Thursday, November 13, 2014

Take good fishing pictures, please?


Or rather should I say stop posting crappy pictures. We all do it, snap a quick picture to encapsulate the moment only to find its blurry, out of focus, too bright, too dark, etc. etc. etc.

I am going to make this post VERY long and share some tips for taking good pictures while out fishing OR fly tying. No I am no professional photographer but, I have sold a few prints in my time and have always had the eye for the aesthetically pleasing.

So we will start with the camera, if you dont have a DSLR you are NOT wasting your time. Seriously smart phones today have really stepped up their game in the camera department. You have the tools already to take great photos. Now that being said camera makers have had to step their game up in response to this. People don't buy point and shoot cameras like they used to because, "I have one in my pocket already!?" I recently bought A fuji XP70 , and what a great little camera. It takes clear crisp photos, is totally waterproof, has some great shooting modes, does well in low light. One of the features I at first thought was rather stupid is a wireless transfer to your phone. But, I have come to love this because as I am sitting in the parking lot of anywhere that has free wifi, I can quickly move a selection of pictures to my phone, run them through a filter and post them online. Saves me the time when I get home of transferring right away. I did it will I ate a blizzard at Dairy Queen.

Best reason to look at a waterproof point and shoot? Smart phones are expensive and easy to drop in the water. Hell I dropped mine in a toilet once.

So you've chosen your camera and want to share your pictures with everyone? Here's a list of tips to get the most out of it..

Most of the pictures I see on social media are hap hazard. Slow down a second and setup your shot. One place we seem to be extremely guilty of this is at the tying vice. I see a ton of really crappy pictures at the vice. You just spent 15 minutes tying that laundry list of materials into the fly, you can take one minute to setup your shot. (A section just on tying pictures will be at the end of this post). Of course our fish pictures often suffer from this same hasty picture taking problem. This is slightly more excusable because fish are slimy, squirmy and hard to handle. Take a second to make sure you are in decent lighting, have a good handle on the fish and can take a good picture. A very good reason for carrying a net with you, gives you a place to put the fish and hold it in the water while you get your act together. If you still decide to be one of those TAKE ALL THE PICTURES kinda guy by which I mean take 1000 photos and hope 5 turn out, please make sure you only post the five. I don't want to see your blurry, washed out pictures.

You know better than to drag that fish up on the rocks, beach, bank, weeds, etc but yet I see pictures all the time of fish lying helplessly on some sort of surface. Oh you don't know better? Well read this, now you do. Not only is it bad for the fish but, to be honest it makes for a pretty crappy picture too, they look more like a biology textbook photo. Also we now think your a jerk or at least ill informed. To my credit I have done this too and I feel bad about it now, knowing I likely killed that fish but didn't take it home and eat it. But!!! We can all learn from our mistakes.

 A net makes taking pictures a lot easier. You can at least use it to hold the fish in the river, allowing it to breath, while you fumble with your camera. If you have a good net that holds the fish nice and parallel just leave it in there while you take the photo. Or wet your hand and only take the fish out for a second, snap two quick pictures and let him go. Holding the fish just in the water makes for brillant pictures as well.

3. Filters CAN be a good and bad.
As much as instagram has a hipster quality to it they really can do a lot to bring out the best in your photos. That being said they can also modify the picture SO much that the fish look almost other worldly. Which might be your goal but, for the most part just says you don't really know what your doing. The goal of a filter is to bring out what you want to highlight in the photo. Maybe it's a certain color of the fish, the material you tied in or the fall colors. Maybe you want to highlight the contrast between the fish and background. But, don't use them ON EVERY SINGLE PHOTO just because. Be picky and only use them when you need to bring out the best. There are a lot of different filters and a app like instagram lets you quickly click through them and see what one works best. If you feel like doing a bit more with your photo than just some hipster filters there are many other great apps to give you some more tools. I really like one called SnapSeed great app for when you want to just change a few things or adjust your exposure. If your only using a computer for your photos find some editing software that will at least allow you to crop, adjust contrast, brightness and exposure. Photoshop is a brillant program with a very steep learning curvebut, easy to get for cheap or free if you know how to pirate. There are many many free programs out there as well. Often your camera will provide a few. Picasa is a great option if your a total Google Fan Boy like myself.

So here is a example of how I took a decent photo with my phone and Instragram along with cropping brought out its best.



I had to crop out a little junk but, the filter really brought out the warm colors of the hackle and the background. The filter also added some contrast so you can see the subtleties of the fly. This is only a size 16 but, through cropping I was able to bring it close and in focus to really see all it's parts.

4. Think about your backgrounds.
The stuff behind or to the side of your photo matters to the whole composition. The photo above is a good example. I chose to have my tying desk in the background on purpose. I also chose to take the picture close up in macro mode so that background would be out of focus. It gives the photo a presence, a air of a tying desk if you will but, it doesn't take to much focus away from the subject of the photo. I have seen some spectacularly tied flies shot against a solid background, most notably blue. I get that the photographer wants to highlight the fly only but, god that's a boring photo. Both could easily be achieved with a little patience and thought. The same can be said for fish pictures. Be mindful of where your shadow is in relation to the picture. Or pay attention to what the water looks like below your fish and what you want the picture to look like. A really cool effect if you have a steady hand is to slow your shutter speed down a bit and blur the water out while having the fish in focus. The reality is it is hard to take great fish pictures by your self but, thinking about these things before you catch and photograph one will help that quality photo rate go up.


Clear and visible

Blurred water

For gods sake please crop your photos. I don't want to see your messy floor, foot, hand, ham sandwich or whatever else you inadvertently capture in the picture. Sometimes that ham sandwich can be part of the mystique but, rarely on accident. Almost all photos need a bit of cropping. It's easy and it can allow you to really bring in the focus on what you want to highlight. Using the kilnkhammer fly pictured above as an example. The camera on my phone can't focus in on things very close, in the untouched photo that was about as close as I could get while still keeping good focus on the fly. So there is a LOT of space around the fly. It doesn't allow the fly to be the subject of the photo. Also there is  some very washed out white light on the side of the photo. Great thing about modern cameras is they have a lot of megapixels that allow you to crop out and some in quite a bit without loosing much quality, least not enough to bother the casual observer. 

6. Focus your photo.
Seriously it should be in focus. Tried your best and it's still out of focus? DON"T POST IT. It's a pretty simple rule. You have a digital camera that allows you to instantly see that it looks like crap. Take it again and slow down before you do it. Can't seem to get that fly in focus close up? Try and get the camera to focus on the vice or the table then slowly move your phone close to the fly to it is the proper distance away for the focus. As stated before in CROPPING you can always crop out bits you don't want in the photo but, had to include to get the focus right.

7. Take pictures of other stuff.
Fish are great, we all love some fishporn. But, we also just love beautiful places and photographs of those places. I have rarely fish where their wasn't a wealth of beautiful scenery around me. Take pictures of the canyon, river, mountains, wildlife, or even the bugs. Along with a few good fish pictures these photos will allow us to come along on your journey. It gives such a good sense of the whole experience. If you only fish to catch fish you are likely missing the point. Post these as a group of 5-10 photos on your page, in a group etc etc

8. Please don't post everything.
Be picky. Choose only the photos that are impressive. We get bored with things so quickly we will not click through 75 pictures, most of which are garbage. This is especially important in fishing groups online. 

9. Collages can help tell a story
They can show a progression or quickly sum up place, the fish, the gear. As I have said before, take your time and be picky. Choose pictures that fit the frames. And don't make them a random assortment but, have a theme or create a story. Also don't pick over the top or stupid backgrounds. Simple colors will do the best to frame your shots but, not detract from the photos.

I used this collage to show the fish I caught and the exact hole I caught it from. (if you notice this is the bad shadow picture much improved by cropping)

10. Selfies
They are ok. You should show you were actually there and didn't steal all your pictures. But, be cautious of what you are wearing and how you look. Hold that camera as far away as humanly possible. It will frame you better and help you not make as funny a face. Setting the camera on a rock or tripod and using the timer function will also help. The timer is really useful for selfies also. It will mean you can push the shutter button then have a few seconds to turn the camera around. It is very hard to hold the camera around and push the button and will often result in a blurred picture. Don't use the camera on the touch screen side of the phone. That is for skyping and not much else. They are very low quality. If all else fails and you don't take good pictures make them ridiculous and fun.

Hope this helps, if anything it will make me feel better not having to look at so many painfully bad pictures. 

Would love some comments, suggestions, and gripes.