Did You Bring a Camera?

Rich McCormick

How many times have you asked that question? “Did we bring a camera?” It is usually when you’ve just seen or done something that doesn’t happen every day. You just caught a BIG fish or perhaps the sunrise is a bit amazing that morning. I’m a photograph taker. I usually have a camera, except when I need it most...

I hardly ever take just one photograph of someone with a fish. For some obscure reason a slight change of fish angle makes a large fish look small and a smaller fish look large. We have all experienced the whole “photo dimension” thing, a 10 pound bass looking 4 or 5 pounds and a 40 inch kingfish looking 30 pounds or more. The best we can do is take 2 or 3 or 4 pictures and hope one comes out looking big. I am not a proponent of holding a fish an arm’s length closer to the camera, especially when fingers are visible!

In addition to taking 2 or 3 pictures of each fish, there are some things you do not want to do. The rest of this article will talk about the major “Do’s” and Don’t’s” of normal every day fishing photographs as I see them.

Play the Light

There is no salvation for the above photograph taken at Ponce Inlet last fall.

Do you have any fish photographs that show the person and the fish as a dark blotch? That is what happens when the photograph is being taken into the sun. It only takes a few seconds to turn the boat or to switch places. The angler facing into the sun will not only show how tired he or she is, perhaps the sunlight will highlight the bright and vivid colors of the freshly caught fish. Even in overcast conditions, some angles are better than others for proper lighting.

Various picture editing programs have shadow reduction and enhancement features. These are nice but usually do not totally correct a photograph of heavy shadows.

How about your shadow in the picture? Every now and again we get the cameraman/woman’s shadow in the photograph. This is simply something you'll have to be careful about.

Watch the Fingers


The photograph above is “okay,” but the fingers and ultimate angle of the fish don’t do it justice.

The rods, weeds and paddle detract from the quality of this photograph.

This is perhaps the most common “mistake” people make. There is nothing that diminishes the size of a fish more than your big old fingers covering up a good part of the “back half”. The best one can do is to try and be aware of their fingers. I typically grab most fish gently by the gill plate and try to rest the belly on my finger tips. It really does depend on the energy level of the fish and if it is going to be released to the cooler or back where it came from.

Another point I would like to bring up is to avoid showing the fish’s gills. The bright red gills show up pretty well and distract from the overall photograph.

Watch the Clutter

This is another all too common mistake. Do you have any photographs where there are fishing rods “going through someone’s head” or perhaps a couple rods in between the camera and the fish? We all have them. The clutter/objects, distract from the photograph.

The easiest way to deal with this is to take a moment to "clear the path" for the photo. If you're fishing with a partner and plan on releasing the fish, you can revive the fish for a few moments while your partner gets ready to take the shot. This will help protect the fish as well as help you get that "lit up" looking fish in the picture. Which brings us to the next point...

Alive is Better

There is no way to capture the true beauty of a fish if you do not photograph it in good light as quickly as possible once it has been landed. One particular example of this is the Dolphin (also called Dorado or Mahi-Mahi); they are gorgeous fish when they first come into the boat and quickly loose their “luster”. Sea trout are another fish that have a wonderful coloration that quickly gets lost in the cooler.

This can be tricky sometimes with aggressive fish. With a large bull dolphin, you may need to make a decision between the quality of the picture and the safety of you and your crew!

Less Blood is Better

While blood is symbolic of life and death, it does not need to prominently be displayed in a fishing photograph. On fish you're releasing, a quick rinse should do the trick. For others, a quick wipe with a wet toewl and the blood is gone, nothing to it. A giant yellowfin tuna that has just been gaffed and pulled in is bound to be a bloody mess, wait until later to photograph it.

You can tell this photo has been edited but you can’t tell where the fish came from. If I told you, I’d have to kill myself for giving away the spot!

Pay Attention to the Background

Nothing can ruin your fishing faster than someone recognizing “your spot” in a photograph and beating you there the following weekend. This is particularly important when posting fishing reports on the Internet. If you're near a recognizable landmark, sometimes a photo taken from a lower angle will show nothing but sky in the background. It's tricky to get the lighting right, but can make for a great picture.

Various picture editing programs have a blur and a clone feature. Although not what you'd use for your printed pictures or trophy album, you may want to consider using them if you want to show your fish off on the Internet (and not invite unwanted company).

Tell a Story With Photographs

I enjoy looking back through the years and seeing where I’ve been and where I have gone. My parents have photographs of me with fish when in diapers, catching large bluefish off of Cape Cod when I was 7 or 8 where the fish were as big as I was, and so forth.

Whenever we take a trip, say to the Keys, I try to catch the “air” of the trip. Where did we stay, was it a calm or windy trip, how was the weather, what kind of fish did we catch, how did we catch bait, etc... I’m also always on the look-out for something different to take a photograph of, a bright orange sunrise or perhaps the reflections of the clouds on the still morning water.

The following (slightly edited) photographs are of my mom and her largest red, a 36 inch, 15 pound fish. It was fun watching the show. The rod was sitting on the side of the boat when it tried to leave the boat. Mom hung on and after a good 5 minutes or more, the 10 pound test and determined lady landed her largest red so far.

In summary, we all take both good and not so good photographs. The difference between the professional looking ones and all the others is the thought before the “shot”. Try to plan your photograph. It takes but a few quick moments to adjust the boat relative to the sun, move a fishing pole or two and snap a photograph of the catch of the day. It may seem like a lot of work in the heat of the moment while catching fish, just remember that the photograph will last a lifetime and tell your story to your grandchildren.


For more fishing stories, tips, and reports, chech out our Inshore Fishing Forum!

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