Stating the obvious, most fishermen love to brag about their catch. Luckily for today’s anglers they no longer have to rely solely on circling around a camp fire or bellying up to their local bar to have their Hemingway-esque exploits shared with the world. In today’s media rich society it’s never been easier to fast track your way to fishing fame with applications like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. For you single anglers still looking for the ‘catch of a lifetime’, the Washington Post even wrote an article last year that stated that more than half of women surveyed found Tinder profile pics of men holding a fish more attractive than those without fish. So let’s face it, whether you are selfie-taking, social media post-an-hour type (not me) or old school print-it-out-and-frame it type (definitely me), few things are more valuable from your fishing vacation than a high quality picture. Heck, if you’re a millennial your very chances of procreation may depend on it! The truth is, in time memories will fade, your perfect suntan will vanish, and the fillets will be long gone but a picture can provide a lifetime of vivid flashbacks and story telling. With the quality of today’s smart phones you don’t need to be a professional photographer to snap the picture of a lifetime, so here are 10 tips for taking better pictures on your next fishing vacation to Central America.
1 – Move the Rods
Move the rods. PLEASE move the rods. For the love of God, MOVE THE RODS! Few things are more deflating, or get under my skin, more than seeing one of our anglers holding the catch of a lifetime with a smile stretching from ear to ear only to see fishing rods covering them up. Think about it – you’ve spent a few hours researching and planning the vacation, a day flying to Central America and transferring to your hotel, hours on the water, and who knows how many weeks/months waiting for this trip to finally arrive – so take 43 seconds and move the fishing rods out of the way before you take a picture! I get it, you’re excited, you’re in the moment, and you don’t want to mess anything up in the cockpit. Now is when you need to remind yourself of one simple thing – YOU’RE the client, this very moment is what everybody wanted so make it count!
Very few captains or mates are going to be upset by the fact you moved a rod from the fighting chair or rocket launcher to a rod holder on the tower or opposite gunnel so that you could take a better picture with your fish. They know that is what you paid for, it’s what they were working for all day, and in the end a happier client probably means a bigger tip for them. Moving the rods out of the way is one of those things that you don’t think is a big deal when you’re in the moment, but as soon as you are on the plane flying home and look at your pictures you’ll instantly regret you didn’t take a few seconds and move them before taking a picture. You wouldn’t take a picture standing behind a tree branch or fence, so do yourself a favor and make sure all the rods are out of the way before you pose with your fish.
2 – Beware of Shadows
If you’re fishing in Central America I can guarantee you it’s going to be warm, and chances are it’s going to be sunny too. One of the most common mistakes we see is when anglers stand with their back to the sun and their faces and/or the fish are so dark the picture isn’t worth much. When you consider you probably have a hat and sunglasses on, once you take backlit photo you might as well be a bank robber because we aren’t going to know who you are anyway. If moving fishing rods out of your shot is common sense then not being backlit is Photography 101 because it’s easy – we need light in order to see you! Even if you don’t want to see your sweaty face straining to hold your catch still long enough for a picture we at least want to see the fish! The spots on a trout, the beautiful purple of a roosterfish’s stripes, the vibrant greens/blues/yellows of a dorado, and a neon-sign like stripes and dots on a lit up sailfish for marlin are a true thing of beauty. This one is easy too: look up, see where the sun is, and then make sure the photographer’s back, your face, and the fish are facing it. For the sake of happy clients most captains won’t mind taking a few seconds to maneuver the boat for you so don’t be afraid to ask – it’s your fishing trip after all! Other things to be aware of are the shadows from tuna towers, T-tops, and yes those dastardly fishing rods again so don’t be afraid to take your catch to a different part of the boat for a better picture.
3 – Focus on the Head or Eye of the Fish
When you take a picture of you and your family chances are it’s not a shot of torsos and waistlines, unless it’s an ugly Christmas sweater competition, but rather faces and big smiles. Fishing pictures should be no different. Sure everyone wants to see the size of the fish in scale with the person holding it, so go ahead and snap a few of those, but some of the best fishing pics we see are close ups of the head of the fish. This is where the emotion is – the eyeball’s size and color, the gaping mouth, and maybe even the hook still firmly in place since you are such a talented angler. This is even more important with toothy critters like wahoo, mackerel, needlefish, and cubera snappers. You get bonus points if you can take a shot with the head of the fish and the angler together.
4 – Get Out of the Shot!
Hopefully you have good enough friends where you don’t need photographic evidence to prove to them that you actually caught a fish, so we recommend you put your ego aside for a second and take a few pics of just the fish itself. Their colors, markings, and hydrodynamic design is a thing of beauty. There’s no doubt you should absolutely take several shots of you and your eight foot wide smile with your fish, but if it’s the catch of a lifetime you may want to give it it’s own private photo shoot to remember every detail of your trophy. Plus with our friends at King Sailfish Mounts you don’t need to kill a fish and transport it home to have it hang it on the wall of your mancave, just take a few nice shots and their talented marine artists can make an exact replica of your fish including size, coloring, and unique markings or scars.
5 – Add a Splash of Color
Rarely can there be too much of a good thing when fishing in Central America, especially when we are talking about sunshine and clear blue waters, but when it comes to fishing pictures that combo can be overwhelming. So many pictures we see, and take ourselves, have an overall blue tone from the light reflecting off the cobalt blue waters. On top of that many of us anglers have blue shirts, hats, or shorts and of course blue polarized sunglasses so the blue theme is reinforced even more. We can’t always rely on the fish to provide the color needed to make a picture really pop so it’s amazing what a splash of color from a brightly colored shirt or even a lure can do for you. Next time you fish in Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, or Guatemala consider that your surroundings, the light, and the background will most likely be some shade of blue so if you wear a bright shirt or take a picture of the lure/fly that landed you the fish in the first place you may be surprised how much of a difference a little color makes.
6 – The Background is Your Friend
If you only looked at the fishing pictures we post you might think the Central America is a tiny island surrounded by endless blue oceans. Truth is, the rugged, rainforest-covered coastline is one of the most beautiful things about fishing in Central America as the contrast between bright blues, vibrant greens, and dark browns is stunning. When you take a picture with something in background – be it the coastline, a sunset, other boats or even storm clouds it add depth, perspective, and extra color to your picture. If you can get the right angle it can even remind you exactly where you were that day and transport you back there years later. Sometimes an unmarked, blue background is exactly what you want for your picture, but to give them more life try incorporating some background into them as well.
7 – Capture the Action!
In order to take an epic fishing pictures you need to bring the fish to the boat of course, but don’t forget about the important part of the process that gets your adrenaline pumping and muscles burning – the fight. If you’re lucky enough to have someone who actually wants to hear about your latest wild fishing adventure – hang on tight to them and buy them a drink so they stay! Although your oratory skills may rival Lincoln or Churchill and you can retell a story like Christopher Nolan, do your pal a favor and make your story come to life with some clear, crisp action shots. This may require something bigger and badder than a smartphone like an SLR camera with image stabilization, but when you capture that billfish skying out of the water in crystal clarity it’s worth every penny. We’ve seen enough pictures of anglers’ backs hunched over fighting a fish, or maybe they are just hooked on the bottom, so we want to see the fish fighting to take us back to the excitement of battle. Any fish that jumps is worthy of a picture – dorado, tarpon, and of course billfish – and with time you’ll learn that certain species behave in a certain way. Hook a billfish and you are in for a couple jumps, maybe a furious tailwalk, and a long run but it may be too far away for a good pic. Once they get near the boat and the mate starts to leader them they may very well jump again if they still have energy so that’s the time to be ready with the camera. Tarpon seem to jump three times once they are hooked and then dig deep for a lengthy battle, so once your reel screams the cameraman/woman better be ready to snap! Lucky for me my wife is an excellent photographer so she’s always the first person I invite to come fishing with me…
8- Underwater Shots
Nothing can transport you back to the action of that day better than a photo, so go to where the fish was when you hooked him – in the water! Ever since GoPro’s hit the scene all sorts of action junkies, including anglers like us, have been thinking of new ways to get innovative shots of their craft. Fortunately for us all it takes is long pole and we can capture underwater shots we never imagined possible a decade ago. We’ve seen hundreds of dolphins swimming together, multiple sailfish in the background when filming the one that is close to the boat, and tuna doing their slow death circles with a bright popper in their mouth. Having a camera that can take underwater shots not only provides you with a unique POV on your catch but it’s also easier on the fish should you want to (or have to) release it. It goes without saying that fish go through less stress and have less chance of being hurt if they stay in the water, especially billfish, so with a GoPro you can still get your closeup while leaving the fish where they belong.
9 – Get Creative with Angles
We’ve gradually stepped up the skill level by talking about colors, backgrounds, and even underwater shots so now it’s time to get really artsy. If you want a picture to look different it must be taken differently. Standing up taking a picture of someone else standing up will always give you the same perspective, so try kneeling or sitting and looking up at the fish to make it seem bigger and more powerful. Ever notice how in movies bad guys always seem so tall and powerful? It’s because they are often shot from below to give them a position of power. The same principle works with your fishing pictures, so if you already look good holding a fish (which we assume you do, of course) take it a up a notch and try shooting from below. If you boat a trophy fish and want to put it’s size in perspective another easy thing to do is stand on a cooler, or even climb the tower, and shoot from above. This will give you the opposite affect of empowering the person holding the fish, it will make them seem incredibly mortal and fragile laying next to your sea monster.
10 – Dance With Who You Came With
As the Christopher McCandless quote goes, “happiness is only real when shared“, so be sure to take plenty of fishing pictures with your friends, family, and loved ones that are sharing the boat with you. They are every bit as important to this story as the fish, plus they may be your only live witness to the events in question! The sad truth is you’ll never be in that spot, with that fish, at the same time again so there is only one way to remember it – take a picture. A good one. Please.