Anything Fly Fishing

Taking Better Fishing Photos – Part One

4 Mins read

My entry to the field of outdoor media was as a photographer. I lugged around a gear bag heavy with lenses, filters, film, and gadgets. The problem was that I had no spare hands for fishing. I quickly found that I either had to fish or take photos, so when I fished the gear stayed in the truck.

There’s a saying that “the best photos are taken by the camera you have with you.” Since my camera in the truck didn’t take any photos, I quickly became a fan of waterproof pocket cameras.

After my last camera went for a swim, I quickly became a fan of waterproof pocket cameras.

I add waterproof to the description due to learning by my mistakes. I was bent over one morning reviving a wild brown trout when the camera slid out of my pocket and sank in a foot of water. I found it could neither swim nor hold its breath.

Luckily, spending the afternoon on the truck dashboard in the sun did revive it. But I immediately ordered a waterproof version, and since then, it’s the only camera I carry.

I will add that phone cameras are perfectly adequate, but phones usually don’t swim or hold their breath well either. Plus, pocket cameras are cheaper and the boss can’t call you on your camera.

Most of us take photos on fishing trips for the memories. We want to share them with friends to make them jealous or entice them to go with us. Sometimes the photos will end up on social media for a broader audience. Although “grip and grin” pictures of us holding a fish may show our success, photos can do so much more.

Photos can provide a sense of the place. They can highlight certain aspects of the fish. They can remind us of who was on the trip, the conditions, and the moments relaxing and laughing afterwards. Good photos can show why you fish, not just how you fish. If those are your goals, here are a few tips to get you started.

Pocket and phone camera technology has come so far that all you have to do to get an acceptable photo is point and shoot. While the camera may control light and focus, you still control what is in the photo. Controlling composition is the first step to better fishing photos.

Try moving the subject out of the center so the action or their gaze is into the photo.

The Rule of Thirds: The old photography books usually had at least a chapter on composition and something called “The Rule of Thirds.” The argument was that a photo where the main subject was centered tended to be less exciting than one where it was moved off-center. This rule basically suggested imagining a tic-tac-toe grid in the image and moving the main subject out of the center box.

Where it was moved mattered. The action usually should be taking place toward the center rather than from the center out.

So picture an angler casting a fly rod in your photo. If they are in the center casting out of the photo, the viewer wonders what they were casting to. But if the angler is on the side of the photo casting to the center, the viewer sees the entire scene.

In general, the best place for the subject according to this rule is in the quadrant where their action leads back to center.

This becomes especially important when there is action in the photo. If a fish leaps out on the edge of the photo, it sometimes looks like it has no place to land. Better to have it leaping into the photo than out of it.

Using objects such as limbs or flowers in the foreground can add depth to the photo.

Framing: One of the other tips for improving fishing photos is to use a technique referred to as framing. Framing is what gives the image depth.

The concept is fairly simple and over time will become second nature. If you are on a stream, you can use an overhanging limb in the foreground to frame the image. This provides perspective for the subject in the background and provides a feel of depth.

Over the years, I have found many settings useful for framing. Besides limbs, I have taken photos looking under bridges, above split-rail fences, and across a patch of wildflowers. Besides highlighting the angler in the photo, these objects provide the viewer with a sense of the place.

Taking scenic photos on your trip also serves as a reminder of the fishing conditions.

Scenery: On all my fishing trips, I try to remember to take scenic photos. These become useful later when I try to recall what the water was like, what the weather was like, and even how the season was progressing.

These can also be some of the nicest photos you take. In the fall when the hardwood leaves turn, they provide accents to the colors a brown takes on in spawning season.

On the flipside, fish with a backdrop of snow on the ground will provide a sense of just how challenging the conditions were at the time. Even small fish are trophies on difficult days and your photo will show that.

Variety: The last point I’ll make here is that a variety of photos will be more interesting than ten posed shots of you and Joe holding up fish. If you’re taking photos of Joe with fish, instead of snapping five of the same pose, try taking each one a step closer until Joe and the fish fill the frame.

Then, zero in on the fish. Think about what makes that fish unique and let just that feature fill the frame. Remember all those redfish photos you admire that only show the spotted tail and you’ll know what I mean.

Once you have the fish covered, shoot the lodge, the camp, the meals, the beat-up truck you rode in on, and the dog that followed you around all weekend. When you get home, you will remember all the different aspects that made the trip special.

Just these four tips will dramatically improve your fishing photos. I’ll offer a few more in Part Two of “Taking Better Fishing Photos.”

Jim Mize sometimes needs fishing photos to prove he actually caught something. You can purchase Jim’s award-winning book, The Jon Boat Years, at or buy autographed copies at

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