First off, congratulations on entering the magical world of bioluminescence!
We’re willing to bet you’re ready to share your glowing dinoflagellates (or, dinos) on social media. But, as every new Dino Pet owner soon finds out, taking photos of bioluminescence can be difficult.
Like, REALLY difficult.
Like, BioPop has been in the game for 5 years and we still mess it up sometimes.
But, don’t worry! It is very possible for the average person to take stellar photos of bioluminescence. It just requires some knowledge upfront and a little practice.
Here are three tips to get you started:
First, you’ll need a good camera.
This is the part that no one wants to hear, but unfortunately it’s the reality.
To take great shots of bioluminescence, you’ll need a solid DSLR/mirrorless camera or a high-end smartphone.
What constitutes as a solid DSLR or mirrorless camera? Really, anything on the market that allows you to adjust aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
As for high-end smartphones, we’ve had great success with the iPhone 7 and higher. And, for you ‘Droid folks, we’re guessing the Google Pixel 2 will probably do. (But, we haven’t experimented with it yet – cross your fingers that Katasha gets one for her birthday!!)
Here’s a quick clip of bioluminescence that Krystal took with her iPhone 7:
Next, it helps to have a tripod.
Because bioluminescence is fleeting and the natural glow isn’t as bright as, say, a night light, you’ll need to be very still to ensure your photos do not blur.
For this reason, we recommend setting up a tripod (there are many tripods available for smartphones as well) or use some type of make-shift mechanism that will keep your camera steady.
If you’re shooting a video, it’s important to keep your camera steady, but setting up on a tripod isn’t as necessary.
Next, play with your settings.
You’ll want to adjust your camera’s settings so it can pick up the low glow from the bioluminescence. You’ll do this a few ways:
- Aperture: The aperture is a hole that allows light to enter your camera. The width of your aperture determines how much light can enter.
Because you’re in a low-light setting, you’ll want to allow your camera to pick up as much light as possible. To do this, set your aperture as wide as it will go (for example, f/1.8)
- Shutter Speed: As its name suggests, the shutter speed determines how fast your shutter remains open. While the width of the aperture determines how much light can enter, the speed determines how long the camera is exposed to light.
You’ll want to play with this setting, as there is no magic solution. For a soft, blurry glow try a really long exposure (ex: 30 seconds), but if you prefer a more vivid shot, go closer to 5 or 10 seconds.
- ISO: Your ISO determines how sensitive your camera is to light. Because bioluminescence only emits a low glow, you’ll want your camera to be extra sensitive so it picks up the light.
Start off with an ISO of at least 1000 and keep bumping it up (while also playing with your shutter speed) until you reach the type of shots you like.
As for smartphones, these rules still apply but you’ll need to use a third party app in order to adjust your camera settings. Here’s one you can try for iPhone and another one you can try for Android.
As always, before you purchase an app, be sure to do your research and make sure your phone is compatible.
And, that’s it! We hope these tips are helpful as you venture on the road toward amazing bioluminescent photography.
Feel free to share your photos with us by tagging @BioPop on social media – we’ll be happy to share your work with our fans.
Until next time,