Low Tech Macro Photography
by: Bunnith Thok (USA)
Taking the perfect shrimp picture can be a daunting task. They're small, fast and never seem to be cooperative during photo shoots. The job at hand only gets more frustrating when you see that beautiful pic posted on a planted tank forum or invert website that you can never seem to capture. How'd they do it? Well, here are a few tips that seemed to have worked for me.
There are a couple of things that you'll need: a tripod, good aquarium lighting and a digital camera with zoom and a macro feature. This aids you in taking particularly close shots. If you have a manual camera and know how to operate it, chances are you're already a master at your craft and could actually teach me a thing or two.
Make sure you have adequate lighting. Fluorescent lights will typically be brighter and give off a more natural light as opposed to incandescent bulbs which will often appear yellowish and can make your pics dingy-looking. Some small tank kits utilize this type of lighting, but miniature fluorescent bulbs that will fit a standard incandescent-type socket should be available at your local pet store. If you desire, you can turn off all other lighting in the room to add extra focus to the aquarium. Also turn off any CO2 or aerating pump. The turbid water may cause unpredictable light refraction, distorted images or affect your camera’s automatic speed settings.
Mount the camera to the tripod so that you can swivel your camera up and down and swivel from left to right. Since tanks and shrimp are usually positioned lengthwise, landscape framing will do (as opposed to portrait, framing that is taller than wide). There should be a dial or lever on the left or right side and a twist lever facing you. Learn to operate both controls with both hands in unison to allow you to pan the framing quickly and comfortably.
As for the camera settings, set it to Auto. Photo purists would scoff at such a novice approach, but with the tiny fast moving inverts, it's no time to be messing with shutter speed or aperture size. Suppress the flash to avoid getting unpredictable glares off of the aquarium glass or other objects in the tank. Also turn off the red-eye reduction because A) You don't need it and B) it adds a few precious milliseconds between when you push the shutter button and the camera snaps a picture; time you can't afford to spare. And make sure the macro feature is turned on. It's often represented by an icon resembling a Tulip to indicate the ability to take close shots of small objects.
With active shrimp, I've found a lot of luck with tracking a subject and leading it into frame--where I think the shrimp will end up and then snapping a pic. Think dogfighting jet firing ahead of its intended target to shoot it down. Being zoomed in so close, the shrimp will move out of frame rather quickly. If you still don't have any luck, take pictures during feeding time where they're often to stay more stationary. If you want a more "natural" look, bury the food under a few pieces of substrate. When the shrimp hover over it, you can take your photo with the food out of sight. Every time you change subjects or move the camera significantly, press the shutter button slightly and the digital camera will automatically adjust the focus and other settings. This will save precious time when you fully press the button to take a picture.
Try putting these tips to use and hopefully you'll have just as much luck as I have. The shrimp in your aquarium are potentially just a snap away from being shared across the world.