Photography Tips for Fishing Trips

Apr 13, 2024
Photo of Girl with Bass in Back of Boat

Fishing Photography can be tricky unless you are prepared. The time to learn that new phone or camera is not after that big fish just landed in the boat. Read on to learn about how to improve your fishing photography and take great photos of your trophy fish.

Outside of fishing and collecting lures, one of my other hobbies is outdoor photography such as fishing photography.  I don't claim to be a pro at it but I dabble at it and love taking outdoor shots, even doing some minor stock photography through the years.  If you are interested you can see a small sampling over at my photography website,  Despite all my gear though I sometimes fail to have a camera with me and resort to my phone which leads us to the rule of "the best camera is the one with you".  That is often the case when out in the boat and the excitement of the big catch is going on.

With that in mind I thought it would be useful to create an article on Fishing Photography with some general tips on how to prepare to take better photos on your next fishing trip.  (hint... step one is to take a camera, or least a smartphone)

Understanding Your Equipment

Before heading out, familiarize yourself with your camera and its settings. Whether you're using a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or a smartphone, understanding how to quickly adjust settings like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed can make a significant difference in capturing high-quality images, especially in changing light conditions.

- DSLR and Mirrorless: Use a polarizing filter to reduce glare from the water and enhance the colors of the sky and foliage.

- Smartphone: Explore apps that allow manual control of your camera settings for more professional results.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Today's smartphones are pretty good out of the box but you can make a ton of adjustments to really improve them.  The time to do this is not when you are in the boat though.

Timing Your Shots

The best fishing photography often involves early morning or late afternoon sessions when the light is soft and golden. These times not only enhance the natural beauty of the environment but also the drama of the fishing action.

- Golden Hour: Capture the warm tones during sunrise and sunset.

- Overcast Conditions: Use diffused light on cloudy days to avoid harsh shadows and blown-out highlights.

Composition Techniques

Good composition is key to engaging fishing photography. Apply the rule of thirds by positioning key elements like the angler, the horizon, or the catch off-center to create a more balanced and interesting image.

- Leading Lines: Use the riverbank, a jetty, or even fishing line to guide the eye through the photo.

- Framing: Frame your subject using natural surroundings like trees or archways to add depth to your images.

- Break the Rules: There are a lot of "rules" to proper photography.  Learn them but don't be afraid to break them and have fun.  Some of the best photos are from when you just have fun and shoot what you think looks great.

- Different Angles: Sometimes these are the most interesting.  A close up of a bass being released.  A lure in the mouth of a fish, etc.  Sometimes different wins the day.  Below is a photo of mine I took one day fishing by myself of a smallmouth bass.  I took it one handed on burst mode while releasing the fish back into the river.  It is one of my best selling stock photos.  A different angle, broke all the rules but yet simple and effective.

Smallmouth Bass Being Released into Wisconsin River
Copyright Keith Bell

Capturing the Action

Action shots are a thrilling aspect of fishing photography. High shutter speeds are crucial to freeze motion, whether it’s casting the line or a jumping fish.

- Continuous Shooting Mode: Use burst mode to increase your chances of catching the peak action.  This has saved me on more than one occassion.

- Focus: Set your camera to continuous autofocus (AF-C or AI Servo AF) to keep moving subjects sharp.

Portraits and Close-Ups

Don’t forget to take portraits of anglers with their catch. Close-up shots that focus on the details of the fish, the bait, or the angler’s hands can also tell a compelling story.  You can also never go wrong with children and their catches.  The size of the fish is basically irrelevant as long as there is a smiling child.

- Natural Expressions: Capture candid moments when the angler is focused on fishing, not just posing with a catch.

- Macro Shots: Highlight textures and details like the scales of a fish or the intricacies of the tackle.  There are lots of things you can dive into with fishing photography.

Landscape and Environment

Include shots of the surrounding landscape to give context to your fishing adventure. Wide-angle lenses are great for expansive landscapes or to capture the angler within the vast environment.

- Reflections: Use water bodies to capture reflections of the sky, clouds, or trees.

- Sunrise and Sunset: Incorporate the vibrant colors of the sky at dawn and dusk.

Gear and Safety

Water and electronics don’t mix well. Protect your gear with waterproof cases or bags. Additionally, bring extra batteries and memory cards, as cold and wet conditions can affect battery life and storage may fill up quickly with high-resolution images.  A few ziploc bags never seem to be a waste of space either.

If you are planning a long trip be sure all of your gear is fully charged and the back up batteries are as well.  Same goes for your phone if that is your primary or even secondary camera.

Respect Nature

While capturing the beauty of nature, it's crucial to respect wildlife and the environment. Follow local regulations and ethical practices to minimize your impact.  Birds such as loons should be given proper space despite the temptation to move closer for a better shot.


After your trip, use photo editing software to enhance your images. Adjust exposure, crop for better composition, or correct colors to bring out the best in your shots.  Google and Apple have good software to do this.  If you have professonal aspirations, learning Adobe Photoshop becomes a must as it is the industry standard.  (really not all that difficult to learn once you get the hang of it).

Sharing and Storytelling

Finally, share your photographs. Use them to tell the story of your trip, from the early morning start, through the thrill of the catch, to the serene sunset. Blogs, social media, and photo books are great platforms for your stories.  Print them out!  Hang them up!  Also be sure to reach out and contact us to share with us on our My Bait Shop Fishing Photo Board.  We would love to see your catch!

By following these photography tips for fishing trips, you’ll not only improve your skills behind the lens but also enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of nature and the art of fishing. Good luck fishing.

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