Written by: brian mcgeehan, Montana Angler

A “fish’s eye view” from the surface of the water often leads to convincing pictures of fish.

One of the great joys of fly fishing is looking back at quality fish caught in beautiful locations and there’s no better way to relive those memories than by flipping through photos. But all too often, that precious photo of a big fish or a great moment falters in comparison to the memory: the fish looks less impressive, or your mate’s pose looks odd, and you’re left wondering what you’ve got could be done differently.

There are a few simple concepts that can greatly enhance your fly fishing pictures by helping you break out of the monotony of the ubiquitous hold-and-grin shot. (You probably already know this, but in “grab-and-grin” the angler holds their catch at chest level, often with their arms outstretched toward the camera, and with a bright smile on their face.) If you follow these three tips, you can start producing fly fishing photos you can be proud of.

1. Reduce the depth of field

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Decreasing the visual distance between the foreground, background, and subject creates more dramatic photos.

Depth of field refers to the distance between the closest and farthest objects in the picture that are still in focus. Reducing the depth of field increases the out-of-focus area (or “bokeh”) of the photo, blurring the foreground and background and isolating your subject in between. This draws the viewer’s gaze squarely and gives the image an intangible quality of awesomeness. To increase bokeh in an image, use a larger 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)

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Simply taking your eyes off the camera changes fish photos dramatically.

Grip and grin photographs maximize perspective effects to make fish appear larger. However, in doing so they produce some undesirable effects, the most egregious of which is that the angler is often looking directly at the camera. A shot of someone looking down to admire a fish they’ve cast in their net will always be more appealing than a shot of the same angler robbing the camera.

3. Try new perspectives

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Using a drone to capture this image at DePuy Spring Creek helps the viewer better understand the context of the moment.

Another problem with grip-and-grin shots is that the angler and fish are often placed in the center of the frame, affecting balance and visual appeal and almost always resulting in a less-than-remarkable photo. So be creative with the angles you take your pictures from and ask your subject to be creative with the way they hold fish. Kneeling down to the waterline and focusing on the fish, or getting an elevated perspective and shooting from above can produce more convincing images. GoPro cameras and waterproof housings allow photographers to capture underwater or split-level footage at the water’s surface, and drones can also provide a dramatic and unusual perspective. Try to portray not only the fish but also the angler and the moment. Consider the landscape and environment you’re shooting in and look for unique aspects of the place that you can incorporate into the image to tell the story of the moment.

Brian McGeehan owns and operates Montana Angler in Bozeman, MT.

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Waterproof cameras offer the opportunity to capture unique perspectives.
All photos by Montana Angler