How to take better fishing photos

Fishing is full of moments that make us come back for more. Don't sully these moments and the fish we catch with bad photos anymore. Learn some of the basic tricks that will add new dimensions and light to your shots. They may even make your fishing buddies look acceptable.

How to take better fishing photos

Fishing is not always about setting a hook, but instead the chance to slow our busy lives down, take a breath and enjoy being outside. But to be fair, it would be a pretty boring sport if we never set the hook and grinned into a camera while trying to make a 12 inch trout look bigger than it is. 

The hero photo on a successful day is a must. After all, if you catch a monster fish and no one can see it, did you really catch it?

There are a lot of considerations when it comes to getting the perfect photo to display on your Fishbrain account. The angler, the fish and the scenery should all be highlighted, with special consideration to the fish’s well being.

Below are some of the tips I’ve learned and lessons I adhere to as a fishing photographer for Fishbrain.

Minimize harm for a fantastic show

Some fish can handle being out of the water better than others. Largemouth bass and redfish are much hardier than trout and can handle being out of the water longer. That being said it's always good to place any fish back in the water periodically between shots. This has a two pronged effect of helping ensure the survival of our fish and creating a beautiful shot with dripping water. If you are shooting on manual settings, make sure your shutter speed is at least to 1/500 or faster, as this speed will properly capture the water running off your fish. 

Low angles for depth

The difference between a good grip n grin photo and a great fishing shot is your depth of field. We fish in a three dimensional world where rivers run down from mountain backdrops and ocean storms can be seen rolling in from miles away. A flat, 2D photo does not do any justice to these beautiful places we fish. One great method for extending your photo into a third dimension is to shoot as low to the water as possible. This turns the water into a vector line which gives depth to your backgrounds, giving the viewer a proper idea of the landscape we fish in.

Another trick is to have objects, or people in the foreground and/or background to help add depth to an otherwise flat photo.

Be aware of the sun and shadows

Tell me you’ve fished with an angler who wasn't wearing a hat  and I’ll call you a liar. Hats are an everyday piece of gear while fishing, but they can present a challenge when taking a photo. The inevitable shadow a hat casts onto your subject's face can really screw up a photo. There are millions of fish photos out there and the angler’s face holding the fish can make your shot truly unique, but it can't be a dark blob. Many photographers use a flash to lighten these shadows, but if you prefer natural light, like me, you will need to position your subject properly with the sun in consideration. THe photographer needs to avoid backlighting in these situations, but instead have the angler face the sun at an angle. When the sun is higher, later in the day you may need to try side lighting, lifting the bill of that hat, or even get drastic and have your angler remove their precious fishing hat altogether. 

Get tight and focus on the eye

If you are going for a super close up, or detailed shot of the fish and nothing else, make sure you focus on the eye and make it pop. The rest of the fish photo will align perfectly as long as the eye is in focus. The eye often draws your viewers attention and if it's out of focus, or blurry, it's immediately noticeable and you can’t unsee it. Another trick to getting detailed shots of the fish is getting tight. Either with your lens, or better yet by you moving in person. Try eliminating everything else, including the angler, or the background. Fill your frame with the fish and don't let anything else in the shot to highlight the scales and colors of each species. The renowned war photographer Robert Capa is often quoted with “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,” and it holds true for fish photos as well.

You can use this tip to experiment with other parts of a fish, also like tail fins and dorsal fins which, when highlighted by the sun, often provide extremely under-appreciated colors and designs. 

Shoot early and late

There’s a reason most photographers are out at the crack of dawn and the last few minutes of sunset. Achieving a great quality of light in your shot can shoot your photo to new heights. As the sun gets higher in the sky, lighting gets flatter and less dynamic. Without the sun shining at an angle to expose and light specific areas, your photos have a higher chance of looking bland. This doesn;t mean you shouldn't shoot during midday though. Once high noon hits, start getting creative and use brush, or trees to create shadows.

 Basic composition

Try not to center any of your subjects in the middle of your shot. The rule of thirds breaks up your camera viewfinder like a tic tac toe board, and your job is to avoid the middle square. By providing a certain amount of negative space to the left, or right, a viewer’s gaze will be drawn naturally to your subject. This also helps you feature scenery and water in a secondary role that compliments your main subject without taking anything away from it.

Top secret

Only the best professional fishing photographers know this tip and it probably shouldn’t be shared. Here it goes.

Have your angler friends hold their fish out away from their body and toward the camera to make the fish look bigger. I know this trick may come as a bombshell, but the truth is fishing is fun, so let’s have fun taking photos of fish that look bigger than they are. 

Summer is almost here and more of our days will be filled with time on the water. Don’t waste a great day of fishing with bad photos. Follow some of the tips above and shoot often to start developing your eye for fishy photos. Fishing is about moments on the water, so make sure your camera is always ready to capture all the triumphs, the missed hook sets and the laughs we all experience, every day of fishing. 

Now let’s go fishing. We’ll bring the camera.

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