Frogfish are perfect to shoot! They come in all different colors and sizes, and usually stay put. Moreover, they give you plenty of opportunities to get creative with your photos.
1. Finding one can be tricky, they are “Camouflage experts”
Frogfish are real experts in camouflage, so the most difficult issue of photographing one is, in fact, finding one! Frogfish like to be around sponges, mooring blocks, tires or ropes. However, as each species has its preferences for habitat, it might be useful to look almost everywhere! Some even live in sea grass. When searching for one, look for the tail or the fingernails, which are easier to differentiate.
2. Your camera
Camera set up
- As the size of the frogfish varies from less than an inch to more than 15 inches/38 cm, your camera setup depends on the frogfish in the area where you are diving, so ask your guide before a dive.
- In some cases, mostly for those species that frequently inhabit sponges, aiming up and using a very low shutter speed (less than 1/40 sec) and very high shutter speed (the sync speed of your equipment, usually around 1/200–1/250 sec for DSLRs and higher for compacts) can create an interesting frame around the subject.
- Many frogfish have one dominant and extremely saturated color. Watch that color’s related channel on the RGB histogram to make sure you are not losing all the detail in that region.
- A 105 mm lens will be perfect for juvenile frogfish that are smaller than an inch. Although you can get away with using a 60mm lens with a diopter.
- Small frogfish, one to three inches, are great to photograph using a 60mm lens.
- Giant frogfish will be better photographed with a 9–18mm or a 14–42mm.
- If you find a frogfish that is just too big or too small for your lens. You can take advantage of it and start to be creative. If the frogfish is too big, focus on a part of its body and change your picture into an abstract one!
- Strobes or powerful internal flashes are important to make frogfish colors and body patterns stand out.
- A single strobe or a higher ratio between two strobes will cast a strong shadow. This will make the subject stand out from an otherwise plain background.
3. What to photograph?
Working with the Background
Showing the background of the frogfish can make for a more vivid picture and can give the viewer a better idea of an animal’s natural habitat as well as show case its great ability to camouflage. For instance, hairy frogfish are known to have body growths that can mimic algae, sea urchins, or sponges.
If you shoot a juvenile frogfish, include a size reference to take up some space in the photograph. A pointer stick or a finger are great options.
Go for the Face
Frogfish have very expressive faces, with amazing colored eyes and artistic skin patterns. Luckily, frogfish don’t get spooked easily, allowing you to get close and get a good full-frame portrait.
You can either shoot the face from the side and use some negative space behind such as black or blue or shoot the face directly from the front in case the surroundings are obstructing the view.
Feeding, yawning, and swimming frogfish are perfect moments to be captured by a photographer. The trick to be ready when this happens is to have the camera on manual focus and leave enough space in front of the frogfish to capture the action.
This incredible moment can be photographed in many ways:
- Zoom out to photograph the entire scene – the fish, the habitat and the prey – to showcase the entire story behind it.
- Show only the frogfish with its lure out. This is a good opportunity if you want the frogfish to fill the entire photo or if you only have a macro lense.
Frogfish yawn for three reasons: realign its jaw before starting to walk to fish, after eating to eject any unwanted item such as shells or sand; and the last one is in fact a stress reaction caused by its own reflection in your camera lens. If you think that the cause of the yawn is the last one, the frogfish should be left alone for a while. If you happen to catch a frogfish yawning, try to get a shot from the side or from directly in front in order to get the inside of the mouth.
Getting at eye level with a frogfish will result in really stunning shots that really express their benthic life.
- Frogfish don’t move much so take your time to frame your shot and adjust your lighting. This will reduce the unwanted pictures and leave the frogfish in a less stressful state.
- Be very patient – if you want to shoot the perfect behaviour picture, sometimes it takes more than one dive to get it!
- Never try to move a frogfish for your photo. Frogfish camouflage relies on their lack of movement, which allows organisms such as algae or coral polyps to grow and live on their bodies. By moving a frogfish, you might dislodge some of the organisms and the frogfish will no longer be camouflaged.
By following these advices, even photography novices will find frogfish to be excellent subjects that can be photographed in a multitude of ways and using a number of different techniques! Just remember to keep neutral buoyancy, watch where you place your fins and make sure you are not harassing the frogfish or disturb any other underwater life while you are getting your perfect shot!