Michael Bales, Head Guide, Alaska Rainbow Lodge

by Michael Bales
Head Guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge

 

Guide Confessions: How to get the Perfect Fish Photo – Every Time

What’s wrong with me? My screen saver is a picture of a fish. My desk and walls hold dozens of photos of me grinning with fish. My iPhoto library has a few shots of friends and family members and about a zillion pictures of fish—all types, from every possible angle, in some crazy great locations. On a recent fishing trip with seven friends, we collectively took about 1800 photos—but there were only about 100 truly great photos; you know, the frameable kind. In all the others, there was something just wrong—sun glare, partial image, blurry image, people moving, shadows covering the subject—you know what I’m talking about.



I’m the head guide at Alaska Rainbow Lodge, and I’m not a professional or technically gifted photographer. But after taking and appearing in tens of thousands of photos, I’ve picked up a couple of simple rules that will help you take better fish pictures every time.

1. Get your lighting right. Do not take a photo looking into the sun; no matter how good you think it’s going to look, it’s going to suck. Move so the sun is at your back.

2. Frame, back away and zoom. Now put the person with the fish in the middle of the camera frame. The next thing is to back away from the subject so that your shadow won’t be in the shot. You can zoom in to cover the distance.

3. Get creative. From this point you have dozens of options for a great shot. You can kneel down to get an upward angle, have the subject point the nose of the fish toward the camera, zoom way in or zoom way out, turn the fish to get a side or profile shot, kiss the fish, move to the side, have the fisherman smile, get the fish to smile. All of this take a few precious seconds but the photos and their memories will last a lifetime.

4. Respect the fish. Let me also take a few moments to talk about the fish that’s in your pictures. These are amazingly beautiful and fragile creatures. Keep the fish in the water while you’re composing the photo. Be gentle if you’re the guy holding the fish. And please, get that fish back into the water as quickly and as gently as possible. Our trout can only take being out of the water for about as long as you can hold your breath without sustaining injury or death. So think about that when you’re preparing to take that photo. Thanks.