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Herpetological Flash Photography

Being an educator it feels great to teach others about photography. This article is about how to use your flash while photographing amphibians and reptiles.
I am learning new things all the time, so this will be a “work in progress article”.

Option 1: On camera flash with DIY-softbox

For this option you can use a small Canon Speedlite 270EX (only €50 second hand) or similar flash from any other brand. For the small flash I created a DIY-softbox with packing foam.

How to make a DIY-softbox:

  1. Fold some foam sheets to make it a bit thicker. I used five layers, but you can experiment with the number of layers.
  2. Create a fixing ring of four tirips to lock the DIY-softbox on my lens. When you put the lens hood on the fixing ring can not slip off.
  3. Use hobby foam with velcro to mount the DIY-softbox on the flash. With velcro you can easily mount the DIY-softbox and take it off when you do not want to use it.

A big advantage is that it is very cheap, lightweight and gives great results.
To get good soft and diffuse photos you need a softbox that is bigger than the animal, a softbox that is not too far away (the further away, the bigger the softbox has to be).  There comes the biggest disadvantage. You can not get the softbox closer without changing the composition of the photo. When the softbox comes closer, you also have to make a photo closer to the animal to get optimal results.
Minor disadvantages are that some animals are bigger than the DIY-softbox, heavy rain might damage it (so you have to make a new one), and sometimes you bump into things.

I used this for the first time in Costa Rica, and a evolved version in Sri Lanka.

Option 2: Off-camera flash with softbox

Currently I am using a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT in combination with a single off camera Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT. This combination works on a radio signal so you don’t need a guiding flash on the camera. It works like a charm.

On the flash you need a softbox to make the lightning softer. The shadows will be much smoother and the highlights will not burn that much. I currently use the Lumiquest LTP and Godox 40cm x 40cm softboxes.


Photographing, editing my photos, writing articles costs a lot of time and energy. I love doing it (it is my passion), but it would be great if you ‘like’ or ‘share’ this article. Also writing a reply feels very rewarding. Also feel free to ask me for information when you are planning your trip.

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© 2019 Nature & Wildlife Photography by Ronald Zimmerman

Thema door Anders Norén