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Fishing photography - 10 easy steps to taking the perfect snap

December 19, 2019
Fishing photography - 10 easy steps to taking the perfect snap

You’ve just landed the trophy fish of a lifetime so naturally you’re going to want to get that all-important photo for Facebook – how difficult can that be?

A lot bloody harder than you might expect, is the answer. Don’t fret though – NZ Fishing World has these top tips to make sure your pictures of your dream fish don’t turn into a nightmare.

Phone and camera technology means you can now take a great pic or even video without spending a fortune on camera gear and worrying about saltwater damage to your equipment.

The gear has changed over the past few years, but the basic rules of fish photography have not, and so many times we see people getting it so wrong.

The importance of a photo is even greater now that the common practice for trophy fish is to return them, so why not take a moment to preserve the fish of a lifetime forever.

1. Location, location, location

Time and time again at NZ Fishing World we see photos of fantastic fish spoiled by being taken in someone’s kitchen or backyard. Not only does it ruin a potentially great picture, it also suggests that there have been hours between the catch and the picture being taken. In that time the condition of the fish will have deteriorated dramatically. Always take your pic where you caught it – in a boat or off the rocks.

2. Timing is everything

As we touched on in the first tip, don’t leave it too long to take the picture after you’ve caught the fish.  You want the fish to retain its shiny eyes and body colour. Fish that are left for long periods of time, especially in summer, will start to develop creamy-coloured eyes and lose their scales quickly.  Fresh is best!

Even better, return your trophy fish to breed more of the same, and live with the great photo as a record.

Badly bloodied fish and rod holder shadows just aren't a good look

3. Let there be light

Think logically about the lighting. Make sure the photographer is standing with the sun at their back. Taking pictures into direct sunlight is not going to work.

Also, don’t be afraid to use the flash, even if you think there’s plenty light. A good picture can really be enhanced by the use of a flash.

4. Click, click, click

It’s important to take lots and lots of shots of your prized fish. Subtle changes in light can have a profound effect on the quality of your photo so once you’ve got the positioning sorted, take as many pictures as you can in the time you have without threatening the life of the fish (if you’re returning it).

This shot has great depth

5. In the frame

For that magazine-quality shot, you want to get up close and personal with the person holding the fish. You’re aiming to get all of the person and the fish in the frame and as little background as you can. Pictures taken from 40 paces aren’t going to cut it, regardless of how breathtaking the surrounding scenery is.

Try to take a variety of landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) shots too.

THIS IS CRITICAL using phones to take pictures.  So many people are in the habit of holding their phone upright.  A far better framing is usually achieved with the phone on its side.

With newer iPhones a great effect can be achieved by using the 'portrait mode' available as an option.  This mode tells you when you are about 2.5 metres from the subject and nicely blurs out the background for a pro looking shot.

Fish always look better and bigger with a subtle head point towards the camera.  

Great effect using portrait mode to achieve depth with just a simple click of the button

6. It’s all about presentation

Try to remember this picture may be around for a long time and even could be framed if you are that way inclined!

Take note of what’s going on around the subject – get rid of any rubbish that could detract from the picture. Remember to smile – you’ve just landed a prize fish so try to be happy about it! And if you’re a smoker, don’t have a cigarette hanging from your mouth in the picture. There’s plenty time to smoke after the picture’s been taken!

7. More than automatic

All cameras have an automatic function and many of us are happy to click to this setting and leave it there. In most cases this will do the trick. However if you really want to capture wow-factor pictures, then you need to learn some basic principles and fiddle with settings.

Modes like shutter priority are important. This mode allows you to change the shutter speed while the camera varies the aperture (the amount of light into the lens) to suit. The aperture priority, as you would expect, does the reverse of this. The best way to learn how these settings affect your pictures is to go out and practice.

If you are using a phone, the images can be touched up to look even better, or you can apply one of the inbuilt filter 'looks' to achieve a nice effect.  For this usually LESS IS MORE as you want to keep things natural and not too surreal in most cases.

Try to avoid night photos if you have the opportunity

8.  Quality is key

It’s an obvious one this, but with photography it’s vital to buy quality. This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank.  All of the major camera manufacturers sell quality entry-level equipment that will do a job for you.

Don’t buy cheap imitations.  Your chances of capturing that lifetime image will be seriously impeded without the correct gear.

9. Get adventurous

Once you feel like you’ve mastered the basics and are consistently turning out quality images, you can start getting a little more adventurous in your photography. Some of the best images we see here at NZ Fishing World HQ are taken from in the water. Obviously, an underwater camera or quality underwater camera housing are needed for this.

There’s two options for getting your submersed snaps; either hold the camera underwater and shoot… and shoot… and shoot and hope you get lucky or take the plunge and get in the water yourself. The second option can deliver fantastic results but only do this if you feel you are fit and able enough and remember the risks involved.

Put that beer down

10. Be prepared

As with all fishing-related activities, preparation is everything. When you’re getting ready for a day on the water, take your photography equipment as seriously as your fishing gear. Make sure your camera’s charged, you have spare batteries, memory cards (or film, if you’re old school) and any other lenses you like to use. It’s important to store your gear properly. Keep your camera in its bag in transit and store it somewhere safe on the boat. Don’t let an unexpected jolt turn into a costly mistake.  Most importantly, have fun

Fantastic colour, great expressions and up close – the perfect fish pic.

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