Catch, Photo, Release

Teach your boat mates these tips so they don't cut half your head out of the frame.

How many times have you thought you captured the perfect shot of your buddy's largest muskie or looked at the photos of your slob bass only to find problems in the photos?

Maybe your face is completely shaded by harsh sunlight, or the photo is blurred by poor focus. No more. Read these tips to help you nail the perfect fish shot every time and, while you’re at it, share with your boat mates so they don’t cut half of your head out of the frame next time.

First Things First

Lens caps OFF. If I had a dollar for every time someone pointed a camera with a lens cap at me, I could probably afford to actually fish for a living.

Leave your camera somewhere safe, but accessible. Exciting stuff happens all the time on the water. Even if your bud is just playing a “stickerel” for five minutes thinking it’s the big one, it’ll make for great action shots.

angler holding pike
Action shots such as lifting the fish out of the net offer an exciting "I know that feeling" to your photos. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Keep your lens clean. Spots on the glass will throw your autofocus off for those quick photos. There’s nothing worse than finishing your day on the water, turning on the camera preview, and seeing your blurry figure holding another unidentifiable figure in your arms.

Landscape, NOT Vertical

The main reason I recommend horizontal shots—it’s the best way to see the angler and the fish in the same frame. Unless you enjoy having a disproportionately large head and tiny legs in photos, I suggest you try the horizontal hold and landscape style shot.

Let’s face it, the fish looks more natural this way. In no way, shape, or form is a fish ever vertical in its element. Also, if you’re planning on releasing the fish, practicing good support holds will ensure a smoother release. So hold up its tail level with its head and smile away.

angler holding pike
The supportive hold shows both angler and fish without warping reality. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)


The bane to anglers everywhere. Harsh sunlight. I know it’s more pleasant to fish in the sun, but I curse it when it comes to taking evenly lit photos. Your best bet is to shoot into the sun, backlighting the angler and fish, using a flash. This will expose the background for the bright sun, but lighten up your angler.

You can also turn your angler and fish into the light broadside, so the most important parts of the photo are highlighted by the sun, like below.

fall muskie
Here I made Aaron turn the head of the fish into the sun so I could capture him admiring the fish while making sure it was fully lit. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Need another option? If you’re near a patch of shade, pull into it for a quick photo while keeping in mind how long the fish has been out of the water if you’re planning on throwing it back. 

Reinvent the Flywheel

Grip and grins are great to have, but they can get old. Try something new. Shoot wide shots to show more of your surrounding on backcountry lakes, close-ups of fish or shoot from further back or even off of the boat for an entirely different release shot.

smallmouth bass
Even pint-size smallmouth caught in from a canoe can make for interesting shots. It pays to take a step back and appreciate the little things. (Photo: Alyssa Lloyd)

I like to use the rule of thirds. Have three objects in a frame; the fish and angler are two, now you just need one more defining feature. Have a cool background behind you? Swing the boat around to get the looming pines in the other corner of the shot. 

Devils in the Details

Have you ever just sat and marveled at the fish you’re holding in complete awe? Chances are you aren’t the only one who’s done so, and you wouldn’t be the only one who’d enjoy detailed shots of that fish.

Give the fish the much deserved closeup. Capture its turned-down eyes and bright cheeks. Does it have spectacular colours in its pectoral fin? Capture them! How about the patterns Ontario’s fish offer, magnify them. One of my favourite things about fish is their tails, it is their most valuable tool, it literally drives them. Photograph that powerful paddle against your hand as it’s about to propel away.

brook trout
Some fish, like the brook trout, have patterns that just beg for a close-up. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

Behind the Scenes

Show off the adventurous side of your day fishing. Did you have to hike in? Was the boat launch a muddy/icy mess? What else happened to make that day stand out from the rest of your days on the water.

Got a cool-looking fly box? Show it off. How about distancing yourself from the fishing action to get an establishing shot of the setting?

Photographer Sam Thompson hops out on rock shoal to capture the baits casted to shore. Not recommended if you don't trust your friend's casts. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

That’s a Wrap

There are many ways to nail the perfect fish shot. Aside from being technical, I always strive to capture a different element others may not see as photo worthy because they are just regular parts of the day.

A lot of anglers enjoy the small things—the moments before the fish returns to the water, opening the fly box to start the day, that once in a lifetime fish with your best fishing pal—these are the things we love most about fishing but often leave out of the photos. 

fishing photos
Everyday life can make for interesting photos. Plus you have more time to shoot these moments. (Photo credit: Alyssa Lloyd)

So leave that lens cap off, keep your camera handy, and try to capture the lifestyle behind your fishing adventures, those memories will last a lifetime.

If this article helped you capture some of your fishing moments, I’d love to hear and see them. You can reach me at my email here:

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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