Picture Pointers for Paddlers

Over the decades I have sold hundreds of articles, promoted sponsors, events and products with my pictures. Years back when I first started as an outdoor communicator the film had to be developed before you actually saw what you captured on the line and in the lens. Great photography is not easy but everyone can take good pictures. Thus a few of my personal favorite pointers for your pictures.

  • Camera choices- with the advent of digital photography there exists a huge advantages. Cost is minimal compared to the purchasing and developing of film in the “old days.” You have the ability to instantly review and transfer pictures as well as editing programs available on your computer or fancy phone. The camera mode on most phones is suitable along with Microsoft office, the paint program, Photoshop on you electronic devices can be great tools. Learn and use each editing aspect but try not to get carried away. Many online users of your photos may want them resized.
  • Tell the story – Pictures sell everything, magazines, product, editors, sponsors and outdoor associated businesses. A great picture can tell a stand-alone story and create great interest. Who, what, where and when comes through the lens for a well-planned picture. As you peer through the view finder, think about what you want to see. Look for details; the background, rods, baits, hats, logos, boat and angler all need to be part of the story.
  • Appeal to your audience – Who is your end line user? Does the picture speak to them? Is your goal a family, tournament competitor, specific to a species, maybe a location? Does the picture appeal to a broad audience? Consider this before you press the button.
  • Lighting – One of the most critical aspects of a good picture is the lighting. Soft light of dawn and sunset makes for a memorable shot. Bright sun requires a tip back of the hat to avoid totally shading the subject, and possibly requires repositioning of the fish, boat or angler. Use of a flash, called a “fill flash” when done correctly removes unwanted shade or shadows.
  • Identify Sponsors- If you have sponsors or are seeking sponsorship, promote their product or service. The intentional but subtle use of logos incorporated into the frame are highly desirable and effective. This starts when composing a shot, spot the logos on boats, paddles, hats and stickers. Most editors don’t remove or blur these inclusions whereas a mention viewed as a commercial in articles is deleted before publishing.  This is not sneaky, just clever.
  • Super Subjects – BIG fish make for a great picture. Holding the fish correctly not to make it look like a freak of nature is tricky. Don’t do the “long arm” where the fish is thrust into the lens and looks like it’s bigger than the boat! Hold the fish as to not cover sponsor patches, with knuckles back and out slightly away from the body. The “grip and grin” shot has been done to death.
  • *Do Something Different - Hold fish up higher, get a profile of the fish and happy angler, shoot down into the boat from an elevated position, get down and get wet and shoot from a low angle to up. Be creative; pictures should be interesting, different and exciting, shoot for the “wow factor”.
  • Background – When you compose your shot make sure no unwanted background items are in the frame. No signs, roadways, vehicles (unless you have a truck sponsor) trees growing out of the head of the angler. It’s not acceptable to highlight your experience with cigarettes, alcohol containers or less than desirable elements in the shot. Consider removing sunglasses for some of the pictures and PFDs should always be on unless you relocate to, dry land, the shoreline or a boat dock.
  • Camera action – Action shots get the attention of others and memorializes a spilt second in time and should show the highlight moments of the adventure.  If you have a hooked bass at the end of your line, get the light right and watch for the fish to flare its gills, that’s a signal she’s about to go airborne. This makes for an exciting highly enjoyable, sought after picture. A few more complimentary shots are the cast, a hook set and of course landing the fish. Remember pictures promote and sell! Take the time to get them right.
  • Close ups – Don’t forget close ups. Technical details come to life in good close up shots. Stage the shot using light and a well-placed lure and a partially pulled up fish. An old television tip I offer is a saying, “you can’t say it unless they see it.”  A good close up helps to explain the details of the catch or rig.
  • Make them want to go – My personal goal is to make people want to go and participate. A top quality picture, coupled with a well written story, or action packed video or an enthusiastic seminar gets people interested in paddling, kayaking, fishing or just exploring the great outdoors.