Written By: Brian McGeehan, Montana Angler
One of the great joys of fly fishing is looking back on quality fish caught in beautiful locations, and there is no better way to jog those memories than by browsing through photographs. But it seems like all too often, that prized photo of a big fish or a great moment falls flat in comparison to the memory: the fish looks less impressive, or your buddy’s pose looks awkward, and you’re left wondering what you could have done differently.
There are a few simple concepts that can greatly improve your fly-fishing images by helping you to break free from the monotony of the ubiquitous grip-and-grin shot. (You probably already know, but a grip-and-grin features the angler holding their catch out at chest level, often with their arms fully extended toward the camera, with a beaming smile on their face). By following these three tips, you can start producing fly-fishing photos to be proud of.
1. Reduce the Depth of Field
Depth of field refers to the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in the frame that are still in focus. By reducing the depth of field, the out-of-focus area (or “bokeh”) of the photo is increased, which blurs the foreground and background, isolating your subject in between. This draws the viewer’s eye straight in, and gives the image an intangible quality of greatness. To enhance bokeh in an image, use a wider aperture, and/or increase the distance between the foreground and your subject, the background and your subject, or both.
2. Look at the Fish (not the Camera)
Grip-and-grin photographs maximize the effects of perspective to make fish appear larger, but in doing so, they create some undesirable effects, the most egregious of which is that the angler is often looking directly into the camera. A shot of someone looking down to admire a fish they’ve brought to the net will always be more appealing than one of the same angler mugging for the camera.
3. Try New Angles
Another issue with grip-and-grin shots is that the angler and fish are often placed in the dead center of the frame, reducing balance and visual appeal, and almost always resulting in a less-than-noteworthy photograph. So get creative with the angles at which you shoot your images, and ask your subject to be creative with the ways they hold fish. Kneeling down to the water level and focusing on the fish, or finding an elevated perspective and shooting from above, can create more compelling images. GoPro cameras and waterproof housings allow photographers to capture underwater or split-level shots at the water’s surface, and drones can also offer a dramatic and unusual perspective. Try to depict not just the fish, but also the angler and the moment. Consider the landscape and the environment you are shooting in, and look for unique aspects of the place you can incorporate into the image that will help tell the story of the moment.
Brian McGeehan is owner and operator of Montana Angler in Bozeman, MT.