Take your white balance off of that, either in the camera or in Lightroom.
I was going to suggest putting the card behind the tank (or even a white piece of paper) and take a test shot or set white balance from that. You may spend a lot of time testing it out and if you think you might shoot that a lot set a preset in your RAW processor or even in the camera so that you can just manually input the correct WB numbers when you are shooting the tank.
03-07-2015, 03:39 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone! I will have to buy a tripod first! One more thing, should I purchase a flash and filter? or that's not really necessary? Thanks!
03-07-2015, 10:49 PM   #7
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You can probably do fine without flash or filter. Just borrow lamps you already have at home. Position them so reflections aren't visible in your photos.
03-26-2015, 08:16 AM   #8
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Update: Well Im sure its my photographic skills, but pictures are coming out horrible. I have my iso set at 100 with f8 and f11 and played with the auto balance for almost an hour and could not for the life of me get a decent picture. All of the pictures were blurry and did not show the real colors of the corals. Any more advice? Thanks

03-26-2015, 08:43 AM   #9
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The blur is probably that the shutter speed is far too low. If the K30 has TAv, use it, else keep an eye on the shutter speed and adjust ISO if necessary. For 50mm, at least 1/50 second. Or get that tripod

Can't advise on the colors; maybe post a resized example.
03-26-2015, 09:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vivas Quote
Update: Well Im sure its my photographic skills, but pictures are coming out horrible. I have my iso set at 100 with f8 and f11 and played with the auto balance for almost an hour and could not for the life of me get a decent picture. All of the pictures were blurry and did not show the real colors of the corals. Any more advice? Thanks
Are you using a tripod or other sturdy camera support? If not, boost ISO and change aperture to get a faster shutter speed.
03-26-2015, 09:16 AM   #11
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Im using a tripod. Im also Zoominh in all the way, but the auto focus doesnt focus on tye object. It keeps hunting. Also, when i zoom out and i am able to focus on the coral, i am not able to take picture. Im not sure hot to explain it, but when i press down on the shutter the camera does not take the picture. Instead a green light shows up.
03-26-2015, 09:40 AM   #12
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The difficulty when shooting through glass is that the camera sometimes wants to focus on something besides what you want it to focus on. You might want to try manual focus and perhaps Live-view to assist (not sure if the K-30 has focus peaking, which could help).

Make sure you are using a timer mode or remote to control the shutter. If you are pressing the shutter button, you're likely to shake the camera enough to ruin a shot, even if it's on a tripod. The 2-sec release is nice because it'll turn off shake reduction, which is a good thing when shooting from a tripod.

For the sake of getting at least an initially good shot, I'm going to suggest you up the ISO and perhaps make sure you have a decent shutter speed. While I know you aren't hand-holding, you might want to try to see if you can get a shot at 1/FL... so if you are shooting at the 135 mm end of the 18-135, try for 1/100 or 1/150 as a shutter speed. If TAv is available as a mode, try setting the f stop to f/8 and let the camera pick and ISO. If the ISO seems too high, you might dial the f/stop back a bit. I would think, however, that you should be ok letting the ISO creep up towards 1600 or 3200 even. I don't have a K-30, but I assume it's high ISO performance is close to as good as the K-5's are. You may even want to go as far as just using M mode and adjusting everything and then tweak from there.

Anyway, I think the strategy should be to get yourself into the ballpark of getting shots that are decent. Once you get things acceptable, then I suggest refinement (get ISO down), work on white balance, work on focus. My experience at aquariums is that the white balance is quite difficult for the camera to get right in camera. I usually count on adjustments with my RAW processor to help with that.
03-26-2015, 09:43 AM   #13
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Can you post one of the bad pictures with EXIF data intact? The green light is a lighting assist for low-light situations, you should absolutely not need that, you should have sufficient light.

Regarding your focus, how far are you from your subject? The minimum focus for the 18-135 is listed at 40cm, but that will vary with your zoom level. I suspect you might be a bit too close. Often it's better to move farther back and zoom in with a good focal length - like 70mm on the 18-135.

As mentioned above, TAv is the mode to pick here to start with- choose your aperture and then adjust shutter speed. P is also possible.

And yes, absolutely use the 2 second timer or a remote on the tripod just to make sure you are not getting some vibration.

It could be possible you're focusing on the glass, just a thought.
03-26-2015, 08:16 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vivas Quote
Im using a tripod. Im also Zoominh in all the way, but the auto focus doesnt focus on tye object.
Manual focus, to be sure you're getting the object in focus and not the glass in between.
03-26-2015, 09:38 PM   #15
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Be aware that certain kinds of LED lighting will make attempts to shoot under it... difficult, at best.

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/6-pentax-dslr-discussion/93809-modern-led...-problems.html
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