How to take the perfect picture of your catch

Saltwater Boat Angling’s Tim Macpherson gives some tips on how to get a great photo of your fish … and give you a better chance of being published

Blue skies, level sea and the right way to hold a shark for the camera

At Saltwater Media, we get thousands of pictures sent to us every year by anglers, charter boat skippers, PR companies, tackle companies… you name it we get them. However, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a picture of a cracking fish that I just couldn’t use for one reason or another. So, I thought a handy guide to getting it right would be useful.

Firstly, I would say that I do not claim to be any kind of decent photographer but years of experience have taught me a few tips.


Vital to get a great shot – getting the lighting balance right is one of the most important tips you’ll ever get. Ideally, all pictures would be taken on a bright sunny day with blue sky but sadly as we all know many fishing days are not like that at all. If it is sunny make sure you get the sun behind you when taking the photo. On dull days try and take the picture away from any backdrop that will help to darken the shot. Make sure the

Holding the fish

Firstly, try and calm the fish – let it rest for a second and maybe cover its eyes. Remember getting the hook out can be time consuming so take the picture with the hook in it, especially if you have used a bright coloured lure.

When holding the fish try and keep fingers out of the shot. Ask the angler to hold the fish from behind, maybe with a finger in its gills and firmly on the wrist of the tale. Push it away from the body slightly.

For big elasmobranchs, I would recommend holding it by the tail and head with the nose down/tail up in front of the angler. Giving it a better sense of scale. With flat fish, I’d recommend holding them head up tail down.

Holding the fish at an angle can create depth, and angling your fish in the right way can also avoid sun blowout.

Make sure the fish is in good condition when you photograph it – cod which have two tone skin tone or pollack with wide open mouths or swim bladders hanging out.

Don’t: Dangle the fish from a hook
Don’t: Photograph fish covered in blood
Don’t: Take pictures of large amounts of dead fish on the deck
Do: Make sure you get the WHOLE fish in the picture

I realise that sometimes, in all the mayhem that happens on deck, it’s not always easy to get it right but it is worth trying to get the best shot.

Framing and background

If you can, try and make sure the backdrop and framing around the angler is clear and well balanced. Try and take the shot on the level so it doesn’t look like the sea is at a slope. As mentioned earlier, blue sky is always best, failing that a neutral consistent background is always preferable. Try to make sure there is nothing in the background to distract from the shot, including other anglers, clutter from the wheel house, or anything else.


Watch out for the classic rod sticking out of the ear moment, very common amongst the pictures I see. If you are going to include the trace or lures get the subject to hold it all well clear of the fish – preferably against a clear background, with nothing else to mask the line or smaller bits of tackle. You can consider including the rod or a lure which can give the picture some flair but don’t go overboard. Less is more and too much is distracting

Hats, eyes and sunglasses

Ideally the subject should be hatless, be looking at the camera and without sunglasses on. However, there are times when hats and glasses add to the shot. As a general rule, make sure the eyes aren’t shaded by the hat, the subject is looking at the camera and most important of all – smiling. They’ve just bagged a cracker and although they might be knackered they should be pleased! So SMILE!

Freshness, clutter and mess

Try and avoid blood and guts, dead fish, cut bait and other clutter from getting in any part of the picture. There will be times when you might want to show the bait used but try to ensure it’s not an unrecognisable mess or a distraction.

Be prepared

Don’t forget to have your camera ready to go before fishing. You’ll get better much better photos if you don’t have to mess around with preparing your gear with a writhing fish on the deck. Get the settings right and make sure it’s got a clean lens with no smears or water in it.

Related Article: How To Photo Carp – Rob Hughes explains all in this video

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