Tips for Fall Fish Photos

Autumn might very well be the most photogenic season, and that certainly applies to fishing. The key ingredients: a crisp blue sky, accents of bright, colorful foliage as a backdrop, and of course, a big fish (and fall is often a great season to land a lunker.) Here are some tips to make an image worthy of hanging on the wall when everything lines up perfectly.

1) Be sure to have the camera ready before you make the fish “pose.” That’s good for the fish, and a healthy looking fish is key to a great image. If you’re not quite ready, keep the fish submerged in the water, perhaps swimming in a net, until the time is right.
2) It’s an old trick worth repeating—hold your breath as you photograph the fish out of water. When you feel uncomfortable, you can assume the fish does also.
3) Wet your hands, and keep the fish wet. The drips of water falling off a fish add accent to your image, and underscore action. Plus, that’s also good for the fish.
4) Shoot from the water level. Don’t stand up and shoot down at your subjects. Make sure you get the waterline and plenty of sky in your image. (That’s also good for the fish, as it keeps the person holding it from lifting it too far above the water… if it slips out of his/her hands, the fish has less distance to fall.)
5) Remember the rule of thirds. Try to balance the frame as much as possible.
6) Shoot early and late in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky. This is the best timeframe for natural lighting that accents the features of your subjects. Position the sun behind you when you shoot (usually).
7) Don’t be afraid to change the ratio of shutter speed and aperture. The same setup looks completely different as you mix and match (but remember not to do so with the fish out of water).
8) Use a polarized filter.
9) Change your focal point. Sometimes it’s the fish. Sometimes it’s the angler. Sometimes both.
10) For goodness sake, please forget about the tired old move of having the angler hold the fish straight out in front of him/her with arms extended fully, to try to make the fish look bigger than it really is. When your fingers look like they’re a foot long, we’ll all know how big the fish really is.

Most importantly, keep on shooting, and keep the camera close. You never know when you’ll chance upon the image that winds up on the wall, in a magazine, or just becomes a treasured memory of a great day with someone special.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.