Angling Photography – how to take good catch pictures
With the advent of digital cameras taking good catch pictures has never been easier. Most digital compacts will deliver excellent results even with the camera on auto mode. For most people, messing about with manual settings etc., is unnecessary. With your camera set on ‘auto’ all you have to concentrate on is framing.
Framing the picture correctly is vital – you should aim to get the subject to fill the frame without lots of space around the edges. Here are a few tips:
1. Fill the frame with the captor and fish, avoiding lots of space around the subject.
2. Avoid objects growing out of the subject’s head or body ie; trees, twigs, branches, structure or buildings.
3. Get in the habit of using fill-flash (to access this you may have to press the flash button on your camera if the flash does not cut in automatically. Fill flash removes harsh shadows from the picture, especially around the face of the subject.
4. Make sure that the fish is held properly, showing the detail you want to see. Showing too much of the fish’s belly, for example, will create an ugly photograph with lots of overblown white. The captor should aim to hold the fish without fingers obscuring the fish’s body, eyes or, worst of all, the finger-in-the-mouth pose.
5. The subject should look happy – miserable moody faces are a joke and make for low-impact pictures. Smile, relax and concentrate on showing the fish to the camera in the best possible position. If you are taking the photograph, crack a joke just before you click the shutter to make the subject smile.
6. Avoid cutting off the subject’s head, the fish’s head or tail.
7. With catch pictures, crashing in as much as possible to show just the fish and the top of the captor’s head is perfect.
8. take the photograph in even light and with the subject facing the sun. You can achieve good backlit shots either as silhouette or with some fill flash but these effects are rarely used in catch photography. Avoid dappled light because it creates under and over exposure problems in certain parts of the scene.
9. Most catch pictures look best with the subject kneeling and the photographer shooting from a low viewpoint, crouching down with elbows resting on knees to support the camera.
Here’s a nice catch picture of my old friend ‘the duke’ with a chub from the Dorset Stour. The frame is nicely filled, Mick is smiling and the fish is shown off beautifully. Fill flash has been used to remove any harsh shadows.
Here’s another nice picture. It’s a sunny day but I’ve used fill-flash to get rid of the difficult shadows caused by the bright sun. Oliver is relaxed and happy, just as he should be after catching a big fish. I had to be careful with the trees and branches, using a shallow depth-of-field to avoid the classic ‘object growing out of the captor’s head’ problem. Note the framing with the cut off points being the lower lobe of the fish’s tail and just above Oliver’s head.
This is a different type of catch picture designed not to draw attention to the captor and his fish but mainly to the fish and the method used to catch it – in this case the fly. Pike and other predatory fish with teeth are very good for this type of high-impact shot with the fish’s head held toward the camera and the captor slightly blurred in the background (but not so much that you can’t see who it is). This type of shot is deliberately distorted, making the fish look menacing and threatening and there is a tendancy in the Angling Press to overuse them. Used sensibly, however, these shots have impact and ‘tell a story.’
Here’s a shot that look good in colour and even better in black and white. The fish’s head is held slightly forward to create a more dynamic angle and by shooting wide angle (14mm optically corrected lens). With the fish held this way, the viewer’s gaze is drawn along the fish and into the picture. The blue skyÂ with fluffy white clouds lends itself to a black and whiteÂ treatment. The black and white effect was achieved in photoshop using a red digital filter to emphasise the sky.Â
The use of a low viewpoint (I was kneeling low in the water) gives drama to the picture and gives emphasis to that dramatic sky.Â
A great shot of the Duke returning a fish that can only really be achieved by someone with a DSLR and a knowledge of exposure techniques. This was a tricky shot because I had to set the flash manually to prevent it from blowing out that delicious twilight sky in the background. Also, withÂ the fish being silver white on its flanks there was a danger that auto-flash would reflect the flash and swamp the picture. With the flashgun on manual, I got the duke to angle the fish slightly by so that the flash would bounce back down at the water, not at the lens. I then swivelled the flash head and bounced the light off the side of the boat, effectively usingÂ the boat as a giant reflector. This shot has it all – well-framed, captor looking relaxed, happy and confident with the fish and to cap it all enough of the surroundings to tell the story of a night fishing session on a big lake. I also like the fact that the fish is clearly being returned to its natural environment. A simple enough result but quite tricky to achieve – a photographer’s photo!