Fishing Photography: What IS your secret?

by Rebecca on November 2, 2009

in Fly Fishing

~Photo Credit, My Daughter Kaitlyn~

~Photo Credit and Head Tilt goes to My Daughter Kaitlyn~

Obviously I am not in the ’know how’ when it comes to photographing fish when I’m out on the water. Evidence of this can be found in 1) The lack of pictures on my hard drive 2) the pictures I do have are marginal at best. Visual confirmation of marginal can be found looking at the pictures I post on this website.

As I meander around the Internet highway stopping at various fishing sites I see the most amazing pictures of people holding fish or a fish laying peacefully across a net with a posed fly rod resting next to it. The colors are sharp and the fish are damn near smiling for the photographer and I wonder…… the hell did they do that??

I’ve come up with two obvious conclusions:

Scenario 1) Once a fish has been hooked, the Fly Fisher calls out two things, “Fish On!” and even louder ”Cue the Professional Photographer!!!!”

Scenario 2) Fly fisherman is alone but knows the secret art of fish hypnosis. First he performs the voodoo belly rub that puts his trophy Trout into a calm state of sedation. Next he poses docile Trout over his net, adding Fly Rod neatly in the view, compliment style. Now the Fisherman walks up the bank to unwrap his Nikon 5000 mackdaddy camera from it’s waterproof back pack. He returns and takes 15 pictures for quality control. Once the photo shoot is over, Fly Fisherman counts backwards from 3, blows two puffs of air into the Trouts gills and it merrily swims away.

Yes? No? Am I close? Is that how you all do it???

Now…..I can instruct people in the fine art of how not to take pictures at all or if you do, marginal ones. I’m already an authority on those abilities. First there is the no pictures at all skill. Basically you forget to take a camera with you, or, if you take a camera,  make sure the batteries are low enough the camera shows you a “warning, battery exhausted” screen instead of immortalizing the biggest fish you’ve ever caught on a midge. Doing either option will ensure no visual proof will be in existence.

 ((There is a bonus side to the forget the camera ability. The concept of ‘fish stories’ is more plausible when you don’t have visual confirmation. If you want to turn that 16 inch brown into a 26 inch badboy, who’s gonna to disprove it? Proof is the burden of the skeptic in all fishing scenarios!))

The marginal photograph can only be achieved via a marginal camera in the hands of a marginal photographer (that’s me). I have a Nikon….coolpix that is. It’s a point and shoot, and I point it and shoot it. Because I Fly Fish alone a lot and haven’t learned how to hypnotise a trout, the majority of the time I don’t bother with a picture. Juggling a flopping fish, my fly rod, a net and a camera all at the same time sounds like a slippery slope straight into drowned camera territory.

My last option at getting a picture comes in the form of other people I fish with. The most reliable person who is willing to put down her fly rod and take a picture is my 14 year old daughter. When I look through the few pictures I have, I’d say 50% of them have been taken by her. So I give her huge props for trying. The thing about Kaitlyn is she likes ‘interesting angles’ and tends to twist and turn the camera for dramatic effect. (It’s a creative kid thing)

Maybe I need to buy Kaitlyn the mack daddy camera, send her to photography school and she could be my “Cue the Professional Photographer” go to gal! (this is why I like to write, workin’ out a solution here)

If anyone feels like offering up their secrets and advice, including, but not limited to, the exact way to belly rub a trout into submission, I am an open shutter.


P.S. The above picture is best viewed if you tilt your head to the left. Just sayin’


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Unaccomplished Angler (Kirk)No Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I can’t help you with the Transcendental Fish Meditation technique, because they always flop on me at inopportune moments as well. One thing that does help is a waterproof camera so you don’t fret about dropping it in the drink (one less thing to worry about so you can concentrate on rod management and fish cooperation). Check out the Olympus 1030SW sometime. Great little point and shoot that is rugged and fun. Takes some good underwater shots, too.


ChristineNo Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I am no way a professional photographer, but I do know of some outdoor photographers and have learned a bit. One thing is not to always take the generic hold and smile picture. My friend snapped this of me yesterday: And keeping the fish safe of course, but the true professionals take about 10 pictures of each fish. Just quick snap snap snap.. flash on, flash off and usually one or two look amazing.

Tight lines,


RebeccaNo Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 6:12 pm

WOW ~ Nice fish Christine! And, might I add, great picture.


Austin (The Otter)No Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I can’t help you with keeping the trout still (as I can’t managed to maintain my grip on them either), however I can relay what I’ve been told about fly fishing photography from an actual published photographer.

1. Don’t hold the camera at eye level. Change your position to get more dynamic shots.
2. When taking pictures of men, have them roll their sleeves down. No one likes photos with hairy arms (I guess).
3. When taking the picture don’t worry about the angler. Focus in on the fish’s eye, if done correctly the details of the fish should really “pop”.

That’s all I remember. The hard part is finding a dedicated photographer when the fish are really biting.


GregNo Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 5:48 pm

There are a lot of ‘methods’ out there to enhance a fish photo. The truth of the matter is, a photo will always add 10 lbs to a human but not an ounce of weight or inch of length to a fish. Here are a few tips to get the most out of a money shot:

1. Hold the fish slightly away from your body but don’t hold it out so far as to make your fingers look the same size as your torso.

2. Take the shot directly in front of the fish unless you’re doing something artistic. If you’re just going for size points alone, front-on (and level) is the best policy.

3. Tilt the top of the fish away from your body so the length of the fish isn’t at a 45 degree angle to the camera. Having the fish body level and parallel with the lens makes the difference.

4. Use the ‘two finger’ method. While holding the fish, use two fingers (pointer, middle) to grip the fish at both ends — ladies may need to modify to a ‘three finger’ method. Try not to wrap your fingers around the fish entirely, but use them more to prop the fish up. This one’s a bit tricky — you may have some fuzzy shots of where the fish used to be and your hands still are.

5. Spread your hands out along the length of the fish to create a slight ‘belly bow’ — not too much to diminish the overall length, but just enough to give it some big fish swagger.

That’s my wisdom for the day. I’m sure there are 100 more tips but those are my five lead off hitters.

Cheers — Greg


RebeccaNo Gravatar November 2, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Kirk, Christine, Austin & Greg ~ Thank you so much for your tips and ideas. I will be taking all ideas and heading to the river with them. In fact, I’ll probably print these out, tuck them in my fly bag, make my daughter review them as well and inform the fish thats the new program.
Hopefully my photography improves and I start getting more pictures with actual fish in them!

Still waiting for the Trout sedation maneuver :)


LarryBNo Gravatar November 3, 2009 at 7:50 am

Love this post! There are lots of great tips in here now Rebecca so I can’t add much. Fish handling takes lots of practice and a while to get good at but you and your daughter are doing a sweet job so far. Just try to get her not to tilt her head. ;-) Let her know that you’ll put more of her shots of her favorite Mom on the web, if she’ll keep things right side up for ya. :-)

Have a Super day!



Kentucky JimNo Gravatar November 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Rebecca, ditto Kirk’s remarks about the camera. Also, I think Pentax makes one called an “Optio” that is water proof. The Nikon is good, just not good for the water. I dunked my Sony Cyber Shot in the river three times before I finally stopped taking it fishing. Like you, I no longer take pics.

As for the fish, I’ve got techniques for removing the hook, but none for laying the fish in the shallow water next to your rod but and not having it flop. On the other hand, I’ve seen a couple of really good pics of the fly fisher unsuccessfully attempting to prevent the fish from taking its leave of the scene.


JohnNo Gravatar November 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I enjoy carrying a camera, why? Because it lets me reflect on some of my most enjoyable moments in life and leaves a record to pass on.

I think for every good photo I have taken, I have a hundred or more screwy ones. What I have found to work for me gear wise is, a waterproof camera. They range from (new) $160 bucks and up. I have a lower end Olympus 550WP, its slow, picture quality is not all that (operator error mainly) but its a great peice of mind knowing you don’t have to worry about the water and can shift your focus to the task at hand. Point, Shoot… forget it, a simple camera.

The second most important thingy in my arsenal is a mini tripod. A simple no frills three legged Wal-Mart special for about $10 bucks. Don’t forget when you get like us old geezers, many newer wading staffs have a camera mount built in also. This is very helpful when your alone or you need a very steady shot. Using this with your timer can allow for those “all by yourself” pictures of the Orca you just caught.

Another.., a secondary battery or DC charging option. You can usually find those small DC inverters that will power/charge cameras from your cig lighter in the truck, simple cheap and can top off the charge on the way to the river. Nothing says ” I suck” like a dead camera when you need

So, to get great shots, you have to take alot of shots. Learn your camera and its limits. You will find the passion of the photographer can make up the difference in the cha-ching you throw down on a high end camera. Most of all, keep it fun. Good luck and we all are looking forward to seeing your pictures! Your daughters picture catches the outdoors and the enjoyment you have for it, great job Kaitlyn!!

One last thing…
I am no tree hugger, I love guns, red meat, served my country and have made the Copenhagen company rich but I gotta say…. Please don’t forget the mortality issue when taking your pictures. Fish are stressed already and I am sure they are not concerned with the photo ops. Ask yourself before you cast, will this be a net only shot, a tripod shot, my buddy gonna snap it? Whatever it may be, if you can prep and have a game plan, she may thank you for it and the trout gods look kindly upon you. Remember the fish, you just caught was a gift from the previous angler who released her and so on and so fourth…. Unless of course your hungry, they are tasty :)

Tight lines!!


JohnNo Gravatar November 3, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Almost forgot, until you can show us the secret hand shake and recite the code of Tethys we cannot speak of the Trout belly rub.. :)


RebeccaNo Gravatar November 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

Larry, Jim and John ~
Thank you for more tips! I’ve realized my first order of business is investing in a waterproof camera. I really need to get rid of the drowned camera scenerio. I think if I do that, I’ll be much more comfortable even taking a camera with me and even more so whipping it out when the big fish moment occurs.

John—-damn! Codes and secret hand shakes? I guess I need to sneak into some fly fishing loops afterall.


RobNo Gravatar November 4, 2009 at 10:54 am

Hey Rebecca,

i really like your site. You sound a whole lot like me….except i saltwater flyfish in Florida. i’ve never tried stream fishing.

i recently wrote an article about how to get the most out of your fly fishing photography. Keep in mind that i use an Olympus….point and shoot that is….

Cheers and have a great day,



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