Better fishing pictures: fishy, fishy!

Published May 4th 2006

We naturally take a lot of pictures of fish, and a few tricks can make these much better and more appealing than the average fish picture seen.


Ambience and closeness - Using a fisheye lens on an SLR-camera makes it possible to capture a large part of the landscape and at the same get very close to the angler and fish. And the wide angle lens even helps enlarging the fish a bit...
Ambience and closeness
Surroundings - By placing the angler and the fish in the left third of the picture I was able to get the landscape in the background and get perspective and balance in the picture.
Of course we want to capture our fish in two ways: first on the hook and then in the camera. Once the fish has been hooked many of us already envision the poster on the wall, the image in the online gallery or just a print to show to the fishing buddies.
And preparing mentally is a good idea, particularly if the fish is going to be released. That will give you precious little time to get your picture taken, and if you're alone a bit of thinking ahead can be the key to getting that great image.

Fish, angler, mountains - If you can get the impression of the landscape and the water into the image, you have done good.
Fish, angler, mountains
Happy faces - There\'s nothing like sharing the joy of a great catch with some one else, in this case myself sharing the joy of a huge steelhead with the guide Rich. Note the low stance and the use of a fill flash.
Happy faces
Impressing - This baby tarpon looks a lot more impressing than it is due to the angle and perspective in the image. Again the presence of sky, angler\'s face, gear (not to mention those sexy knees) gives you a very good sense of the situation.
Releaseing - Releasing a fish almost always offers a good shot. The fish is usually calm and under control and easily visible in the low water.

Short dry spell - This bream had to endure a short trophy moment in the grass while I shot it as a proof of my catch. It swam away as soon as I returned it to the water a few seconds later.
Short dry spell
Steady now... - This huge pike - an estimated 110 centimetres or 43.3 inches - had to be photographed, and since I was alone a soft cushion of sea weed was my only way out. Luckily the pike was quite calm. Pike are very robust and can endure quite a rough handling and several minutes out of water.
Steady now...
C&R fish are to be handled as little as possible and should not be in contact with hands, rocks, weed or sandy bank or beach too long - if at all. Some species are more robust than others and particularly many fresh water coarse fish as well as some predators are very enduring and can be out of the water for minutes. Fish, which have fought hard, should only just be lifted out of the water for a few short shots and then released. Take several images of the fight and landing as well as the angler presenting the fish. And shoot a couple of frames of the release too.

Dead fish are much easier to handle, but remember that pictures of dead fish should be taken at waterside and not back in the garden, backyard or (yikes!) in the kitchen. And please take them before you gut the fish! Many fish will loose their bright colors or silver shine the minute they are dead, so be quick about taking pictures as soon as the fish is out of the water.

Killing fish for the pan is common in most parts of the world, but just because the fish is dead doesn't mean that it has to be held vertically in the tail, carried with a finger in a gill lid or hung by a piece of string through the mouth.
Handle the dead fish in such a manner that it presents itself nicely. Support it under the tail and belly and hold it in front of you. Clean off sand, grass and dust and make sure you take the picture before colors or silver shine fades as already mentioned.

You can also arrange the dead fish in the ground with the gear next to it. These still lives can fall out really stylish and beautiful.

Snap as many images as you can get before a C&R fish is released or the angler tires. Take some full frame images, some close-ups and some detail shots. Get some where the angler smiles into the camera and some where he or she is actively landing or releasing the fish.

Closeups - Even though this coho is impressing as a whole, this closeup actually makes it look even bigger, not least because of its massive appearance compared to the fingers.
Don and the coho - Fellow angler Don MacLean with a beautiful coho. This image has been cropped close to yield a picture in landscape format. The original was taken in portrait format.
Don and the coho
Don and the coho, portrait - This image shows not only the details of the angler, Don McLean, and the grand fish, but also the water in front of him and the bank and forest behind him.
Don and the coho, portrait

Happy angler - Carsten is happy and with good reason. But even dead fish look a lot better at waterside.
Happy angler
Not pretty - Not all fish pictures are pretty. In this one we have all things working against a good image: the fish is in a bad angle, it\'s getting squeezed, there are shadows over the fish and in the background and even though it\'s a nice bonefish, the image is not a keeper.
Not pretty

And remember the previous advice: go close, go low and use a fill flash, and find inspiration in these three articles on tails, fins and heads. You can also visit, which has much more on cameras, equipment and photography.

Balance act - If you dare - or the fish is dead - this is an alternative and quite impressing way of depicting your catch.
Balance act

A series
These are all the articles in our series about better fly fishing photography. Read this series and you will learn a lot ebout getting better pictures while fishing. General outdoors pohotographers may also pick up a thing or two...
Better fly-fishing pictures

User comments
GFF staff comment
Comment to an image
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted June 21st 2006


It's a coho salmon caught and photographed in British Columbia, Canada.


Comment to an image
From: Shellan Miller · smiller·at·  Link
Submitted June 21st 2006

where was this photo taken? what kind of fish

Comment to an image
From: Anonymous  Link
Submitted November 28th 2007

There's no head like steelhead!

Comment to an image
From: BernardYin · lariver·at·  Link
Submitted December 14th 2006

A "brown" agains "seaweed"/algae correct?
This is something that one never sees in California!

GFF staff comment
Comment to an image
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted March 10th 2007

Dear anonymous,

"Flap around" and "out of the water longer than is necessary" and "warmer months"...? Where does it say that about the above fish?

This fish was handled with utmost care, out of the water for about 20-30 seconds resting calmly on a weed bed about 2 feet from the water in the autumn and swam away with splashing vigour once I released it. Trust me, it was not harmed.

You are not the first person to question the robustness of pike, and I would like again to ask for some documentation of the fact that pike are more delicate than most other fish - apart from the fact that the sheer weight of large pike makes certain considerations necessary.

As you can read in my article elsewhere on landing and releasing pike, I generally consider pike a tough fish, which can endure a bit of handling. I do NOT recommend handling the fish for more than mere seconds in or out of the water, but specimen anglers have told me that pike can survive for very long periods rolled into a damp carp mat or kept in shallow water in a keep net.

Now, I do NOT endorse or recommend such treatment of any fish, but it just tells me that the few seconds that my pike are usually out of the water and the way that I handle them will hardly do them any harm.

Again: please refer me to some documentation that says otherwise and I will revise my way of doing things and writing about them.


Comment to an image
From: Anonymous  Link
Submitted March 10th 2007

Quote "Luckily the pike was quite calm. Pike are very robust and can endure quite a rough handling and several minutes out of water."

What a magnificent fish and what a disappointing comment. It is completely untrue, despite their appearence and predatory lifestyle Pike are actually one of the most delicate and sensitive fish and highly prone to serious damage when on the bank which can often be fatal if they are handled incorrectly, allowed to flap around on hard services and kept out of the water for longer thaan is necessary, especially so in the warmer months. To suggest that they are a hardy fish that can handle rough treatment on a fishing website is most irresponsible.

Comment to an image
From: Ripley Davenport · admin·at·  Link
Submitted January 5th 2007

That's not a pike, it's a Russian Typhoon Class Submarine!

Comment to an image
From: Mike  Link
Submitted January 5th 2007

awesome pic, should be in the wallpaper section!!!!

Comment to an image
From: erkan baykal · erkanbaykal·at·  Link
Submitted November 21st 2006

Ilike fishing and this page is very good

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