How to Take Better Kayak Fishing Photos

How to Take Better Kayak Fishing Photos
Words and Photos by Chris Funk

I have a serious sickness when it comes to cameras and fishing. It is bad enough that I am ashamed to say I will put down my fishing rod and pick up my camera to get the "perfect" fishing picture. I get as much enjoyment out of getting an awesome memory shot with my camera as I do catching the fish that made the memory. Hero shots can be great trophies to share with friends and family so let's look at some tips to make them the best they can be. It doesn't matter if you are using a high dollar DSLR, a point and shoot or even a good camera phone, these tips are not gear specific.

The stars of your photos - the fish - will look their best if you take care of them.

The stars of your photos – the fish – will look their best if you take care of them.


Protect the fish. Not only does this tip make good sense for the health of the fish, tired or mistreated fish lose color quickly and don't make very good photo subjects. Keep the fish in the water as long as you can before the shot, this will help keep it clean and the colors vibrant. Keep your hands off the gills. If you must hold a fish by the gill plate, do not grab the red gills inside. That can do serious damage to the fish or cause death. Be cautious of lifting larger fish by the jaw as well, a second hand supporting the middle of the fish is a good idea on the big ones. You can leave extremely large fish in the water and still get great hero shots with some creative camera angles.

Getting into the water and changing the angle makes for keeper photos.

Getting into the water and changing the angle makes for keeper photos.


Change the angle of the shot. If conditions allow, either have the angler enter the water with the fish or the photographer get in the water with the camera. An angler in the water sharing the element with their catch can make a very cool image and is a good way to get a keeper picture in an area that has no character in the background. Having the camera person get in the water can help get a great low angle perspective that is almost always worth the effort and wet pants!

Put interesting trees, rock formations or even buildings in the background to add an extra dimension to your photos.

Put interesting trees, rock formations or even buildings in the background to add an extra dimension to your photos.


Backgrounds matter. Look around the site of the catch; are there interesting trees, rock formations or even buildings? Are there any fall colors or nicely lit flowers or foliage? Use these elements behind the angler to enhance the picture and make it pop for the viewer. Shoot several pictures using the cool background and then shoot several filling the entire frame with the angler and catch; see which ones you like the best.

Choose your focus point carefully to alter the mood of your photos. This one puts the spotlight on the angler and his fish.

Choose your focus point carefully to alter the mood of your photos. This one puts the spotlight on the angler and his fish.


Move your focus point and the angler’s focus point. Most cameras allow the operator to move the focus point or allow you to half push the shutter button to lock the focus. This will let you set the angler holding the fish up in different areas of the frame maximize the impact of the subject. This will also keep the camera from focusing on something you don't want to focus on like the front of the anglers kayak instead of the fish. Have the angler look at the camera on some shots and look at the fish on some. You may be surprised how much it changes the whole image.

The fish aren't the trophies. Those are the memories you'll treasure.

The fish aren’t the trophies. Those are the memories you’ll treasure.


Shoot a lot! I can't stress this one enough; the memories that come from adventures with friends and family are priceless and deserve to be captured to the best of our ability. I realized this fully after losing my father way too young to cancer. The pictures I have of us through the years fishing and hunting are treasures and I am so thankful I took the time to shoot them.

Get as many friends or fishing partners in some shots as you can. It may not be the "hero" shot, but it will for sure be a memory shot. Shooting a lot of pictures from different angles makes sure you will have workable images that you can be proud of. We have all seen the other end of the spectrum with out of focus images or anglers with their eyes closed or any number of things wrong with the image. If I had a dollar for every jacked-up fishing picture I have taken I could afford my own cameraman. Thankfully I have learned to take multiple pictures anytime I am behind the lens.