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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Still Life, B/W & Experimental Talk
Thread started 17 Feb 2016 (Wednesday) 09:09
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Aquarium Photography...

 
Road ­ Dog
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St. Augustine, Florida
Post has been edited over 1 year ago by Road Dog.
Feb 17, 2016 09:09 |  #1

I wasn't sure where to put this. Mods, please move it if there's a more appropriate forum.

I've been asked to photograph some aquariums, and I'm looking for some advice on how to light them.

These aren't your run-of-the-mill aquariums. Each one is about 700 gallons and they stand about six feet tall. Please excuse the fabulous iPhone 5S photo:

IMAGE: https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1465/24934763722_d98b587ff3_b.jpg

Each one is constructed of 1-3/4" acrylic (which is crystal clear). They will be photographed with the reef items in place, but without water. They'll be photographed in front of a plain black backdrop. The plastic wrap (you can see the lines from it) will be removed, so visibility will be optimum with regards to that.

If you were photographing this, how would you go about it? I'm thinking using some colored gels and constant lighting. I'm also thinking a very natural looking HDR treatment, but I am absolutely open to suggestions, because this is a first for me.

I really appreciate any input; Thanks!

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Matthew ­ Patrick
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Feb 17, 2016 13:48 |  #2

Sounds like a pretty complicated shoot. I'd charge a lot for a job like this. There are going to be issues with reflections. If you don't have a lot of product experience then it could be very challenging. Personally, I would not use colored gels or HDR. I'd start with a 4x6 soft box behind the tank and a 3x4 overhead and block out any extraneous light sources that could produce unwanted reflections. There would probably be a lot of adjustments needed to get it right.




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JonKline
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Feb 17, 2016 14:27 |  #3

Definitely side and top lighting. Continuous will be easier to manage.

Maybe rent some Kino 4' 5600k lights and try setting them up against the two sides. Whatever light comes from the front will be a challenge for reflections.

With unlimited budget, you could light it with polarized light and shoot with a polarized filter to eliminate the reflections.


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Road ­ Dog
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Feb 17, 2016 21:13 |  #4

Matthew Patrick wrote in post #17902146 (external link)
Sounds like a pretty complicated shoot. I'd charge a lot for a job like this. There are going to be issues with reflections. If you don't have a lot of product experience then it could be very challenging. Personally, I would not use colored gels or HDR. I'd start with a 4x6 soft box behind the tank and a 3x4 overhead and block out any extraneous light sources that could produce unwanted reflections. There would probably be a lot of adjustments needed to get it right.

I have plenty of product experience. Unfortunately, none of those products were 700 gallon aquariums!

Can I ask why you would shy away from the gels and a natural looking HDR?

I should point out something I initially neglected to mention: Only two sides of the aquarium are "open". Two sides are solid black.

The client is paying me well, but I have a feeling I'm gonna' earn every nickel...

:-D


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Matthew ­ Patrick
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Feb 17, 2016 22:20 as a reply to Road Dog's post |  #5

That's good you're being well compensated and I agree you will be earning every nickel. I would shy away from gels because they could be a little overwhelming, they could detract focus from the subject which is already very colorful. That being said I wouldn't rule out anything that could help on a tricky shoot, gels are easy to pack and they might come in handy. I like Jon's unlimited budget, polarized light idea, but if you don't have polarizing gels for the lights already that budget problem might be a deal breaker.

I would not use HDR because I'm not an HDR guy, I might composite part another image in. A natural HDR could achieve the same goal. Since I'm not an HDR guy I have never experimented with it. HDRs seem to render texture well, that could be a plus with all that coral. Another concern is that some clients don't like HDRs.

If there is an aquarium nearby this might be a good time for a visit. Or, you could just do some online research and see how others have addressed the lighting challenges in involved with shooting large home aquariums. I would also go the the websites of the best aquariums like The Boston Aquarium or Sea World and see how they designed the lighting and how the photographer adapted.




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Road ­ Dog
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Feb 17, 2016 22:50 |  #6

Matthew Patrick wrote in post #17902771 (external link)
That's good you're being well compensated and I agree you will be earning every nickel. I would shy away from gels because they could be a little overwhelming, they could detract focus from the subject which is already very colorful. That being said I wouldn't rule out anything that could help on a tricky shoot, gels are easy to pack and they might come in handy. I like Jon's unlimited budget, polarized light idea, but if you don't have polarizing gels for the lights already that budget problem might be a deal breaker.

I would not use HDR because I'm not an HDR guy, I might composite part another image in. A natural HDR could achieve the same goal. Since I'm not an HDR guy I have never experimented with it. HDRs seem to render texture well, that could be a plus with all that coral. Another concern is that some clients don't like HDRs.

If there is an aquarium nearby this might be a good time for a visit. Or, you could just do some online research and see how others have addressed the lighting challenges in involved with shooting large home aquariums. I would also go the the websites of the best aquariums like The Boston Aquarium or Sea World and see how they designed the lighting and how the photographer adapted.

Thanks for the input.

I've done a fair amount of HDR, and I've figured out how to successfully mitigate the cartoonish look that's so easy to end up with.

One idea the client had was to put some lighting into the tanks themselves. Personally, I don't see how this would ease any problems and, considering we'd have to be climbing in and out of the tank to add or remove lighting, it could be more trouble than it's worth.

Pretty much all of the online stuff I've found isn't so much for shooting aquariums but, rather, shooting the fish in those aquariums. This is where I've been struggling with finding online resources, because I'll be shooting dry aquariums.

Well, one way or another I'll get it figured out, only because the alternative is, well, because there is no alternative!


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PhotosGuy
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Feb 17, 2016 23:12 |  #7

What's the purpose of the images? Show the entire aquarium? Show the contents w/out the sides?
I'd be tempted to shoot them individually, black/blue background, w/out background light but with some backlighting on the coral. For the front, try 45-degree lighting & try to adjust the lights to avoid reflections in the glass.
Adjust from there.


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Road ­ Dog
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Feb 18, 2016 04:54 |  #8

PhotosGuy wrote in post #17902805 (external link)
What's the purpose of the images? Show the entire aquarium? Show the contents w/out the sides?
I'd be tempted to shoot them individually, black/blue background, w/out background light but with some backlighting on the coral. For the front, try 45-degree lighting & try to adjust the lights to avoid reflections in the glass.
Adjust from there.

The photos will be used on the client's website gallery to show his work. We agreed on a black background.

The problem I think I'm going to encounter, and why I thought about doing a gentle HDR treatment, is because there will be no shortage of shadows once I introduce any sort of lighting...


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PhotosGuy
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Feb 18, 2016 07:52 |  #9

Road Dog wrote in post #17902971 (external link)
...because there will be no shortage of shadows once I introduce any sort of lighting...

Shadows are a useful component of "Lighting", no? You could always add a fill light shot & blend it into the master shot.


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Left ­ Handed ­ Brisket
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Post has been edited over 1 year ago by Left Handed Brisket.
Feb 18, 2016 08:31 |  #10

^ yup.

i don't see much reason to ever need HDR in studio, unless you don't have the equipment or skill to create the kind of light you want in a single shot.

I'd be temped to have one smallish light overhead to emulate the look of the tank when it will actually be working and lit from above, and then add large on axis fill to balance out the shadows a bit.


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JonKline
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Feb 18, 2016 11:18 |  #11

Actually, similar to HDR, I've seen some photographers use many many exposures to shoot shiny objects. With diamonds, for example, the goal is to get maximum sparkle. Other times, to eliminate reflections. Since nothing in the tank is moving, you could easily light for the different components and combine them.

Or, for a really crazy idea, is it possible to just take the glass out of the setup entirely?


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Road ­ Dog
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Feb 19, 2016 08:10 |  #12

Thanks for all the input, guys. I really appreciate it.

PhotosGuy, shadows certainly can be useful, sure. I guess what I'm looking for is the best way to control them.

Left-Handed, I don't question my skill, but I do question whether or not I've got the proper equipment to light it the way I see it in my head. I just don't know how to go about lighting the entire aquarium without the actual light fixtures being somewhat visible.

JonKline, unfortunately removing the glass isn't an option. It would require a complete disassembly of the aquarium. To say that's labor intensive would be an understatement.

Thanks again!


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Left ­ Handed ­ Brisket
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Post has been edited over 1 year ago by Left Handed Brisket.
Feb 19, 2016 09:29 as a reply to Road Dog's post |  #13

BlakeC wrote in post #17903222 (external link)
I just don't know how to go about lighting the entire aquarium without the actual light fixtures being somewhat visible.

Just have to have the lights far enough to the left and right. Or above. I should not have suggested on axis light, but still think that one smallish light, maybe a 24" softbox with only the inner diffuser, up high as you can get it so fall off isn't too bad from top to bottom. Then put two large light sources left and right of the aquarium. The steel bars that make the frame might make shadows, if they are too noticeable you could go almost all the way left and right with the fill lights.

check out this article http://news.smugmug.co​m ...accurately-without-glare/ (external link)

another issue is going to be keeping the camera and tripod from showing up in the reflection. One way to avoid that could be to be in a dark room and shoot from far away so that the light from the flash does not light you up at the camera. The farther you are from the tank the less problem you will have with reflections from the surrounding area. Another would be to hide behind a black curtain of some sort. You also might want a large piece of black fabric on the floor to avoid any reflection from below.


PSA: The above post may contain sarcasm, reply at your own risk | Formerly he's gone before apostrophe-gate | Not in gear database: Canon 70-210 3.5-4.5, Auto Sears 50mm 2.0 / 2x CL-360, Nikon SB-28, SunPak auto 322 D, Minolta 20

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Road ­ Dog
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Feb 22, 2016 07:44 |  #14

Left Handed Brisket wrote in post #17904446 (external link)
Just have to have the lights far enough to the left and right. Or above. I should not have suggested on axis light, but still think that one smallish light, maybe a 24" softbox with only the inner diffuser, up high as you can get it so fall off isn't too bad from top to bottom. Then put two large light sources left and right of the aquarium. The steel bars that make the frame might make shadows, if they are too noticeable you could go almost all the way left and right with the fill lights.

check out this article http://news.smugmug.co​m ...accurately-without-glare/ (external link)

another issue is going to be keeping the camera and tripod from showing up in the reflection. One way to avoid that could be to be in a dark room and shoot from far away so that the light from the flash does not light you up at the camera. The farther you are from the tank the less problem you will have with reflections from the surrounding area. Another would be to hide behind a black curtain of some sort. You also might want a large piece of black fabric on the floor to avoid any reflection from below.

Thanks for all of that.

Yeah, I thought about my reflection. Handsome though I am, I don't think the client wants to my smilin' mug in the picture. I'm not too concerned with being able to mitigate that.

The room is going to be dark. It's a large workshop with very high ceilings.

I'm not going to have any shortage of lighting. The trick is going to be with how I employ it.

We'll see how it goes!

We'll see how it goes.


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farmer1957
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nevada
Feb 22, 2016 08:02 as a reply to Road Dog's post |  #15

When polarized light strikes the smooth surface of the glass you will have reflection issues .
If your lighting is with in the angles of family you will have reflection issues .

Do you go to the lake with out sun glasses ?

I would be using one or two A/b 1600 and 10x 36 in strip boxes
There is lots of color and you will need allot of light in order to see the colors and to make the colors pop!




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