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15 April, 2024 | Carp | Angler Blogs | Tips | Articles

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Andy Bradnock: A Simple Guide to Catch Photography

If you’re looking to brush up on your photography skills and take better catch pictures on the bank, grab yourself a cuppa and give Andy’s latest article a read below…

Andy says: 

Firstly, please accept my apologies for another technical type piece, I will chuck in a few fish pictures just to keep you interested. As a bonus, later on there is a booby picture.

I have seen a fair few articles that are aimed at producing better catch pictures. I think carp angling is just a strange collecting hobby, and what we are doing is collecting pictures of fish in a very convoluted manner.

The most important thing to consider is, no matter how good your catch pictures are, they DO NOT belong on your Tinder profile. The fact that you are a carper should be carefully concealed from any potential life partner for as long as possible. Once they are committed, and only then drip wise, allow them insight into this bizarre world we love. It makes me laugh there is an algorithm on dating sites that automatically filters out any man’s profile that contains fish pictures. It’s like you people don’t want to have sex.

Most of the articles on photography in the angling media seem to concentrate on all the clever stuff, involving f-stops, film speed and white balance. I do love all of this, being a bit of a photography nerd and have spent many hours in jungles and remote islands photographing some amazing things. All this clever stuff is great when shooting on a fancy Nikon camera but is fairly pointless to the vast majority of us that take our catch pictures on a mobile phone.

There are plenty of catch photos that could be greatly improved, no matter what the photograph is taken on. However, one person’s aesthetic is not another’s, so I am just giving my opinion on what I think looks nice. We spend a lot of time, money and effort on collecting our fish photos and with a little effort and forethought, we can make them look amazing.

The initial thing to think about is to calm down when the carp has just gone in the net. Don’t drag it straight out of the water – it has just fought for its life and needs plenty of oxygen. It is the equivalent of us running 400m, flat out and then someone pushing your head into a bucket of water. Leaving it in the net gives it a little time to recover, and time for you to calm down and sort your head out.

If you are planning to weigh and photograph the fish, get all the kit for this sorted before the fish leaves the water. Get your hook treatment solution and a bucket of water to wet the fish with. Make sure the sling and mat are well soaked, especially in warm weather. Now select where you are going to position the mat. Firstly, select your background. Try not to have a chaotic bivvy in the background, as it detracts from the fish. I like a bit of interest in the background if possible. A flowering dog rose, or some bright berries on a bush would be my preference but this is rarely possible. So long as the background is natural and leafy, I am usually happy. Sometimes we are fishing in less salubrious environments and a Nando’s car park is all we have to work with.

The other issue to consider is lighting – you definitely want a consistent light. Dappled shade is perfect for wooing and picnics, but will make catch pictures look terrible. Its fine if it’s all in shade, the camera can cope with this, it’s the mix of light and dark that confuses the exposure meter. Full sun can make photos look harsh and washed out, because lots of light is reflected off a wet fish causing ‘whited out’ areas on the fish. This represents lost pixels so cannot be corrected in an editing suite without some considerable skill. I have found that some fish are also quite restless and wriggly when held up in direct sunlight. I assume that they find it uncomfortable, as they cannot blink or close their eyes.

So once a spot has been chosen, do everything there, rather than moving the fish around. The more often a carp is moved, the greater the chance of damage. We cannot get overly precious as we have just deliberately hooked and landed a fish, but while it is in your care it’s your responsibility to ensure it doesn’t come to any further harm. So hopefully, by this stage, your heart rate is back under control and you are making sensible decisions. The next issue is who is taking the photos. Will it be some random dog walker, with glasses thicker than the Hubble space telescope, or your best friend? If they are not available, then it will be self-take time. This is surprisingly easy, and for an outlay of around a tenner, there are some options that make self-takes an easy and better option than Mr Magoo and his errant Labrador.

 

Taking a Photograph

So, your friend has just caught the best fish in the lake, and you are up for camera duties. Firstly, take a picture of the intended photo arena. Get the captor to assume their fish holding position, with their hands as wide apart as you think the fish is long. This allows you to judge the background, the exposure and the framing. Make sure the captor is happy with this – remember they are their photographs.

All smart phones now allow adjustment of exposure, known as exposure compensation. +ve means more light falls on the sensor so the picture is lighter, -ve means less light falls on the sensor, which will make the picture darker. Also, camera phones are set at a fairly wide angle. Therefore, you can get closer and get the image to fill the screen. However, this distorts the image a little and can make the fish look bigger – but to my eyes this looks a little strange. Therefore, get the camera to zoom ever so slightly, and be a little further away.

The way you position yourself is important, as you want to be at least level with the fish rather than standing up and shooting downwards. You can also move the aspect around a little. Get the straight on pictures first, then try a lower position and various angles – sometimes these odd angles are the best of the bunch.

It’s also your job to ensure the captor is holding the fish as well as possible, making sure the fish is upright and hands aren’t all over its head etc. You don’t want pictures that look like the old Starmer bait ads, especially as the guy used to have a fag in his mouth as well. I prefer to have the fish with its head slightly elevated, but again this is just a personal preference.

 

Self-Takes

They are not as difficult to perfect as you would first think. You just need to purchase two simple things – a clamp to hold the phone (I use a spring-loaded affair that attaches to a bankstick), and a remote shutter button. The remote I use is cheap and really simple, working with any phone via Bluetooth. It therefore doesn’t need to be pointed at the phone – I hate the look of remotes held under a fish. What I do is put the remote in a small zip-lock bag and wrap an elastic band around it. This then goes on your thumb with the button just under the tip of your thumb. Then pick up the fish as normal, and have the remote pressed up on your side of the fish, using just a thumb tip wiggle to take a photo.

Framing the shot uses the same principle as the previous section. Set up the camera and get into your photo position, hold your hands as far apart as the fish is long, and press your button. Check the photo and make any adjustments you feel are necessary.

It’s personal preference how you hold yourself, but I tend to look at the fish as staring at the camera makes me look plain scary. A hat is always a preference, but that is mainly due to a baldy head.

Night-shots

For night shots, all the previous principles apply, with the main issue being lighting. The flash on a phone camera tends to be surprisingly powerful, considering its size. However, it has a very limited area of influence and produces an intense bright central portion. A wet carp reflects this light, and gives an area that appears white on this fish due to over-exposure. Pixels are lost and the all -important details can be destroyed. Under exposure is not as bad as the picture can still be corrected in an editing suite, as none of the detail is lost.

I think it is better not to have to rely on the flash at all, but it’s vital to get enough light on the frame to allow a fast enough shutter speed to prevent movement blur. This I achieve by using 3 diffused light sources, which conveniently double up as bivvy lights and charging banks as well. Diffused means that the light is softened, like when sunlight comes through cloud. There are a number of versions available, and they are generally reasonably cheap. I use one on each side, and one low down in front of me, ensuring that the side ones are directed at the background to light this. Even if you are taking a photo with just the camera flash, the background is still important as it reflects the flash to fully expose the frame. Otherwise, you get a picture where the fish and captor are lost in a black sea. The last, and most important, aspect of night shots is to remember to remove your head torch. It makes you look like one of those Americans that hunt Bigfoot and eat roadkill.

I hope that some people will have found a little bit of useful information in all this drivel, and maybe get some better pictures as a result. Lastly, don’t forget there are plenty of other things around you to take photos of which will help create a memory of a session – all of which a phone camera is more than adequate to capture.

Photos are a permanent reminder of some of our best moments that will still make you smile years later, make them count and pick a photographer who feels the same is my advice!

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