Finding nemo isn’t the key to memorable anemonefish pictures; it is far more important to focus on finding a beautiful anemone. Some anemones are dull brown with pudgy sausages for tentacles. Others are beautiful, with bright colours on the skirts; some with elegant thin tentacles, tipped with colour or attractive bulbs.
They can be fluorescent red or, occasionally, be bleached white. The fish vary much less, so when we find a beautiful anemone, we should work it.
The right fish does make a difference. There are 28 species of anemonefish worldwide, but in some regions, such as the Red Sea, there is only one, while in South-east Asia we can commonly find up to seven species on a dive.
Anemonefish do vary between individuals. I focus my attention on the lighter, more colourful ones. Juveniles are often especially photogenic, and I avoid individuals with dark pigment around the eye, because it stops the eye showing up clearly in the pictures.
Some anemonefish can be very shy or very aggressive – neither extreme tends to lead to strong images.
Anemonefish and their host anemones are covered in mucous and tend to suit soft even illumination, with two strobes in 10 & 2 o’clock positions.
Hard light from a single strobe aimed in from the side will bring out the texture of the tentacles and can be a solution with unattractive anemones.
Anemone tentacles do look great with backlighting, but this can be hard to position, unless the anemone is right up on top of the reef. It is simplest to shoot anemonefish lit only with flash.
That said, the warm colours of anemonefish look great against blue water, but the longer exposures required to capture this also make the fish’s white bands difficult to handle.