Published Jun 14. 2009

Gear pictures

Taking pictures of rods, reels and other gear is popular. Here's a few tips to improve these images

The fish and the tool - A large rainbow and it's bane
Lined up - Whenever rod a lined up like this, use a telephoto lens or zoom and snap a picture
Fun with shadows - Here the reel and rod casts a shadow on a boat deck
A mess - Reels in a rod holder on a car gives a nice impression of the hectic mood of moving from spot to spot
Gear images

I maintain an archive of flyfishing images together with a bunch of my fishing friends. Nowadays it contains almost 12,000 images, and of those about 1,253 or more than 10% are tagged "gear". We take a lot of pictures, which are of our fly fishing gear or at least shows gear in a predominant position.

So judging from that, we do like to take pictures of our fly fishing equipment. And what constitutes a good gear picture then? Well, that depends on what your aim is.

Below I'll run through a bunch of different ways of shooting gear, and as I see it there are mainly three categories:
Illustrations aim to show how our gadgets look, present them in a nice way, give a good impression of them. This is a type of picture, which is found in ads and in catalogs. They aim to show all or part of a piece of equipment for the sake of illustration.
Usage pictures are like illustrations, but show how to use a piece of gear. This is typically used in articles, manuals or other places, where the aim is to teach people how to do a certain thing.
Aesthetic pictures show the gear in a way, which may not tell you much about the full look of it, but give an impression of a detail, a shape, a place it's been used or simply just be an abstract but beautiful way to show it.

Not all rods and reels - Remember that gear is also other types of equipment. And again: collections of things should always make you turn on your camera
Studio shot - Pliers, leader and fly shot in a studio setting. A different type of gear, and a different type of shot.
A simple setup - Holding the gear and simply shooting directly against the background outdoors mostly works well. A fill flash is often a good idea.
Rods on the catwalk - These rods were carefully set up for this image creating both symmetry, perspective and focus
How to - A close in study, clearly showing how the stripping basket is used
Keep'em clean - Illustrating these neat ferrule plugs by simply shooting the unpacking in a tight shot
Simple illustration - A very simple and straight on illustration of the stripping guide on a split cane rod.
Gear is more than rods and reels

These categories are represented in the list below, in which I have taken our 1,200-or-so images and split them into some groups, which were typical and contained many pictures.

A small collection - Nicely lined up during a pause in the fishing, these rods just begged for a photo
A thin line - A rod isn't interesting in itself, but using perspective, sharpness (or lack of same) and in this case a fly will give an interesting picture anyway
Brand and model - If we can't see the whole rod, it's often interesting to at least see the writing on it
Rod pictures
Repetition - The repeating pattern of rods in a rod holder
Many is better than one - Rods almost always look great when bundled
Diagonal lines - Using several rods cutting diagonally through the frame to create an interesting picture
Detail and backdrop - People, anglers, nature or almost anything else will give a nice backdrop for a rod detail like this shooting eye
More rod pictures

Rod pictures

It's not easy to take good rod pictures. If you want to show what a rod looks like, you can't shoot the whole rod. This will simply show a long, thin line, and be of little use. The handle might be visible, but the rest is simply too small and thin. You can break down multi-part rods and shoot the bunch of sections close together. This helps show detail, but the best way to illustrate single rods is to go close and shoot several details of each rod: reel seat, handle, eyes, tip top etc. This is what we focus on anyway when we look at rods, and having closeups of details, is a great way of conveying the stuff that any angler would look at on a rod.
If you are just illustrating the concept of a rod, your can play with the thine line, and alternatively you can take pictures of many rods. A lot of the same thing almost always works well, and many thin lines seem more impressing than one.

The more the merrier - A car park outside a salmon lodge delivered this nice subject. A telephoto lens compressed the perspective.
Rods in a rod holder - The rod holders on cars always provide some nice subjects for gear photos
Rod holders

Rod holders

Going along the same line, a good place to shoot rods is in rod holders - on the car, in a shop, on the wall or elsewhere.
We very often shoot rods bunched in rod holders on cars, and that gives a nice ambient impression of the gear concept, not least because it's often done by the water or at least outdoors wither something else than a bland, uniform background.

Car roof reflections - The color and reflections makes a nice picture of this reel and rod
Abstract but clear - This reel waiting to go fishing was shot on a dark green car roof, playing with the reflection rather than the reel itself
Ambiance - Rain, forest, reels, rods. Who doesn't want to go fishing when looking at this?
Gear on car roofs
Shallow DOF - DOF means Depth Of Field and refers to the very thin zone, which is sharp in a picture like this
On the roof, waiting to go - A typical example of "gear-on-car-roof"
Gear on car roof - With a small twist
The light does it - Hard backlight provides a great setting for this gear-on-car-roof image
More gear on car roofs

Gear on car roof

Cars and gear seem to belong together like inseparable twins. We rest our rods against cars, leave our gear on the hood and lay our gear on roofs.
We have a ton of images showing rods on car roofs, and as banal as it may sound, this often offers some really nice subjects, great compositions and excellent perspective.
Utilizing the reflections in car windows or the shiny surface of the bonnet or roof can also lead to some effective images.


As is the case with rods, it's often a good idea to go close. Get your camera into macro mode, and zoom in really close to details like eyes, handles, screws or other itty-bitty parts.
This can serve both as illustrations but also give some almost abstract pictures, where it can be hard to see what exactly is in the picture. Reels with colorful lines and backing will help enhance the abstract impression.

Cutout closeup, again - Another and more dynamic look at the cutout pike
Detail: handle - The painted aluminum handle of an Able rod
Droplets - Drops on the gear always work well in detail shots
Cutout closeup - The closeup both shows the nice cutout and the not-so-nice spilling of glue under the handle. It would be fair to mention that this rod was a prototype.
Detail: knob - The breaking knob of a Loop reel. Illustrative but at the same time almost abstract
Going close
Ready for the ad - AN image like this with impeccable sharpness, out-of-focus background and brand new well matched gear is perfect for ad and catalog use
Catalog fish and gear - A very typical catalog image, hinting success for the gear.
Another one for the catalog - Focus on the reel and nothing to disturb the picture
The writing on the rod - Again we have the brand in focus, giving this semi-abstract image an identity after all
Catalog pictures

Catalog pics

I refer to this group as catalog pictures because many of them actually were shot with catalog use in mind. Catalog pictures are typical in many ways. They must show the gear in a beautiful and pleasing ways, set the scene so that the viewer get an impression of fishing, the great outdoors and the whole scene. Tell a story so to say.
Catalog picture must also show exactly what brand and even model we are talking, so keeping names and model numbers in focus is important.
You don't need to deliver images to gear catalogs to shoot catalog images. They are very pleasing to the eye and work well in most respects as illustrations to a story or as documentation of a certain piece of equipment.

Reel by (and even in) water

Fly reels seem to have a magic attraction on photographers, and be one of the many items we use, which really depict our sport and stir feelings in fly anglers. I can see from our archive that if gear is present or the main subject in 10% of all our images, then reels represent about 20-30% of all those gear shots. Reels are an immensely popular subject.
But we also seem to have refined the reel shot, and of the latest crop of shots of fly reels, one particular group are predominant: reels near, in and even under water!
The concept is to have the reel and camera as close to the surface as possible, oftentimes in the surface, half submerged, and sometimes all the way under. This is of course only feasible with waterproof cameras, but the close-to-the-surface shot can be executed with a normal camera and some care.
The effect is fantastic, and if you put a fish in there, almost blissful.

Closeup and perspective - This image both shows details of the rod and reel as well as the water and environment in the background
Sunset gear - The sunset and a fill flash did it for this image... and the fly, which just gives that extra touch
Reel almost underwater - A great example of the reel-and-water category
Better than uniform - Almost any picture shot by the water is better than one shot on a living room or even a studio
Reel in water - This picture has all the feel and sensation of the gear and the water thanks to saturation, perspective and closeness
Waterproof camera required - A waterproof camera enables the lens to get this close to the water, perfectly utilizing the refection and the low perspective.
Truly underwater - The effect of this underwater picture of a reel, hand and handle is amazing, but it's difficult to shoot these pictures because you can't look in a viewfinder and compose them
In the salt - Both reel and camera need to be saltwater resistant to manage this. A bit of fill flash get the details in the equipment out.

Gear and fish

Gear and fish is another group, which is very common, both in our archive and in magazines, on web sites and in catalogs for that matter.
This category of pictures shows exactly what you'd guess: gear and fish, but the ones in our collection, which work best are the ones that use the fish as a hint of success. They do not necessarily show the whole fish in a pursue of a trophy picture where you can measure the fish against the size of a reel or the length of a rod.
A tail, a fin, a scaly back is usually enough to set the scene and indicate the fact that a fish has been caught.

Gear and fish - This one with a nice perspective, sot dwelling on the fish, neither very much on the reel, but mostly on the ambiance
Bliss - Crystal clear water, magnificent brown trout and a phenomenally beautiful Abel reel
Just a tail - By just having a small detail of a fish, like this tail, in an image, it doesn't steal the picture, but emphasizes what it's all about
Motion - The blurry water combined with the still and sharp reel and tail makes for a simple, tightly composed image
Fish and gear - More than classical: fish just landed, gear dunked in the water next to it
Gear and fish


Martin Joergensen's picture


Name only (the hook)?!! What hook? And naming all the gear and nets... what nets? No nets appear in this article. And naming all the gear makes no sense, and is far beyond the scope and subject of the article.


why do you name only hook? you should given name of nets and others gear.

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