Fishing and outdoor photography is much more challenging that it looks. In outdoor environments, light levels are highly variable and ever changing. To achieve consistently good results you need the ability to adapt your photographic techniques to any conditions.

We’ve all seen the fishing shots of a stunning fish but an angler buried in shadow, or a perfectly exposed smiling face but a bright white blown-out fish. Actually, we are sick and tired of looking on those awful shots. That’s one of the rules here at OnDECK, if you want your images on OnDECK, make sure you they are good. We are not negotiating on that.

Unless you’re intentionally aiming for artistic shots, the aim for most fishing photography is to produce evenly exposed photographs with great color and focus.

Here are a few tips to achieve just that.


Bright clear sunny days are often problematic for outdoor fishing photography. Strong directional sunlight creates a large differential between highlighted and shaded areas in an image. This results in overexposed or underexposed sections of a photograph.

The easiest way to get around sunny days is to always make sure the sun is behind you when you are taking the photo! You can’t get a better shot than that. Natural light is awesome and brings out amazing colours. Even get you and your camera into a bit of shade and make sure the sun is behind you and on the “face” of what you are shooting.

Likewise, extremely overcast conditions that block out natural light and subtle highlights are also challenging. Dark and overcast conditions can result in grainy images that are flat, dull and unappealing. That being said, increasing exposure can give some amazing colours. When it is overcast, you are really going to need to crank that camera up.

Lightly overcast days usually present the best conditions for fishing portrait photography. The scattered cloud acts as a filter that produces gentle highlights and a soft natural light that is evenly distributed, as long as you are standing with the sun light behind you.


There are a couple of ways to expose a photo in bright outdoor light. The first is to move into an area that provides a consistent light source either in full sun or in full shade. Full shade will deliver an even exposure, but there is a risk that the photo will appear dull.

In full sun, you must ensure that a similar intensity of light is also hitting the typically dark spots, such as the anglers face. Occasionally the water reflection or the white deck of a boat can effectively bounce and reflect light into the shadows. The problem then is that the angler is likely to squint or look away from the bright light. Tell them to keep it together because those reflections give great light and you can take some amazing shots.


Fill light from a flash or strobe is an alternative way to achieve an even exposure in strong directional light. The fill light punches into the dark sections of a subject and lifts them to a similar intensity as the sun drenched features.

Fill flashes are commonly mounted on camera and provide a direct light source to the subject. Although this is often sufficient to fill the shadows, a front-on light tends to be flat and can create hot-spot reflections on silvery fish such as Barramundi.

The best way to utilise flash fill is to use an off-camera flash or strobe. Holding a light slightly to the side of a subject provides more depth and volume and produces an image that pops. It also avoids nasty front-on reflections. An off-camera flash can be connected to the camera via a cable, infrared trigger or a radio trigger and strobe set-ups can include umbrellas or soft boxes to diffuse the light.


Lighting a subject to balance it with bright background scenery is particularly important between shade and sunlit areas, and at sunrise and sunset. The trick is to set your exposure on the bright background and then adjust the flash output to match the background exposure.

This technique can be fiddly and requires some trial and error. It’s best to practice balancing light at home in a relaxed environment before attempting it on the water. You need to have your methods nutted-out well before attempting it in an intense fishing environment. Once you add kicking fish, salt water spray, changing light conditions, and impatient anglers into the mix, it’s a hectic situation, even for seasoned photographers.

These outdoor lighting scenarios are the most common challenges that fishing photographers will encounter. If you’re keen to improve your photography and snap superb photos, think very carefully about lighting and exposure. Take time to practice balancing light in a range of situations, then hit the water and put your skills into practice.


There are two times of day where you really cannot go wrong. They time is very short and is gone in a moment. As night turns to day and day turns to night there is a short moment known as twilight. Do no confuse this with dusk and dawn. Twilight is a special period of time of change from one to the other and that is a great time to take your photos.


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Peter Hollingsworth

Peter has been fishing all around Australia since he was a boy. He loves camping, fishing and kayak fishing.