4 Tips For Capturing Better Release Shots of Your Fish

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4 Tips for Capturing Better Release Shots of Your Fish. Photos By: Louis Cahill

Your best shot at capturing a good photograph of you and your catch, is first having someone along with you that’s competent with a camera in their hands.

But even a world class photographer will tell you, it’s extremely difficult getting those picture perfect photographs, if the person handling the fish has no clue what their doing. Some of my favorite fly fishing shots to look at are catch and release shots, because there seems to be something extra moving about capturing the release of a fish in a photograph. Problem is, release shots are often some of the hardest photographs to pull off on the water. You have to have satisfactory light and adequate water clarity, but even with both of those, much of your success will ultimately be determined by the cooperation of the fish your shooting. Below are four tips for capturing better release shots that Louis and I have learned through trial and error over the years. Followed correctly, they should increase your chances at getting that perfect catch and release shot.

Tip 1: Choose a Calm Stretch of Water for the Release When Possible

Fast moving water isn’t optimal. If you can find a nice eddy or a calm stretch of water close by, you’ll find it much easier to photograph a nice release shot. In most cases, slower moving water will provide you with better water clarity for showcasing the fish below the surface during the release. I’ve also found it’s much easier to handle and keep the fish in proper position in slower moving water.

Tip 2: Keep Your Catch Calm and Relaxed

Don’t be in a rush to get the shot. Keep the fish in the water and in the net until it has calmed down before you move forward with the release shot. This is especially true if you land the fish quickly. A hot fish generally will swim off so fast, it will be hard for the photographer to time and get the best shot. Your goal is to release the fish at a speed that lets the photographer shoot multiple shots. This will increase the chances you end up with the perfect photograph.

Tip 3: Use Your Arm For Better Control and Timing the Release

One of my best tricks I’ve learned over the year when staging release shots is to use my arm like it’s a water slide for the fish. I’ll wet my arm and lay the fish against my arm, then holding the fish’s head in the water, I time the release of the fish as it gently kicks its tail in my hands. If done right, you’ll feel like the release was in slow motion.

Tip 4: Practice Makes Perfect

My first C&R photo attempts with Louis didn’t turn out so hot, but even those failed attempts early on were helpful, because they taught us the right and wrong ways to go about shooting release shots. The more you practice this niche photography, the better you’ll get. Having a camera that has the capability to shooting exposures quickly is very important. Just remember, no matter how much you stage everything perfectly, you still need a cooperative fish, and please don’t jeopardize the health of your catch trying to get the perfect shot. Always make sure the fish has been properly revived before you try a release shot.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “4 Tips For Capturing Better Release Shots of Your Fish


    I always look forward to the photography posts but I’d really like to see one sometime focused on getting better photos for folks who fish solo more often. That’s the case for me. I fish alone 75% of the time and would love to get more from my fishing photos. I understand it’s not ideal, but I have to believe it’s a lot closer to reality for most fishermen.

  2. I’d love to read some pointers on how to get better shots fishing solo, for fish too big to hold in one hand! I usually end up with a head shot that doesn’t adequately display the size of the fish.


    • I have a buddy who solo fishes a lot and takes lots of very good fish photos.

      He lands the fish in his net, quickly sets up his point-n-shoot camera on some bendy tripod legs, and uses the timer function to get his selfies with the fish.

      He does it enough (he’s a very fishy guy) such that he is very efficient at it, and the fish are never out of the water for more than a few seconds.

  3. Pingback: Tippets: Fly Choice in Focus, Tips for Taking Release Photos - Pesca y Bits

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