Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Guide to Better Fishing Photography

Photography and fishing have been intrinsically linked throughout history. Anglers traveling to beautiful, far-away, and nearby places have documented their surroundings and trophy catches for years. And everyone knows that bragging rights must be accompanied by photographic proof.

Digital cameras have gotten faster, cheaper, and a whole lot more powerful. Almost everyone owns a camera and, therefore, everyone can be a photographer.

While most snapshots do a fine job of documenting a trip, why not up the ante and take better photographs? Creatively composed shots are not as complicated as one might think. By following and practicing the next twenty suggestions and tips, you'll be outshooting your buddies in no time. Just be careful you don't get too good or you might be doing more shooting than fishing.

Photo by Tim Romano

1. Learn what the buttons do: Sit down with your camera manual and read. You don't have to learn everything, but knowing the basics is important. Modern point-and-shoot cameras are powerful machines that combine a ton of features that are easy to use and can vastly improve your photos. Most people never take their camera off "auto," which is a shame.
3. Have your camera accessible: I can’t tell you how many times I would have had a great shot if my camera was not buried under pounds of fishing gear, lunch or my rain jacket. Have the camera at the top of your pack, a pocket of your vest or slung around your neck. If you're worried about it getting wet, buy a small dry bag that can easily be slipped into a vest pocket. Dry bags have gotten slimmer, and less expensive. Easily worth the money for protecting your camera.

8. Always, always, always look for distractions in the photo:This is harder to do than one might think. It’s a practiced skill, but will vastly improve your images. For example, don’t let cousin Joe’s backpack into the side of the frame or your buddy’s fishing rod hover into your shot from out of nowhere. Isolating your subject matter without all the distractions will improve the overall composition of the shot. This shot could have been a bit stronger without that reed cutting right through guide Johnny Quiroz's neck.
9. Take more than one shot: Take three times as many photos as you normally would. Many cameras have a setting to take more than one shot at a time. This is especially important when shooting fish as they like to flop around when out of the water - making the hero shot challenging at times. The more shots you can rip off in a couple of seconds the better. Take more than you need and if you're short on card space just erase the ones you don't like after you've released the fish.
10. Learn how to hold a fish for a better grip-and-grin:Remember that heroic fight, the run down the bank, the last ditch effort by your fishing partner to net the fish of a lifetime?  After all that, don't waste the shot by holding the fish awkwardly. Here's a foolproof method for getting the best shot of your fish. Drop your arms to your sides, face your palms out.  Now think about the fish resting on just the very tips of your fingers and letting your thumbs slide behind the fish, partially obscuring them from view. Be very cognizant of damaging or covering up the gill cover and pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins. Position your hands behind the head and in front of the tail. If the fish is larger and you need a little bit of elbow grease to hold it, simply switch the position of your tail hand to the front of the fish grasping with your entire hand around the front of the tail. This covers a bit more of the fish but still shows the tail and makes it a bit more manageable to control large fish.

11. Try something different: Instead of the same old awkward holding big fish picture try something different. Take a picture of the smallest fish you caught that day. Hold the fish as far away from your body as possible with the fish safely over and low to the water. Focus just on the fish. This tends to make them look quite a bit larger. Try taking a photo of the fish resting in the net, in just a couple inches of water. Take your first shot just as the fish is slowly being raised out of the water. Sometimes this freezes the water dripping off the fish making for a nice effect. Rest your fish in some slack water and take a couple of shots as he makes his dash for the current kicking up a wave in the process. The options are endless so get creative...
12. Get closer to your subject: Look at most of your photos of fish or fishing friends or the boat. I’ll bet most of them are taken from about 10 feet back. Don’t be scared, that fish isn’t going to bite... to hard. Get on up in its grill and take some interesting shots. Fill the frame with angler and fish. Here’s a good rule of thumb. Whenever you take your next image of friend, fish, camp, whatever, get twice as close as you normally would and take a couple of shots. In fact take a bunch. You can always erase them.
13. Stop and look around: Anglers get to see some amazing sights when out in nature.  Colorful sunsets, sunrises, gatherings of migratory birds, strange animal behavior, incredible landscapes, friends doing silly things...shoot this stuff. In fact, shoot this more than just your standard trophy or grip-and-grin. It can be far more interesting when looking back at your tip as a whole. Tell a story, not just a piece of one.
14. Track the sun: “Keep the sun at your back” is still true with digital photography. Colors are typically much better if the fish is in sunlight rather than in shadow. Shooting into the sun will render anything other than the background as silhouette. This can work in your favor if the landscape is your main focus. A well placed silhouette can really make a photograph.


  1. Hey Dirk. Some awesome shots there and great tips. Thanks.

  2. Great post! I took some of these tips and see how it turns out! Great blog, you got a new follower