If we’re lucky enough to catch a few fish when we’re out on the water, most of us like to snap a few photos to share with family and friends. Many photos I see on Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites are excellent. But, honestly, most could be better.
For those who’d like to take better photos to share, the following tips can help.
Shoot on the water, not indoors
If possible, shoot photos of fellow anglers on the water, or with a lake or stream in the background. Avoid taking pictures indoors or in a carport, where the setting looks unnatural. And be sure you have a camera (or cellphone with a camera) on every trip so this is possible. A note taped to the top of your tackle box will help you remember.
Ready to go
When you get to the lake or river, keep your camera preset and nearby so you can shoot when fishing action is best. Try to capture your companions fighting or landing fish. Photos of fish jumping as anglers battle them are difficult to get but worth the effort when they work. Be sure to set your camera to a fast shutter speed.
Replay the scene
If you’ve missed the original action, consider re-enacting the scene. Have your fishing companion place his or her hand (or a landing net) and the whole fish under water and bring it up sharply to create splashing water. Again, shoot with a fast shutter speed to stop the action.
Fill the frame
When photographing your friends holding their catch, zoom in close so the angler and the fish fill the frame without a lot of distracting objects on the sides, top and/or bottom of the photo. Have your subject hold the fish with its side clearly visible, slightly in front of him or her or to one side. Shoot some photos with the angler holding the fish vertically, and some with the fish cradled in the hands and held horizontally. Turn the camera, too, so you get some vertical photos and some horizontal.
Hold it right
Be sure the fish is properly turned to display it best — not belly-up or turned at a funny angle. You also may want to shoot some close-ups of the fish while your subject holds it.
For the best images, stop fishing and shoot several photos as soon as you’ve landed a fish. Sure, it’s tough to stop fishing and take pictures when there’s a good bite going on. But a fish’s colors fade quickly if it’s kept too long. And if you intend to release the fish in a healthy state, you need to do so within seconds. Have a fishing companion hold the fish in the water while you grab your camera, which you’ve kept handy in a dry location.
After you’ve taken some hold-up shots, don’t forget to photograph the fisherman releasing the fish unharmed back into the water. If you’re careful, you may be able to lean out of the boat to do this. (Be sure to keep your camera strap around your neck!) A better way, however, is to shoot from one boat to another, or to shoot from shore (or while wading in safe shallows) toward the boat. Photographs of friends releasing fish show that your fellow anglers take their conservation responsibilities seriously and make dramatic pictures everyone will love.
Colorful clothes make better photos
Encourage the angler being photographed to wear solid, brightly colored clothing. Shirts, jackets and hats that are some shade of red, yellow or purple stand out best in most fishing scenes. White, black and camouflage clothing rarely look good in fishing photos. And shirts with artwork or designs on front can distract from the overall fishing image.
The eyes have it
When you want the angler to be the primary focal point of your photograph, focus on his or her eyes. If you have an autofocus camera, make sure the camera doesn’t inadvertently focus on the background or something else in the frame, or the subject in your picture will be out of focus.
When you want the fish to be the photograph’s focal point, again focus on the eye. Most fish have rounded bodies. That means different portions of the fish lie in different planes of focus. If you focus on the fish’s side, the eyes might be out of focus, making the fish look lifeless and dull. So when snapping your shot, focus on the eye instead. This will help assure that you get vibrant photos of a healthy-looking fish.
Pay attention to avoid distractions
Make sure your photos don’t show a fishing rod or fishing line across the angler’s face. Watch, too, for the tip of a rod or a landing net behind an angler that may appear to be growing from his or her head or shoulders.
When shooting in bright sunlight, get in a position where the fish is well lit, but keep the sun off one shoulder, not directly behind you, so no shadows appear in your photo. It may be simpler, and the results are often more dramatic, if you move in close and use fill flash to light up your subject and bring out details in the photograph.
Use a polarizing filter on your camera lens when possible. This eliminates glare off the water and deepens the blue in the sky and water.
Better safe than sorry
It’s easy to drop a camera into the water. Water spray and drops of moisture from your fishing tackle can also create a disaster. Always use the neck strap or wrist strap of your camera, just in case you lose your grip. And carry a waterproof camera bag or large plastic trash bag to protect your equipment from water, including rain.
Prepare your partner
If you’re the only person with a camera, instruct a companion in the use of your camera before the action starts. Use automatic settings, if possible, to simplify the process of getting a good shot. Then position the camera where it’s easily accessible to both you and your friend. After all, you’re an important part of this story, too.