Shooting Reptiles?

Hi everyone! I am having trouble with my indoor pics of geckos. I'm a reptile breeder of crested and gargoyle geckos which range from the size of your pinky finger to the full length of your hand. Capturing their colors and being in focus is key in the hobby. Normally, I can take pretty decent outdoor pictures because of all the natural light. I am trying to take photos with a light tent and a sunny window from the side. Not enough of the geckos are in focus and the colors don't show as vivid.
I need tips/help/all the things. I'm using a Nikon D3100 with the stock 18-55. Not sure if I should get another more useful lens or what. Or just guidance into settings :)


  • Some of this will be pretty hard to compensate for because as you get very close, the depth of field decreases, and in low indoor light your aperture also increases, lowering depth of field more. One of the things you may have to do is just get more light, so that you can close down the lens a little more. The more light you have, also, of course, the faster your shutter can be, which helps with sharpness.

    One of the problems with close focus is that precise distance is critical, and it's hard to maintain precise distance when hand holding. Even when I think I'm steady as a rock I often find I'm a little off. If your geckos are standing still, a tripod might help on this.

    Are you shooting in Raw mode? If you do, then you can experiment in post processing with picture controls and other color options without messing up a picture. It may be that in indoor light you'll have to juice up the colors a bit. You might also do better if you change the white balance (also can be done and undone in post if you shoot Raw). The camera's auto WB can be a bit cool under some light, and a warmer WB such as Cloudy or Shade can make colors pop a bit better.

    Finally, for this kind of work don't be afraid to do some continuous shooting. Sometimes if you shoot a burst of 3 or 4 shots in a row, one will be sharper than the rest.

    There are, of course, all sorts of wonderful lenses that might help some, but I am guessing that the 18-55 should work pretty well in this range - close but not macro. I'd try to maximize results with that first.
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