Keep an Eye on the Sun
By Rodney Hsu, Fishing with Rod | Published in October 2012
You are out fishing on a sunny day, find the catch of a lifetime at the end of your line. Once you bring the fish in, you snap a photograph of the fish to capture the moment. Everything goes according to plan until you discover that the photograph does not turn out as well as you like it to be.
When it comes to fish photography, or any photography in fact, the sun can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Because a fish's body is quite reflective, special consideration should be given when deciding the position of the fish in relation to the sun before pressing the shutter button.
Due to the excitement of catching a fish, a common mistake which people tend to make is to partially cover the subject with their shadow. The first and second photographs are good examples of this mistake. In the first photograph, the contrast is very apparent as half of the fish is covered by boat's shadow. With the strong sun beaming down, the front section of the fish is well exposed while its second half is almost completely dark. To avoid this problem, the fish should have been lifted higher, above the boat's shadow. The photograph could also have been taken on the other side of the boat, where the fish would be fully exposed to the sun.
The mistake in the second photograph is not as obvious because the sun is on the subject's side instead of from the back. The head of the fish is slightly darkened by its body. If it was pointed more toward the camera, then this issue could have been resolved. There are other shadow problems in this photograph. The angler's face is completely shaded and the shadow of the thumb can be seen across the fish's body. To completely eliminate all these issues, the angler simply had to turn to his right when the photograph was taken.
Directly exposing your fish to the sun is not always the best solution. Combining the intensity of the sun and the brightness of the fish, your subject can be over-exposed. Salmon and trout are often victims of this mistake because their silvery body is the perfect reflective material of sunlight.
A good example of this can be seen in the above photo, where more than half of a pink salmon is simply a white patch. An over-exposed fish loses all small details such as the lateral line, scales and spots. If you are using a point and shoot camera, then your options are pretty limited. An alternative is to have the fish slightly angled to the sun so these details can be captured. If you have a DSLR camera, then you can easily correct this problem by shooting at a high shutter speed and/or using a neutral density filter.
When the fish is positioned correctly and the settings to adjust lighting are finely tuned, the end result is a picture which can be treasured for a long time. Details of the fish in the above photograph are completely captured because sunlight is coming from one o'clock in relation to the fish. The spots along this Blackwater rainbow trout, every little scales, the lateral line and its pink cheek can clearly be seen. The only shaded area is its bottom side, which is very minimal in comparison to the rest of the fish.
Before snapping a photograph of your prized catch on a sunny day next time, take a moment and look up. By paying attention to where the sun is, you will be able to capture a complete picture of your fish.