Lighting & Flash
Like most Americans, I have my phone within arm’s reach 24/7.
So, I still use it to take photos of my fish, but more often than not, I
will break out my DSLR. Of all the photos I take in the fish room, 99
percent are with the camera on manual and with speed lights (flash).
Depending on the project, I might use upward of five external
flash units set in different areas with varied intensity. This is a
process that I’ve developed over the years, partially due to necessity,
but also to continue to satisfy my creative side. Most of my photos
in the early years were simply pictures of fish: Side shot. Front
shot. That’s a managuense—next! Quite honestly, it was boring to
me. I realized there had to be more to it than that. I needed to start
creating artistic photos.
The best piece of advice I can give to people who want to up
their game was actually my first big breakthrough: get the flash off
the camera and put it on top of the tank, pointing downward. A
lot of cameras today will allow you to remotely trigger the flash. I
guarantee that if you try this one technique your photos will take a
huge jump forward.
I also use diffusers on the flash. This helps to give a more even
flow of light. On top of that, I can adjust the output pattern from
a more focused beam to a wide angle that will further disperse the
light. In a pinch, you can get similar results by using a shallow
white foam cooler, putting it on top of your tank, and angling the
flash upward so the light bounces off the top of the container and
fills in the tank below.
A breeding pair of Amphilophus citrinellus. The author frequently achieves this “blackout look,” with the fish illuminated against a dark background.