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How to Take Better Fishing Photos: Ten More Tips

Ten more photo tips for your next fishing trip: Tell a whole story, not just a piece of one.
Tim Romano author.
Tim Romano
May 20, 2024
Young girls at wedding on bighorn river with driftboat in background

How to Take Better Fishing Photos: Ten More Tips

This is the second installment in a two-part series. Read part one here.

Cameras have gotten faster, cheaper and a whole lot more powerful. Almost everyone owns a camera, or has a powerful one in their phone, and, therefore, everyone can be a photographer.

While “happy snaps” can do a fine job of documenting a trip, why not up your game a little and take better photographs? Creatively composed shots are not as complicated as you might think. By following and practicing the first 10 suggestions, as well as these new tips, you can tell the whole story of your trip, not just part of one.

1. 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 (a lot), making hero shots challenging. 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. (Make sure the fish spend as little time out of the water as possible, only a few seconds at a time.)

2. Learn how to hold a fish (properly) for better grip-and-grin photos: 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 aware of damaging, or covering up, the gill cover, 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. Again, only hold the fish out of the water for a few seconds.

3. Try something different: Instead of the same old (boring) holding-a-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 it makes his dash for the current, kicking up a wave in the process. The options are endless, so get creative…

4. Be nice to the fish: Speaking of fish out of water, my friend Marshall Cutchin might have the best yardstick for how long a fish should be out of water. Out fishing one day, his friend was trying to take pictures of a fish he’d caught. When he asked how long he could hold the fish out of the water, Marshall replied that he should start holding his breath as soon as the fish left the water. When you run out of breath, it’s time to let the fish go. Basically, don’t abuse the fish just for a photograph. Make it short and sweet.

5. 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 worry, most fish don’t bite (too hard). Get up in its grill and take some interesting shots. Fill the frame with the angler and fish. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Whenever you take your next image of a 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.

6. Think “focus:” Most cameras autofocus using a best guess technique. This can be difficult if the subject is partially obscured by vegetation, or you want to frame off-center. One trick is to put the subject dead center, press the shutter halfway down to set exposure and focus, then while still holding down the shutter (to maintain that exposure and focus) reframe the photo and shoot. If it’s a really tough autofocus shot (obscured by vegetation), switch to manual focus if you can.

7. 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 trip. Tell a story, not just a piece of one.

8. Try different angles: 90-percent of pictures I see are taken at eye level. Stop being lazy. Get on your knees, or your stomach. If you can, get above the situation, like on the roof of you car, or the bed of your truck, and shoot down. Take a picture of that fish at the level of the water, with just its eye above the water line.

9. 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 shadows. 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.

10. Mind the light: Keep in mind the “magic hour,” which is just after sunrise and just before sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon. The sunlight is traveling through more atmosphere and this provides a warmer, richer light.

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