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10 Tips for Awesome Fishing Photography

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We fish to be at one with nature, soaking in the peaceful surrounds then releasing our primal urges on an unwary guppy, right? Wrong! The actual reason we fish is to make our mates jealous and to get as many ‘likes’ on social media as possible. After all, if it’s not on Facebook did it actually even happen?

With that in mind, it makes sense to take the best possible photos of your catch to maximise your credibility down at the pub. It’s not that easy though; you’re on a rocky boat, fish don’t pose nicely for photos and delicate camera equipment and salty environments go together like pilchards and milkshakes. But never fear, with these basic tips you’ll be snapping them like a pro in no time.

1. Keep it clean

KFC box left on a boat

Fishing can be a messy business and clutter can really distract from a good photo. Once you’ve caught a fish, either keep it in the net, live bait tank or even a bucket while you do a clean up. Give the bait board a scrub, kick your empty beer cans to the side, hide any empty Dorito packets and move any rods out of your frame.

2. Fresh is best

plastic bait fish in water

When fish are alive, they’re vibrant and colourful. When they’re back at the boat ramp, they’re often stiff as a board, dried out and dull. Take a mahi mahi for example: when you bring one flapping into the boat they have the most amazing colouration; electric yellow with incredible neon blues and greens. After being in the esky for five minutes they turn grey. Try and photograph your catch as soon as possible, especially if you intend to release it. Keep it wet at all times, if there’s any blood wash it off and always opt for nets instead of gaffs whenever possible.

3. Sunnyside up

sun going down with a view of the water with birds flying around

Photography is all about light and the sun is the best light source, so use it to your full advantage. In the middle of the day, the sun will make your fish shots sparkle, while in the early morning and late afternoon it’ll emit beautiful warm light and cast dramatic colours in the clouds. Traditionally, you want light directly hitting your subject. However, try the opposite and shoot into the sun and you might be surprised by the outcome.

4. Finger on the trigger

Marlin jumping out of the water

You don’t need to shoot in manual mode to take awesome photos. Lots of the pros use aperture or shutter priority modes (Av and Tv on Canon cameras). This lets you select the aperture or shutter speed you want, while still allowing the camera to automatically control the other settings. And if all of that is basically another language to you, just leave it set to ‘auto’ – you don’t want to miss the moment because you were messing around with your camera settings.

5. Composition is key

man on boat pulling in a fish

It doesn’t matter how nice your light is or how much your camera is worth, your composition (how you frame or ‘compose’ your subject) will make or break your images. Some photographers say you can’t teach composition and that might be true, but there are some basic tricks that’ll help you out. The simplest is ‘the Rule of Thirds’. This one’s easy: imagine when you look down the lens that the image is broken up into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. You want to compose your subject along one of these lines or where they intersect, rather than smack-bang in the middle of the frame.

6. Fly on the wall

hand letting fish back into the water

There are plenty of overly set-up fishing photos in the world. There’s one word to describe these: boring. Don’t just grab the camera when the angler is holding the fish, stay on your toes and try to capture a candid moment for an authentic, action-packed shot.

7. Get creative

Man holding up a blue fin tuna on boat

When it comes to the classic ‘grip and grin’ (holding a fish for the camera), you don’t have to just stand there like a stunned mullet with a cheesy grin on your face. Mix it up, get creative and try something original. After all, fishing is all about having fun.

8. Experiment

Man holding a fish on a boat

Photography is all about experimentation. You should consider using an off-camera flash to create different effects or maybe try a polarised filter (yep, just like your sunnies) which will remove the glare from the water and make your blue skies pop. Look for interesting details, like eyes and coloured fins lit up in the sun. That’s art, mate.

9. Work the angles

Man using underwater camera on the shore

Dramatic angles always work well in photography because it’s a unique perspective people aren’t used to seeing. Using a drone really adds wow-factor, while getting low to the ground or water level is great for establishing the surrounding environment. If your camera can be submerged, take it a step further and photograph your catch underwater. That may involve getting wet, but you could do with a refreshing dip by now, couldn’t you?

10. Focal length

hand holding the tail of a fish

Using a wide-angle lens is great for capturing the landscape and surrounds. It’s also quite dynamic to the eye, not to mention great in tight spaces like a boat or a jetty. Using a long lens and focusing on a small detail or element of your environment is great for intriguing your audience, too.

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