A few months back we ran a post by our Cameron Miller, our resident photographer at Alaska West, called Taking The Perfect Hero Shot – 13 Tips. That post has been one of our most popular this year, and we’ve heard from a bunch of readers that “those tips were great, but we want more”!
Our good friend Ed Sozinho with Pro Image Photography has stepped up to the plate today with his tips on the classic ‘angler with fish’ shot. There are some consistent themes and some new ideas here – have a read!
There are many things that go into making great images. I don’t wish to take you down a long road of complicated f-stop and shutter-speed jargon. For now we are going to concentrate on four basic elements that you don’t need a doctorate to understand and implement.
So as not to exploit my prowess as a great fly fisherman, and also to do my part in conserving the not-so-great steelhead runs of my Pacific Northwest region, I have decided to use “Hank”, my cardboard and aluminum foil steelhead. He doesn’t fight much, which makes it easy to demonstrate our four basics…not to mention it’s been three years since I’ve touched a steelhead.
Composition, holding a fish correctly, sunglasses and fill flash when implemented correctly can all add up to make better images.
Composition is nothing more than placing the pieces of your image in the frame of the photograph in a pleasing way. For the grip and grin we have the fisherman or fisherwoman, the fish, the environment and maybe the rod and reel. To keep it simple place your fisherperson and fish in the middle of the image and try not to cut their head or the fish’s head off by the edge of the frame. Still bigger yet is try to get rid of everything in the image that is distracting. Simplifying an image by only including what is important to that photograph will always strengthen the composition. In Image #1, we have a simple straightforward composition with the surrounding environment and that is it. But there are other problems with this image like the bright fish, the glasses and the deep shadow on the face.
If you are catching healthy beautiful fish, their skin can act like a large mirror reflecting sunlight right into the camera. Before anyone hooks a fish show your friends how to hold a fish so they do not lean it back and reflect light back at the camera. This little technique will show off all of the color of the fish and not wash it out like in Image #1.
Sunglasses on or off, it’s a toss up. I prefer to have the glasses off so you can see the angler’s eyes and make that visual connection. Plus it’s always great to see the raccoon eyes your buddies have gotten from a sunny day on the water. The biggest thing to overcome is the contrast of the image particularly with hats. Many times we are taking photographs when the lighting is not the best for taking pictures. Image #1 is case in point middle of the day sunshine.
Today’s cameras can solve this problem as quickly and easily as point and shoot. The first step is to turn on your camera’s flash and try using it during the mid afternoon sun. Many cameras have built in metering and flash compensations that can add just a little flash to take away those harsh shadows from your subjects.
I would prefer you turn this auto flash function off, however, and manually set your flash since as good as the auto flash functions can be, they’re not always reliable. Most cameras make it very easy to turn this function off, so please do.
Let’s look at Image #2. It’s a better image without the glasses and with flash to help get light on the subjects face. The full power of the flash is too much in this case. The trick is to “fill flash” the subject without it being obvious. Cameras make it very easy to reduce the output of the flash, even on point and shoot’s. Review your camera’s manual if you do not know how to do this. A good starting point is to reduce the flash output by 1-½ stops.
The best fill flash is the one you don’t notice – like in Image #3. Image #3 is a good grip and grin image – the fish is not overly bright and has good detail, and the fill flash has added enough light to fill in the shadows without overpowering them.
So, before you hit the water, talk to your fishing partners about holding the fish properly and taking their glasses off. Preset your camera’s flash output and leave the rest on automatic. With these simple tricks you can take better grip and grin photographs, even if your fish is a cardboard cut out.
Cheers, good luck with the shooting.
Pro Image Photography