How to Photograph ‘Frogfish’

This Week’s Tip:  How to Photograph ‘Frogfish’

Frogfish or Anglerfish are a favorite subject of many photographers, because like nudibranchs they usually don’t move much, although hairy frogfishes tend to be more active than other species. They’re also not shy, so they can be shot from very close distance.

The best lenses to use are macro lenses such as 60mm, 100mm, or 105mm for DSLR’s, (nowadays with different cameras like mirrorless & micro 4/3 etc. the lenses vary a lot, I use a 90mm at the moment on a SONY A7R2). For shooting super-macro images of tiny juveniles, eyes or the lures, use close-up diopters or teleconverters.


Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) eye – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm, Nauticam SMC, f5.6, 1/160sec, ISO 160, 1x SOLA 4000, 1x SOLA 2100



For shooting CFWA (close-focus-wide-angle) of giant frogfish, fisheye lenses are the preferred choice, for smaller subjects we can combine the fisheye lens with a teleconverter. Try to get as low as possible and shoot slightly upwards to isolate the fish clearly against the blue water background.



Giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) sitting on a sponge at the mini-wall @ Nudifalls – shot upwards into the water column to get a blue background – Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17 @ 10mm, f3.5, 1/80sec, ISO200, 2xL&M SunRay 2000 LED lights


The same giant frogfish (Antennarius commerson) on the same sponge, this time shot downwards in the water column to get a black background – Canon 7D, Tokina 10-17 @ 10mm, f3.5, 1/250sec, ISO200, 2xL&M SunRay 2000 LED lights


To show how well they camouflage, it sometimes can be nice to back off a bit and not fill the frame with the frogfish.


Giant frogfish  (Antennarius commerson) on a sponge – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC @14mm, f8, 1/125sec, ISO640, 2xSOLA 4000


Black Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) Lembeh Strait

Getting really close is key when shooting CFWA, using a mini dome is recommended. Black hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) very close to the port – Canon 7D Mark II, Tokina 10-17, Kenko 1.4 TC @14mm, f10, 1/50sec, ISO320, 2x i-Torch Venom 50, 2x i-Torch Venom C92



When frogfish are ‘luring’, try to shoot them from the side, to get the lure and the frogfish in focus

Painted Frgogfish (antennarius pictus) with Glossodoris averni i

Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) fishing with its lure – Canon 7D, 60mmm macro, f5.6, 1/320sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA 1200 on spot



Frogfish also look cool when shooting portraits, it can be nice to fill the frame with the face only (especially when you run into a larger frogfish with a 100/105 (or 90mm 😉 ).

Use a large aperture (low f-number) to get out of focus backgrounds and foregrounds.

Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) Lembeh Strait

Hairy Frogfish (Antennarius striatus) close-up portrait shot with a large aperture – Canon 7D, 100mm macro, f3.5, 1/800sec, ISO160, 2x L&M SunRay2000 LED lights. This frogfish was just too big for my lens (100mm), so I decided to go for a portrait.



Why can using only one light-source be helpful?


Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) sitting in sponges, 2 lights lighting up the subject, but also the distracting background – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f13, 1/60sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA4000, 1xSOLA2100


Using only one light-source will create dramatic shadows and can give us a darker background if we don’t light up all that sand.


The exact same subject (and exact same camera position), but this time I used only one LED light on spot – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f5.6, 1/1000sec, ISO160, 1xSOLA2100 (on spot) – to get a similar result with a strobe, use a snoot.



Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) shot with one LED light on spot – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f16, 1/60sec, ISO100, 1x Sea Dragon 2100 on spot



When using a snoot or spot on a LED light, black backgrounds and dramatic shadows are possible – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, f11, 1/125sec, ISO160, 1x SOLA1200 on spot


Always remember that with moving your strobe/light around you’ll get different results as I mentioned here:




For hairy frogfish, backlighting with a LED light or a strobe will make the hairs stand out more.  Use one strobe from behind and one from the front to light up the face as well.


Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) backlit to make the hair stand out more – Canon 7D Mark II, 60mm macro, f11, 1/200sec, ISO160, 2x SOLA 4000 (1xfront, 1xback), 1x SOLA2100(front), 1x F.I.T.2400WSR (back)



To get behavior shots like yawning, you have to be patient (and of course lucky), frogfish often open their mouths a little bit only just seconds before the real yawn, so try to be ready for the shot and have your settings right. Take a couple test shots and when you have your exposure right, then wait. Of course don’t wait too long if there are other divers waiting for their turn to see/photograph the frogfish.


Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) yawning – Canon 7D, 60mm macro



CFWA Hairy frogfish (Antennarius striatus) yawning – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, CFWA wet-lens (that’s why there are blurry edges), f5.6, 1/200sec, ISO160, 2x SOLA 4000


Even if frogfish usually don’t move much and seem to be relaxed, never harass them (the same goes for every creature underwater). We often see frogfishes in the same spots for many months, but if they’re harassed, they move away and future divers cannot get a glimpse of the weird and wonderful world of frogfishes.


How to Photograph ‘Fangblennies’

Fangblennies make interesting subjects as they often can be found in bottles where we can separate them easily from the distracting or unappealing background. They’re often under-appreciated as they’re relatively common in the mucky sites of the Lembeh Strait. Giving them a little bit of time to get used to the camera in front of them, they will pose for the camera very easily. Sometimes they even yawn! There are different opinions on why the yawning happens – either to display the impressively big mouth and scare away possible enemies, or to stretch the jaws, or just because they’re tired.

So here’s how to shoot them: Just get very close to fill the frame with the subject and then wait….at first they might hide in the bottle or hole they hang out in, but after a little while they will come back out. So take some test shots while they’re still in the bottle to get your exposure and background color right, after that is done you just have to wait until they’re in the right spot and then – bang!


Being patient sometimes pays off – after waiting almost 20 minutes and firing at the exact moment of action, I got the lucky shot…Striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f16, 1/200sec, 1x INON Z-240 with DIY fiber-optic snoot

The two enlarged, grooved canine teeth for which fangblennies get their name are situated in the lower jaw. The fangs can get very large and while not especially dangerous to most people, fang blenny bites can be quite painful. Fortunately, because of its small mouth, envenomation of humans by this animal is unlikely. That being said, some of the species we see here in Lembeh have fangs up to 1cm long – I’m sure you heard that before: look, but don’t touch! The two most common species we have here are the striped fangblenny (Meiacanthus grammistes) and the striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps), which mimics the former – they look very similar at first sight, but upon closer inspection you can tell the difference. Meiacanthus grammistes has a small blueish-black spot near the head.


Meiacanthus grammistes (left) and Petroscirtes breviceps (right)

The striped poison-fangblenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) can also change color at will and sometimes you can get different images within seconds:


Petroscirtes breviceps – Canon 7D, 60mm macro, ISO 160, f11, 1/160sec, 2x L&M SunRay 2000


Petroscirtes breviceps – 7 seconds later and the yellow coloration is almost gone – same settings as above


Sometimes fangblennies also make a nice black and white image – The striped poison-fang blenny (Petroscirtes breviceps) yawning for the camera (this is a screen-shot from footage shot with the SONY A7RII, 90mm macro lens)

When diving coral sites in Lembeh, we also often see the “smiling” bluestriped fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos) which mimics cleaner wrasses. This species can also change color at will, and can be orange as in the image below or display black and blue stripes to blend in with the cleaner wrasses. I like to shoot them with narrow depth of fields (low f-numbers) and by moving the strobe around, the coral they sometimes sit in can create dramatic shadows even without snoots.


Plagiotremus rhinorhynchos – Canon 7D, 100mm macro, ISO100, f2.8, 1/250sec, 1x INON Z-240

Almost all of these fangblennies are not skittish and fairly large (around 10cm/3inches) so pretty much all macro lenses are suitable for getting good shots.

Sometimes less can be more…

To make subjects ‘pop out’ while muck diving, we often have to separate the subjects from the distracting background (often sand), and sometimes this can be done with using only one strobe (or video light) instead of using two. When using two strobes, we light up the whole area (unless we use advanced techniques) whereas when using one strobe only, the subject can produce a black background by creating a shadow.

One or Two lights2

Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) lit up with two lights, one from the left and one from the right side. The light on the right side illuminates the frogfish’s chin and left eye, as well as the sand and surroundings.

One or Two lights1

Painted frogfish (Antennarius pictus) lit up with one light from the left only. The frogfish creates a shadow and we separate the subject with a black background from its surroundings.

It is also easier to play around with strobe positions when there is only one. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use two strobes at all, but sometimes it is nice to try something different. Even if you have two strobes connected to your rig, you can always switch one off and give it a try.

Here’s a short video to show the difference between using one light vs. using two.


cameras@Lembeh Resort Workshop July 2016

cameras@Lembeh Resort workshop in July 16th – 23rd, 2016

Interested in learning more about underwater photography, workflow and post processing of images?

If you are a beginner or advanced shooter underwater, if you are using a point & shoot camera or a DSLR (or mirrorless camera),this workshop will help you get better images underwater and enhance them on land (with Lightroom & Photoshop).

There will be daily talks about shooting techniques, special equipment and post processing of images.Come and join us for a fun week of superb muck diving at  Lembeh Resort / Sulawesi / Indonesia.

7 nights/17 guided boat dives with Nitrox in a Deluxe Ocean View Room $2400USD or in a Garden View Room $1980USD – pp. dbl occ.

Unlimited self guided house reef dives, full board, airport transfers incl.


If you want to stay longer, or come earlier, no problem.

For more information please email Sascha.

Critters of the Lembeh Strait | Episode 14 – 2015 | Crustacean Station Part 1

This week’s episode is all about crustaceans. Watch as porcelain crabs use their delicate filter appendages to try to catch food floating in the water, and marvel at the sheer diversity of this family of critters ranging from box crabs (also known as ‘shame-faced crabs’), porcelain crabs and slipper lobsters to outrageously decked-out crabs sporting sponges on their heads! Enjoy this close up and personal glimpse into the world of crustaceans.

Critters of the Lembeh Strait | Episode 13 – 2015 | Eye Spy A Little Eye

Our eagle-eyed guides seem to be magic – where you might only see a bare sandy slope, they find a cornucopia of beautiful underwater animals to show you. In this video you first see these talented guides’ eyes (‘how did he find that?!’, everyone says), and from there we move on to close-up footage of some of the most fascinating critters’ eyes. Mantis shrimp are featured, with the most complex eyes on the planet, along with other striking critter ‘peepers’ such as those of the puffer fish, crocodile flathead and, one of our favorites, the footage of the blue-ringed octopus’ eyes with the chromatophores pulsating and changing color is mesmerizing.