Taking Better Photos Using Your Phone
by Chris King

In our catch and release world of fly fishing, the pictures we take are all the proof we have of our epic adventures. It is important then to take a look at setting up the perfect representation of our time in the field. It is one thing to take some snapshots of our trip, it is another to record a dynamic story of the events. In this blog post we will go over some simple things to pay attention to while taking fishing pictures that will help you in showing off to your friends or creating dynamic social media posts. If you pay attention to a few details, you don’t need an expensive, heavy camera to take great fishing photos. All of the pictures in this post were taken with an iPhone or a GoPro.

Make your photos interesting by changing angles. Nothing says “been there done that” more than the age-old holy cross fish shot. Make it interesting by getting the camera low and shooting up towards your subject. In the 2 dimensional world of photography it will both catch the eye of the viewer because it looks different and it will also make your catch look bigger.

Anglers holding fish at different angles

Always position the fish in front of everything else in the shot. Nothing makes a 20” fish look small quicker than having it in the background. The following sequence of photos is all of the same fish. The only thing that would have made the final shot better would have been to have it facing the other way to be in the light.

Angler holding the same fish in different positions

Pay close attention to the light. If you can, always try to have light on the person’s face and of course on the fish. Be mindful of shadows that disrupt the view of your trophy.

Chris King holding a steelhead with different lighting in each picture

If you must shoot a pic in the shade, change your exposure to lighten up the angler and fish even if the background blows out. With an iPhone, tap and hold on the image you want to be exposed properly.

Holding the same fish but using different lighting

Shooting Solo:
When fishing solo, don’t throw the fish up on the bank. Try to keep him in the water, even if you run the risk of escape. Set the stage with your rod so you will have a nice portrait. Also, think outside the box. Pictures like the one on the right are interesting because you rarely see images of fish from this angle.

Fish at different angles on the shore

None of my fishing buddies are hand models. You probably aren’t either. Get your hands out of the way! Always try to hold the fish from behind with your palms up.

Showing the best way to hold a fish for a great picture

Pay attention to the little things:
There are so many cool things about fishing and the environment in which we fish. Pay attention to your surroundings and capture some of the little nuances that say “what a trip”.

Insects on an oar and lice on a fresh fish

Facial Expressions:
Try to look like you’re having fun. If you’re the one behind the camera, make the subject laugh or cry out in jubilation. After all, if fishing doesn’t get you, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post.

Anglers and guides showing facial expressions

Lose The Shades & Shadows:
Pictures turn out so much better if we can remember to pull off the glasses. We can read the expressions on the faces of the anglers in the shot.  Also, don’t be afraid to tip your cap back a bit to get your eyes out of the shadows.

The difference between anglers wearing their glasses in photos and not

Portrait Mode:
Try this feature the next time you have your phone out.  It blurs the background slightly and gives the look of shallowing your depth of field. It adds an interesting look to both fish shots and other cool things to see during your trip.

Using portrait mode on your phone camera

Keep it Rolling:
I for one am a huge fan of release shots. They are super interesting if the water is clear enough to see the fish. They tell a great story (you know, the thousand words thing). And you won’t have the jealous trolls on the internet telling you to keep it wet.

Anglers releasing fish

Thirds & Grid:
Something we were taught a couple of years ago by one of the photographers that we use regularly for local photo shoots was to use thirds and to turn on the grid pattern on your phone camera. Using “thirds” helps to position the main focus of the pic without ending up with a holy cross picture. The picture above, of the man in green releasing a fish, is a great example of using thirds.  He is in 1/3 of the pic, the net is in another 1/3, and the fish is in the center 3rd. This helps create interest in the photo and give depth.  Below is another great example of using thirds. It is fairly easy to turn on the grid on your screen and I can tell you that it does work and I use it all the time.

Showing using thirds when taking pictures with your phone

These are just a few hints to help you better document your time on the water. I hope the next time you pull out your phone to snap a pic that you keep a couple of these things in mind. For most of us, our time spent outdoors is never as much as we would like. Make the most of it by capturing better photos along the way.