Tips on Photographing Jellyfish

Marty CohenDaily Photo, Jellyfish, Photography3 Comments

Spotted Jelly

Spotted Jelly - Click to enlarge

After posting three jellyfish photographs, my good friend Lee asked me how I shot the jellyfish photos through the glass? So I thought I’d post my answer here and share it with you.

I use a wide angle lens and hold the front of the lens against the glass to avoid getting light reflections from the room lights behind me. I do not use a flash. I set the ISO of the camera high and the f-stop low (aperture wide open) so that I can at least get the shutter speed up to 1/60 of a second or faster. If I can get away with a lower ISO or higher f-stop and still shoot at least 1/60 of a second, that’s even better. Next, I manually focus,¬†hold my breath, tuck my elbows into my chest, and press the shutter to take the picture. Afterwards, I do some post-processing in Photoshop.

There are several difficult issues here:
  • Photographing a moving object
  • A dimly lit aquarium
  • Using a slow shutter speed (likely to get some blurring from movement)
  • A wide open aperture (low f-stop = narrow depth of field)
  • High ISO (results in more digital noise in the photo)
  • The Aquarium does not permit the use of a tripod

You have very little depth of field and it’s very easy to get a photograph that is either blurry from camera and/or jellyfish movement, or out of focus because of the narrow depth of field and with more noise (digital grain). So I end up with a lot of images that are unusable. But it’s fun trying.

This is a photo of a Spotted Jelly at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The rich coloring is due to algae living in the jelly’s tissues. The jelly gets some extra nourishment from the algae to enrich its diet of tiny animal plankton. (Click on the comment number bubble to leave a comment.)

3 Comments on “Tips on Photographing Jellyfish”

  1. This is AMAZING. I appreciate learning the how. Not sure I could replicate. I have to have this jelly. So beautiful.

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