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Thread: Shrimp Photography 101

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    Shrimpy Lover hyoushoku's Avatar
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    Default Shrimp Photography 101

    Please pardon me for bad formatting. I copy and paste from my blog and apparently, it is so hard to do the formatting on forum post. If you want a better format version of this article, please visit my blog directly: http://www.shrimpydaddy.com/p/shrimp...raphy-101.html

    When I start shrimp keeping, I discovered that most shrimp photographs took by enthusiast are either underexposed, look dead plain or overly photoshop'ed. However, there are some that are really fantastic. When I compared their cameras, the good ones may even be using lower-end type.

    So why can't everyone take good photographs of their shrimps? Yes, they can but if they know the basic of it. As such, I decided to write this article to talk about the basics of shrimp photography. So that in the future, we will be able to enjoy more beautiful photography of these lovely creatures.


    Equipment Recommendations

    This is an interesting topic. Not necessarily, the higher-end equipment will be better. I owned two Fujiflim mirrorless camera bodies, X-M1 and X-T1, and I can't tell the image quality differences unless I do a 100% crop. The differences of these two camera bodies when taking shrimp pictures (when used of other purposes, yes there are huge differences) are the manual focus assist, speed of adjustment and performance in lower lighting. One major aspect of the camera are the lenses, which I will talk about it later.

    Camera Type: DSLR or Mirrorless (Changeable lens type)
    Camera Body: Get one that has good manual focus assist, especially those that can magnify the focus area. For the DSLR type, it will be good to have those with hybrid optical view finder. If you are buying new camera, make sure you get one that has good performance when sensitivity is at ISO 6400. In addition, make sure the camera allows you to set bracketing on sensitivity and shutter speed easily, so that will be easy for you when you are using Aperture Priority mode. Of course, it will be best if the camera can have all the setting on physical dial and you can use total manual mode but such body will cost a lot more. My favourite camera review website is: http://www.dpreview.com/. You may want to visit it before getting a new camera.
    Camera Lens: You need a fast macro/micro lens (lower F Stop is faster; below F3 is good and it gets more expensive as the number goes down) with good "bokeh" effect. This because the lighting in the tank looks bright but it does not have enough light reflecting into your camera sensor. Thus if your lens is not fast enough, you will have to increase the ISO to very high or decrease the shutter speed that will make your photo grainy or blurry. The focal length should be 60mm. Some people thought that the longer focal length can zoom in more on their shrimp and it was a great mistake. Why? Firstly, the longer focal length lens will have a farther minimum focus distance, which will require you to place the camera further from the tank that will degrade the image quality causes by the tank glass. Secondly, the longer the focal length will require faster shutter speed, which will darken your image further from the low light environment. This explain why some of the pictures took by enthusiasts are so under exposure. Make sure the lens has the F Stop ring/adjustment physical control. This will make your adjustment easier when using Aperture Priority mode by leveraging on F Stop to automatically control the shutter speed. Avoid portrait lenses (usually 56 to 58mm focal length) as it will not be able to zoom in on shrimp properly, thus please don't think you can double use portrait lenses for portrait and shrimp photo-taking. However, a macro lens can be used as portrait lens, just that you need to stand slightly farther. If you only own a zoom lens that is part of the camera kit, then you are not in luck. Zoom lenses are slow and you will need to decrease the shutter speed substantially and end up, you will need to take more shots before you get a good one. If you are shooting Sulawesi shrimps, please ensure you get a lens that does not have external moving parts. Dark moving shadow will trigger their instinct to hide.
    Tripod: This is a must! Due to low lighting and manual focusing is required, you definitely need a tripod. Avoid buying a huge expensive tripod; there is no wind indoor. There is always limited space around the tank and you need to place the camera as near to the tank as possible. Thus, get a sturdy mini travel tripod from a decent brand is good enough. I got my for under US$40.
    Remote Shutter Release: This is essential too, unless your camera support remote control from your iPhone like my Fujiflim X-T1 but I still use my good old mechanical remote shutter release. The action of pushing the shutter release button on the camera body will shake the camera and blur the image when your shutter speed is low. Usually, this remote release will cost around US$50, which is worth every cents.
    Lens Hood: If your tank is using LED or HID lighting, chances of the light penetrating the tank glass and causes reflection of your camera and yourself onto the external tank glass. As such, you will need the lens hood that comes with your lens. Most lenses come with lens hood. When you are buying the lenses, just make sure it comes with one.


    Setting Up Your Camera & Environment

    Many focusing on setting up the camera but neglected the environment, which is another important aspect. Below are the must-do to setup both camera and the environment.

    Tank Wall: Scrap the interior tank wall using those algae scrapper. After that let the filter clean the water for at least 30 mins. Clean the exterior tank wall using glass cleaner; spray the glass cleaner on a paper towel and clean, not spray it on the tank directly that will slash into the tank and kill the shrimp. If your tank has special coating outside, clean it with water, wipe dry with paper towel then by those special glass cleaning cloth.
    Tank Lighting: If your tank lighting intensity is adjustable, turn it up but not too bright that stress the shrimp. Else if your tank lighting is fixed intensity, lower the lighting a bit to increase the intensity. If you are using LED that does not have diffuser or HID, you will need to DIY a diffuser to lessen the amount of light penetrate the tank wall can causes reflection. The DIY is consist of a matt white translucent plastic. I always get this plastic by cutting the cover of plastic filer.
    Floating Plant: Remove all the floating plants that are blocking the lights. Most aquarium is already not reflecting enough light to the camera, the floating plant will reduce the light intensity further.
    Room Lighting: Switch off every single light source in the room, make sure there is no light emitting from anything. It is best you take the picture at night.
    Positioning the Camera: Position your camera perpendicular to the glass tank. If your camera is shooting the tank as an angle, the glass tank will bend the light and you will get blur images. However if you are shooting shrimp near to the tank wall and on the substrate, you need to position the camera slightly pointing down to prevent any thing on the substrate from blocking your line of sight. The distance of the camera to the tank wall will be as close as possible, this is why you need a shorter focal length. If the camera is too far, you will get a lot of reflection from the tank wall.
    Configuration of the Camera: This will cover the initial settings and will have to tune accordingly when you are taking the picture.
    Mode: Aperture Priority or Full Manual
    Picture Control/Film Simulation: Standard, Vivid or Negative (depending on lighting and background)
    White Balance: If the camera's firmware is intelligent enough, most of the time automatic setting should work. As a best practice, always take a couple of shots first and see whether this should be adjusted manually.
    • Maximum Sensitivity - ISO6400
    • Minimum Shutter Speed - 1/[focal length]. For example, your lens is 60mm focal length, set the shutter speed to 1/60sec or the nearest highest speed. If you camera sensor is fast enough, you can set it one speed lower. For my case, I'm used to full manual mode, I always take a few test shots and after that, fixed my shutter speed manually (generally at 1/30 to 1/120).
    • File Format: Fine JPEG + RAW. Fine JPEG is good most of the time. However in some cases where the capture moment is good but exposure or white balance is bad, you may want to use Aperture or Lightroom software to fine tune to picture. Therefore, it is good to have the RAW format file saved.
    • Focus Setting: Manual
    • F Stop: Start from the middle (e.g. F8) and slowly increase the Aperture size (decrease in number) until you get the best exposure but ensure the shutter speed does not fall under the performance of the lens. Always take bright and vivid picture and not dark dull ones, given said that, do not take overly exposed picture that you can see the details of your shrimp's beautiful body. In addition, F Stop (Aperture size) will determine the depth of field. If the F Stop number is low (F1 to F2), the depth of field maybe just a millimeter or less. In the case of the tank light is insufficient and you have to use small F Stop, try to take shrimp that has the body perpendicular to your line of sight (parallel to the tank glass).
    • Shooting Mode: If you camera support continuous shooting mode, set the number of frame to maximum. This will ensure you capture the picture perfect shot most of the time.

    Patient & Time: Before you start taking shrimp photo, you need to allocate a lot of time. Usually, I spend about 1 hour then able to take 5 to 10 nice shots.
    Familiarisation of the Camera: Every environment is different, you may need to take a few test shots to adjust the camera. In addition, you need to be very familiar with your camera so that you can make adjustment without seeing the camera LCD screen.

    Tips & Tricks

    Below are some tips & tricks I learned throughout the years. Please share with me if you have some too.

    • Both water and tank glass bend light wave. Thus, it is best to take picture of shrimps that is nearer to your camera. In addition, shrimp tank not the cleanest aquarium in the world, the unclean water will degrade the photograph quality.
    • If you don't use Purigen for long term, put Purigen into the filter to clean the water for a couple of days to a week before taking the picture.
    • The day after water change, due to the mineral in the new water reacts with the nutrients in the tank, the water tends to become slightly hazy. As such, it is better to take picture on the day you change water or 4 to 5 days after you changed the water.
    • Put some of the shrimp favourite snacks, such as wafer, mineral powder and barley straw pellet, in the area near to where you position the camera. This will encourage your shrimps come near to the camera.
    • If possible, turn off anything that creates micro-bubbles, such as air-pump and venturi output filter.
    • If possible, reduce the water flow rate. This will prevent their antenna swinging around and block the camera line of sight. I personally have this problem with my Sulawesi tank due to the tank size is small and Sulawesi shrimp loves highly oxygenated water that has higher flow rate plus healthy Sulawesi shrimps have very long and thick antenna.

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    Forgot to mention this. Please do share with us your tips and tricks for taking shrimp photo too. We are student for life, thus everyday is a learning day.

    If you already have a decent camera and still unable to capture nice photograph, do share with us your equipment, setup and photo and we can discuss on how to further improve it.

    Cheers.

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    Thank you for consolidation of the information. Just some notes
    Tank Wall: very importantpart after the right camera+, would be better to have Opti white glass in a front
    Tank Lighting: No matter at all, because to get a good picture you would need the speed light transmitter and the flash light on the top of the object /water surface
    Tripod & hood: No matter at all, you will be not able to catch the shrimp using the tripod or monopod, you will be too slow. If you have the flash light you do not need the hood, just try to avoid any bright light source

    Black King Kong logo.jpg
    This picture f11 1/125 ISO 1600 manual focus DSLR + macro lens + extension tube

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    Hi Button,

    Thanks for sharing.

    Just a curious question, does your shrimp get shock with the flash?

    Regards.

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    When the light comes from the top this is something normal for the shrimps so they do not jump, do not hide just do what they used to do. May be if it has recently molted it will be more suspicious, but usually they just not so fast. Hope it helps. So one more, this one has been moving - treking for the food along the wood, so there were several shoots to catch the image
    Bolt logo.jpg

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    Thanks for the tips!
    "Position your camera perpendicular to the glass tank." I believe this is one of the most important part to get a sharp picture.

    About flash, I use a flash too. Else I can't get the right pictures. I use a minimum flash setting as possible and also from above. My Shrimp don't response to them most of the time. Sometimes one or two jump by the first flash, but that's just occasionally. They just continue with there eating, don't gave a **** about it

    Some recent pictures:

    31.jpg
    35.jpg
    32.jpg
    42.jpg
    Attachment 8073

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    Interesting, more flash users. I'm old school, hardly uses flash. Maybe I will just connect a slave flash and click on top and try.

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    Hi Button,

    Forgot about the tripod/monopod thing. Actually for me, it is quite easy and fast. Thus personally, I find it not a problem. As such, it may be a personal preference in this case.

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    Yes, but just because I can't make good pictures without it.

    But someone I know makes very nice pictures without flash (https://www.flickr.com/photos/Stevensquid), so I try to find the right settings to make it work. Just to try, like you will try with a flash someday .

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    His pictures are beautiful. From his portfolio, you can tell his skill is marvellous.

    All my pictures are without flash too. I just need to increase the aperture and ISO. As long as my shutter speed is faster than 1/15, there will be no problem, except Sulawesi shrimp that has very fast hands and legs movement.

    I will go and try with flash and maybe you can try to go without flash by applying my tricks.

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