Focus on Fish: Tips on How to Take Better Fishing Photos

Want to take better fishing photos to post on social media or print for your family album? It’s not difficult if you follow a few easy-to-remember tips used by photographers who shoot anglers and their catches for magazines, websites and books. These tricks of the trade will allow you to capture wonderful images your friends and family will love.


Be ready to shoot when a fish is caught. For the best images, stop fishing and shoot several photos as soon as you’ve landed a fish. A fish’s brilliant 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. If necessary, have a fishing companion hold the fish in the water while you grab your camera.

Focus on the fish’s 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 you get vibrant photos of a healthy looking fish.

Light right. 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.


Shoot boat to boat. It’s sometimes difficult to position a fish for a good shot when you and your companion are in the same boat. If possible, position two boats side by side and shoot the fish as it is being held by someone in the other boat. Or, get out of your boat in safe, shallow water and photograph the fish while your companion holds it. You may want to carry some waders or hip boots so you can do this without getting soaked.


This photo of professional angler Michael Iaconelli was shot during a Major League Fishing event in Maine. The photo was captured with a digital camera and 500mm zoom lens, using the boat-to-boat method. (MLF/Jeff Phillips photo)

Bright colors look best. Ask your friends to wear solid, brightly colored clothing on your fishing trips. Shirts, jackets and hats that are some shade of red, yellow or purple stand out best in most fishing scenes.


Avoid a posed look. When photographing people with fish, try to avoid a posed look. Have the person look at the fish, not at the camera, and ask them to keep the fish properly turned to display it best—not belly up or turned at a funny angle. Avoid those “grip-and-grin” shots all too typical of the bait-shop bulletin board.

Avoid clutter in your photos. If you’re in a boat, get rid of drink cans, used fishing line, bait and other items in the background that can ruin a photo. Also make sure your photos don’t show a fishing rod or fishing line across the angler’s face. And watch for the tip of a rod behind an angler that may appear to be growing from his head or shoulders.

Shoot a variety of photographs. Photograph as many different aspects of your trip as possible. You’ll certainly want to shoot photos of the fish you catch, but also capture the setting, the season and the people.

Take pictures near dawn and dusk. One great way to shoot dramatic fishing photos is to take some pictures at dawn or dusk when the sky is blazing with brilliant colors. Near dawn, fog and mist are likely to rise from the lakes and streams, creating a veiled light that gives the sun and landscape elements a soft magical appearance. When the sun sets, you can use fill flash to light your subject and capture dramatic images with vividly colored backdrops.

Instant replay. If you’ve missed the original action, consider reenacting the scene. Have a buddy place his hand (or a landing net) and the whole fish under water and bring it up sharply to create splashing water. Do this immediately after a fish is landed so it will still be fresh-looking, and shoot with a fast shutter speed to stop the action.

Plan your photo time. If you can’t bring yourself to put your rod down and pick up a camera, plan an hour or so of your trip, near the end of the day if possible, just for shooting photos. Set that period aside, and get the pictures you want for your family scrapbook or the bait-shop wall. You’ll be glad you did.

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