Good Photography - An Important Part of the Fishing Experience

As a photographer I have had the pleasure of shooting photos all over the United States. I have been fortunate enough to have my photos on the cover of Bass Master magazine and others, and they’ve also been used for many inside-the-cover photos over the years.

Until Darren Shell and I starting writing my new book, The last Smallmouth, I had forgotten the importance of the photos I’ve taken over the years. The new book includes photos of my son when he was about ten years old as well as current photos of him, and there are photos of good friends like Porter Wagoner, Conrad Jones, Floyd Prease and others. (Some of them are helping me with my new book and this web site.) There are also photos of new friends like the ones of Carl Haley with his first red eye, and Reggie Smith with his best smallmouth.

I guess the point that I am trying to make is this: There will come a time when the photos you take now will mean a great deal to you. I love sitting around with my grandson and showing him the photos of his dad, my son, and me, his old granddad.

I’ll also be that photo of Carl’s first redeye that hangs in his hunting and fishing lodge will cause someone to ask, “What kind of fish is that you’re holding?” His answer will probably detail the trip where he caught his first red eye, and it will most certainly take him on a trip down memory l

Documenting the fish you catch, where you catch them, how you catch them and mostly importantly who you catch them with is an important part of the fishing experience as far as I’m concerned. Over the years I’ve documented nearly all of my fishing trips and use that information both for the memories and for the documentation of the trip for my fishing journal. You can and should do the same.

I hope that you have noticed that I used the word “photos” and not “pictures.” They are to different animals. It is a wonderful thing to have picture albums to look through when the neighbors come over or the kinfolks come for a visit, but “photos” are the special ones — the ones that are in frames displayed for all to see, the best of the best you could say. One more very important fact about them is that they can never be taken again.

With the cameras we have now, many more things can be done (and more easily) with the photo than what could be done years ago. You can crop, change the color, and of course view the photo when it is shot to see if you like it or not. With all of these things at our fingertips, there is no excuse for shooting a bad picture.

With these things in mind let’s look at what goes into making a good photograph.

The Importance of the Subject

If your subject is someone holding a big fish, let that be 90% of your photo. What is going on around the person and the fish is for the most part not necessary. A close-up is better than a distance shot. Be sure the person and fish are totally in focus before you move on to the next shot. You can recrop the photo later when you have time, but get in the practice of doing it right the first time and you’ll be happier with the results.

There are some instances when a photograph of someone holding a fish might benefit from some of the things going on in the background. If there’s activity or something interesting there, that may help tell the story of the place or time when the fish was taken. You have to be the judge of that. I will say that I have never seen a good photo of someone with their prize catch with a telephone pole that looks like it’s growing out of their head in the background. Those are pictures not photographs.

Now don’t think I have taken a few of the telephone pole shots — I have — but I don’t let that happen now. I’ve learned that you have to be aware of what is around you and the subject(s) you’re photographing in order for your shot to come out as a truly good photo.

In the future, we will post more ways to make good photographs, because I think this is something all fishermen should do to document their fishing experiences. I am going to list a few that we will be writing about in the future.

• Composition

• The rule of thirds

• Depth of field

• Color vs. black and white

Until then, keep shooting pictures of everything you can and take a photograph or two along the way. The things you photograph won’t ever happen again, but you’ll have the photos for a lifetime. ~ Tony Bean

This photo tells the story of the fish and where it was caught, in this case Arizona. This is an instance where the background helps with the story the photo is telling. The man holding the fish is Conrad Jones.

Tony Bean smallmouth bass expert's photos

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