BETTA FISH PHOTOGRAPHY – HOW WE DO IT AT GREEN AQUA
Welcome to the beautiful world of photography! Don’t worry, you are on the right channel! This is still Green Aqua. But instead of normal aquascaping stuff, I’m gonna talk to you about very different approaches of this hobby and that is taking photos. Especially of Bettas today. Photography has been a passion of mine way before aquascaping. I used to shoot custom built cars. Shooting fish is part of the workflow now, here at Green Aqua. And Betta Fighting fish are the best to be captured on camera, because they’re the… I would say the most beautiful fish in freshwater aquariums. Also, they have the biggest movement, which is always good for photography, to capture movement and not just fish standing, or small fish when they swim around in an aquarium, they seem to be standing in one place. but with Bettas, with their fins are moving you can actually see the movement and they seem like they’re dancing in the aquarium. So I started this three months ago, shooting our Bettas. Since we moved here into the new store, we have had this Betta stand right beside me. This already has a black background behind each Betta, and that’s a very good starting point. We want to show you guys, that it’s not so difficult, to make some nice pictures of your favorite fish. If you want to make a print out of it in your living room, or something. So, let’s start! What do you need for this? Well, obviously you’re gonna need a camera. This is my Canon 5D Mark III. And a lens I borrowed from Dani, my colleague. This is the 100mm Macro L lens from Canon. I don’t have my own yet, I wanted one of these for many years now, but it’s hugely expensive and we have two in the company, so I always borrow someone’s, who doesn’t use it. So those are the basics. You might want to have a tripod for this. If you’re not confident with photography. It’s much easier to make steady pictures, if you put the camera on a tripod. But I actually don’t like to use it when shooting Bettas, because they move around quite quickly and it’s much easier to follow them without the tripod. But this is always a personal preference. So for example, Viktor always shoots with a tripod. Right, Viktor? He just can’t… He’s shaking all the time. So that’s all up to you, you can try it both ways. The other thing you’re gonna need is lots of light So… I have this. You’re gonna see later on the full setup, but I think it’s in the picture right now. I have a flash mounted on a tripod and a photo magic arm, which you can twist about anywhere, so that’s where we get lots of lighting from for this. You just spot it right above the Betta you are shooting and it’s gonna give you enough light to make some high speed photographs. I have a very small diffuser on top of it, just to diffuse some of the light, but obviously there’s not too many shadows in a small area like this. And very important! I mentioned the high speed photos. You’re gonna need one of these. This is a high speed cord for the flash. If you don’t use this, and you have the flash off the camera, then there is a limit of 1/50s in exposure. And that’s not enough, if you want to shoot them moving. If you use a cord, there is no limit. You can go up to about 1/10000s with exposure. So that’s why always use it! You always need fresh batteries! And a flash, because you’re gonna use it a lot. It’s important to recharge it very quickly. Also some home-made stuff. Like this! This is just a piece of black cardboard. But it’s cut out in the middle, so I can just put it on the lens, like this. And this actually, as I’m shooting the Bettas, it stops all the reflections from the glass. So it’s always recommended to shoot in black clothing, If you’re shooting any glass, because of the reflections. But it’s much better, to have this shield around the lens, because obviously then the center of the lens is the only thing then, that can reflect in your glass. So you get your work a lot easier. So I think that’s about all you need to do it, so let’s start! First of all, you always have to try and find your setup. Your settings on camera and on the flash. So right now I’m shooting ISO 1600. That’s as high as I like to go. Sometimes the fish are very dark, then I go up to 3200. But then you get lots of noise, which means lots of editing afterwards, so it’s always better to have a nice, smooth picture to start with. Then I have f7.1. Because I’m shooting with a macro lens, I have a quite shallow depth of field. I’m trying to compensate that with an f7.1. If I go higher, then obviously I get less light coming into the camera So the picture is gonna be darker. For this, I have a 1/2000s exposure speed. So that, combined with the flash, which is actually… and that’s why I need the high speed cord for the flash, the flash is running on 1/4 power right now. You can adjust that as well. If you want too much power out of the flash, so if you turn it up to 1/1, then it’s gonna be slow, because it can’t recharge as fast as you need it. Because you want to take three or four photos right after each other, so that you can capture that movement I’ve been talking about. So you can’t just make one shot at a time, because obviously it’s gonna be out of focus, you won’t have that exact movement you want, so you need the high-speed continuity. A few things that we are actually looking for, when trying to find the perfect shot, is: First of all, you don’t want to shoot the Betta, when it’s too close to the surface, or the bottom of the tank. Because then you have these weird reflections. Or if it’s on the top, then actually its fins just bend to the surface of the water. So it doesn’t look natural. And the best kind of movement we like, the best, that looks good on photos is when they move upwards or downwards and they’re twisting. So turning inside a tank from one way to the other. Obviously, the Bettas are very, very nice, their full fin is spread out and open. You can get a few side shots, when you can see it in total. The most beautiful self of them. But for action shots, you want this upwards or downwards twisting, turning movement. That looks very good on photos. That’s important, not to stress out your Bettas too much. Because obviously they are called fighting fish, because they fight a lot in-between each other. So if they see each other, then it’s an all-time stress for them. And obviously we don’t want to keep them in high stress. If you just have a Betta in a tank by himself, then you can use some food for example, to lure him around and make sure that he’s in the right spot, where you can make the nice photo of it. You can just hold a bit of food with a pinset and then it will follow. So that’s about it! We’re gonna continue all this in my computer. I’m gonna open up Lightroom and Photoshop and I’m gonna show you, how I make all these photos the way I want them. Well, it’s another thing about photography, it’s subjective stuff. So you’re gonna see my versions. And I hope you’re gonna like them. See you in the Lightroom! So, after taking the shots, we are back in Lightroom. As you can see, I’ve made lots of pictures . You can see here, it’s 484 photos, just from today’s session. I’ve actually got these 5 photos, to go through today. And it’s gonna be 4 at the end. But we’re gonna get back to that later on. So first, I like to push this Auto button. It gives me something to start with. I don’t like it, it takes out a lot of whites, so now I actually… I’m gonna go back in history to import. I’m gonna do this one by one, as I want it to look. So we’re gonna give it some contrast. This gives you lots of small details in the picture. You don’t want to go crazy with any of these, because it’s just gonna look fake. We’re gonna pull back the highlights a bit, so all the whites shouldn’t be blown out. Shadows, we’re gonna lift them a bit. I don’t really care about the background right now, because we’re gonna replace it with a full black background. So I’m only concentrating on the fish. It’s fine like that. Bring back the blacks a bit, a bit of clarity. It’s just a bit of saturation. I think I’m gonna overexpose it a bit. Yeah, like this. But that’s it! We’re just gonna right click on the first photo and then “Edit in” and Photoshop CC. So we’re gonna actually replace the whole background. Create a new layer. Grab my fill, select a very, very dark, almost black part. We’re gonna fill this layer on. I actually like to make a copy of my photo, before starting the editing, so I can always go back. I’m gonna hide this black layer for now. Select subject. Go back to my first layer and just click this mask button. Select my brush and I’m just gonna paint the outside. We’ve actually gone through all of it. I’m gonna click on the mask and Ctrl+I and it’s inverted. It’s all on a full black background. Now I’m actually satisfied with this. Now I look through the picture and I try to find some, look for any faults on the fish. So here and here and here, you can see some… I think they might be bubbles in the water. So I’m gonna try to fix that with the elliptic tool. Just go to the fish layer, select it, right click and fill. And have content-aware selected. So the last thing I like to do is sharpening the image. Sharpen and actually use the smart sharpen. I found this smart sharpen setup for all my Betta photos perfect. Sharpening the image by selecting all this. And right click and merge layers. If I go back to Lightroom, here I have side-by-side the edited Lightroom image and the actual Photoshop photo. This is how the Betta photos are actually made at Green Aqua. I hope you guys enjoyed this, if you have any questions about taking the photos, or about doing the edits, please feel free to comment down below. Please let us know, if you liked all this! I know it’s very different from what Balazs is doing all the time. I think this is also a very important part of the hobby, making photos. I think we can make a video about shooting the aquariums, actually. See you guys next time!