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8 Tips for Shooting Indoors at the Vancouver Aquarium

8 Tips for Shooting Indoors at the Vancouver Aquarium

By Laura Hana.

Trips to the Vancouver Aquarium are always fun but trying to photograph our marine friends can get tricky when shooting indoors. Here are eight tips for those of you with digital SLR cameras that might help you get the kind of shots you were looking for.

1. Don’t use your flash

Not only does the marine life not appreciate it (some are sensitive to light), your photos will look flat and you capture have a huge burst of light reflecting off the tank’s glass.

2. Be prepared to use a high ISO

The tanks are lit but only very slightly, so there isn’t much light. If you want to be able to see the marine life in your photos, you’ll most likely have to use a high ISO (above 800) especially since flash is a no-no.

3. Use a fast shutter speed

Not only do you need to reduce camera shake from shooting without a tripod, you need to use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the motion of your moving subjects. Try a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second or faster.

4. Shoot wide open

When you’re in such a dark place with poorly lit tanks, you’re going to need all the light you can get. Shooting wide open (e.g. f/1.8 or f/2.8) means you’ll have more light entering your camera but you will also have a narrower depth of field, so shoot from further away if you want more of your subject to be in focus.

5. Remove your polarizer when indoors

Polarizers can reduce the glare off the tank glass but it might be dark enough that there would be little or no reflection. Keeping the polarizer on your lens will bring your exposure down about 1.5 stops meaning you have to use a much higher ISO, slower shutter speed or larger aperture to compensate for the darkness of the filter.

6. Anticipate your subject’s movements

Marine animals usually move around, so try to anticipate where they are heading, compose your shot and wait for your subject to swim into place.

7. Bring extra memory cards

Because there is so much to see at the Vancouver Aquarium and most of the subjects are moving (including your kids) you might need to do a lot more takes. Deleting as you go along takes time and can risk card error, so consider taking enough memory cards to last the visit.

8. Shoot in RAW format

Getting the white balance right the first time might be more challenging in a dark aquarium rampant with blue hues and mixed lighting. White balance is tough to correct with compressed JPG’s.

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Laura Hana is a Vancouver wedding and portrait photographer and one of Vancouver’s 50 Essential Portrait Photographers. She is the founder of the OAC Photo Club and All photos © Laura Hana.

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