What’s the best way to photograph your trophy catch? Our step-by-step guide to fish photography draws on advice from some of the best fishing bloggers online.
Here we give you the benefit of their combined wisdom to bring you some baseline tools to help you capture a great picture for posterity.
With a little practice, who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll see your snaps published in print or online!
Using a phone camera or the latest digital SLR? Fancy toys will only get you so far. The quality of your photography is as much about getting the basics right as it is the kit you use. Hone your skills using the equipment you already own before investing in the latest camera technology.
But before you do anything else, writes Sean McSeveny in his blog Fishing Tails, invest in a soft camera cloth; use it to ensure your camera lens is free of smears every time you use it.
Think of the fish
Always put the welfare of your catch first. Scope out where you intend to pose for your photo and, if you’re using one, assemble your tripod so it’s ready should you make a catch. The aim here is for the fish to spend as little time out of the water as possible. Will you be self-shooting? If so, set your camera’s timer and take some practice shots, adjusting your position until you know exactly where they should stand or crouch and where you need to be in relation to them.
Writing in his excellent fishing blog, Dr Paul Garner advises that a slick photographing and weighing process should see your fish spend a maximum of two minutes out of the water.
Get in close, or zoom right in on your subject, advises ace angler and photographer Dave Lumb. In his blog, Lumbland, he advises allocating the maximum number of pixels to your subject. But be careful, he says, not to get so close that you cut the head or tail off your catch. It’s best to leave room around your subject, so you can crop it later.
If you’re taking the photograph, make sure you position yourself at the same level as the fish. This usually means kneeling down.
Take care with the background too, says Dave. Choose a sympathetic backdrop that complements your catch, like the water itself or a grassy bank. Brick walls, roads and rubbish will only clutter the shot and look messy. Do also check before you shoot that your subject doesn’t look like it has a tree growing out of its head, Dave writes.
The rule of thirds
Looking through the viewfinder of your camera, divide your image horizontally and vertically into three equal parts, creating six imaginary lines. The eye is naturally drawn to both the intersections of those lines, and the lines themselves. Put the main point of interest at one of the points where the lines cross to create a visually interesting photograph.
Are you the proud co-subject of the snap? If so, remember to look proud or pleased! Engage with the camera by looking into the lens and smiling. Photographing at night? Unless it has a built in light to help it, getting your camera to focus in the dark can be tricky, writes Dr Paul Gardner, but your head torch should provide a point for it to hone in on. Angle your head torch so that it shines over the fish’s flank, adds Dave Lumb, and remember not to wear clothes that are so dark you photograph as a disembodied head.
The standard trophy shot has you holding your catch close to your body, square on to the camera. Why not mix things up a little? Turn your body so your shoulder points to the camera for a head shot of your fish. For smaller species, Sean McSeveny suggests holding the fish closer to the lens so it takes up more of the frame and you avoid it looking like a giant.
The striking image above was taken by Matthew Eastham, who shared with us his top tip for snapping an image like his:
“To get a striking portrait of an impressive capture, select a wide aperture to obtain a shallow depth of field with a rapid drop-off of focus. Ask the captor to turn the fish slightly towards the camera and make sure you focus on the eye – this helps to isolate the fish as the primary subject within the frame ahead of a blurred background of ‘bokeh’ (the out of focus portions of an image).”
Unless you’re really into your photography, your camera’s autofocus mode will probably be sufficient for your needs. Prefer manual mode? In his blog, Dr Paul Garner recommends the following camera settings: ISO 200, Shutter speed 125, F-stop F8 – F20.
Perhaps your shot is in focus but the pictures still come out looking blurry? Paul advises checking your camera’s F-stop setting. F-stop, he tells us, refers to the aperture. Set it too low and the camera’s field of focus is too narrow.
Where is the sun? If it’s right behind you, there’s a danger you and your fish will end up silhouetted. If it’s in front, you’ll screw your face up to squint into the lens. Ideally, have the sun behind and to one side of you, Dave Lumb writes.
Take care too with the way you position your fish, he advises. Flat-flanked species like pike tend to reflect the sun like a mirror, ruining your shot if you’re not careful. Round-bodied fish are arguably easier to photograph because they reflect light over a smaller portion of their bodies. Play around with the angle at which you hold your subject.
Using a flash? Dave Lumb, Paul Garner and Steve McSeveny all write in favour of using it even in daylight conditions. The extra lighting is useful, not just for dull days and evening shots, but for photographing in bright, sunlit conditions too, where it helps counter shadows. Red eye is always a risk with use of the flash, but modern cameras and photo editing software should be able to deal with the issue. If not, another top tip, courtesy of Sean McSeveny, is to cover the flash with a small square of tissue paper to diffuse the light.
Your camera, a bank stick with a tripod attachment, and a remote control are all you need to self shoot, writes Andrew Kennedy in his Angling Adventures blog. Just experiment until you work out exactly where you need to stand or kneel in relation to the camera. That way when you make a catch, simply unhook, pose and click. His concise guide to self photography will soon have you producing consistently high quality selfies for your scrapbook.
“I use the remote with a 20 second timer and set it to take 10 pictures with a 6 second interval between each; this minimises the total time the fish is out of the water to only a couple of minutes and invariably you are left with at least a couple of good photos from the set of ten you have taken.”
Do remember to be imaginative with your angling photography, advises Dave Lumb. Make your picture tell a story. Complement your trophy shots with wide angle views, action shots and still lifes. Create a narrative record of your fishing tackle adventures with your camera, but most of all, have fun!
Finally, if you want to learn more about how to get the best pictures out of your own fishing photography, check out our fishing photography guide, which has all you’ll need to get started or learn more about the art of snapping!