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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
After some conversations in the APC chat I realized that it may be useful to share some experience about shooting planted tanks with a handheld camera. Obviously the use of a tripod is the best approach and one should use it every time when possible. But there are ways to produce perfectly sharp pictures in the spur of the moment with a handheld camera.

Here's an example of such a picture taken in one of Luis' tanks:


Capt and I discussed his pictures posted in the following thread:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/showthread.php?t=4986

All of these images suffer from camera shake. Shake is often subtle but it has devastating effect on otherwise good pictures. The things that I suggested to Capt to reduce the blur are described below. I will ask him to post his hopefully improved second takes.

A. Strive to have the camera lens and the aquarium glass perpendicular to each other. That means both horizontal and vertical positions. The truth is that usually you will shoot under an angle, but try to minimize it as much as possible.


Remember:
--Thick glass distorts the images a great deal. That is especially visible when shooting a close-up. The photo below was taken in a 10 gal. tank that has very thin glass.
--Water also distorts the images. The leaf on the image below was literally stuck to the glass which resulted in very sharp details.


B. Carefully press the camera lens on the aquarium glass. Be careful to not scratch the glass. Hold the camera firmly while taking the picture.

C. If there is no way to press the camera lens to the glass try to carefully rest at least part of the camera on the glass or part of the hand that is holding the camera.

D. Improvise with the support. Use any rest that you can find around the tank - tables, chairs, window sills. Rest your body on a nearby wall or just sit down.

E. Always use a self timer when you can. Some cameras have 2 settings for the self timer - the camera takes a picture after 3 seconds or after 10 seconds. The 10 seconds lag is preferable because it allows all vibrations inside the camera to settle.

F. If shooting without resting the camera anywhere hold the camera tight to your body and hold your breath while the picture is being taken. If the camera forces you to hold it up so you can see the viewfinder a common way to stabilize the camera is to put the free hand under it, and not hold it on the side.

G. Make use of a pre-set manual focus. Focus manually on a small object first - maybe a single letter in a printed word. Then without touching the focus ring point the camera at the plant you want to shoot. Get a sharp image by moving the camera itself, back and forth. You may find that way easier to focus on small subjects or parts of plants. The following picture was taken that way:


Once again - the use of a tripod is undoubtedly better. I plan to describe the usual use and also some "trick" uses of a tripod in the next post about avoiding blurry images.

(On a funny note - as I'm just reminded... the simplest way to see a sharper picture is to squint. Try it, it works! :))

--Nikolay
 
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I'm always looking for ways to take better pics of my tanks... Great Info... Thanks for sharing!
 

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One note on holding your breath...
this is something taken from when I learned to shoot a rifle at long distances. With long distances the slightest movement will cause significant shift in point of impact. So this should work for taking steady pics as welll...

Instead of holding your breath completely (Meaning a full breath), take a breath and exhale half. Hold your breath at this point. It's actually a less stressed state of being and will allow you to be more comfortable and more steady.
 

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Thanks for posting these tips and discussion. I doubt I'll ever try for that "perfect shot", but I do want to post good pics when I update my journal or when I need to post a plant on the ID forum (especially when picture quality can make/break an identification) . This is all really good information. :D

-Dave
 

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Don't forget to talk about lighting/flash and aperture/shutter speed.
They affect sharpness as well especially while taking pictures of fish.
 

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B. Carefully press the camera lens on the aquarium glass. Be careful to not scratch the glass. Hold the camera firmly while taking the picture.

C. If there is no way to press the camera lens to the glass try to carefully rest at least part of the camera on the glass or part of the hand that is holding the camera.
If using a DSLR, get yourself a rubber lens hood for those up against the glass shots.

Instead of holding your breath completely (Meaning a full breath), take a breath and exhale half. Hold your breath at this point. It's actually a less stressed state of being and will allow you to be more comfortable and more steady.
Second that. Holding your breath is one of the most common mistakes people make. It may seem to work during the first couple of shots, but try fifty or a hundred.
 
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