How to Take Snapshots

These are tips on how to take snapshots and not meant to be a course on photography. We’re not going to get into “f” stops or shutter speeds. Heck, the only setting my Cannon AE1 35mm ever saw was “auto”. These are just things I’ve learned the hard way. You don’t want to get home from a great fishing trip only to find out that all the fishing pictures you took turned out lousy.

I can remember the worst experience I ever had with a camera. I took a trip to Canada with a guy I worked with and a bunch of his friends. I was using a 35mm camera I had just purchased and was a real novice. I had already used it at home for practice and was expecting to get some really good shots of our trip and hopefully a few pictures of trophy fish. I learned from a friend that you can get an extra shot or two off a roll of film by just getting it started on the take up roll. The instructions tell you to give it a couple of extra insurance cranks. Well towards the end of the trip I didn’t give it a second thought when the counter went a couple of shots over. I got nervous when it got up to 40+ shots on a 36 exposure roll. I know what you’re thinking, “the dummy didn’t feed the film on the take up roll far enough and it didn’t catch”. Worse, there was no film in the camera. That’s when I learned you do not have to have film in a 35mm camera to advance the take up roll and cock the shutter. So every time you press the shutter button it sounds just like your snapping a picture. Okay, I hear all you shutter bugs out there saying “yea but if the crank handle isn’t turning, you should have known there was no roll on the spool”. And thank you for that! Where were you when I was in Canada?

Now you know why this is about how to take snapshots and not “Photography 101”. Would you take lessons from a guy that just admitted to shooting a whole trip with no film?

What I do want to share with you are some basic tips on how to take snapshots to insure a good shot and avoid some of the more common mistakes of which I’ve made all of them. The pictures on this page were all taken with a 35mm camera and then scanned to use for the web.

Reminiscing over a great trip with a few friends is so much sweeter when you can share pictures of trophy fish with them. It’s hard to brag about the big one if you don’t have a good picture to back it up. My buddies son-in-law came home from the state run phosphate pits one day with a story of a monster he had caught. He said he weighed it in at 13+ pounds and then eased it back over the side of the boat to keep a nearby boat from seeing it…secret spot! We ask to see the pictures but he hadn’t taken any. I don’t care who saw me catch the fish or if they saw where I caught it…I’m getting a picture! Personally, I would have gone over to their boat and ask them if they would take the picture for me. To this day we tease him and tell him we don’t believe him.


Lake Rosalie, FL. 9 Plus Pounds Mike's 9_10 from Lake Walk-n-Water, FL.

Look at picture #2. That’s my brother holding up a fish that weighed just less than 10 pounds. Not only was it a great fish but he weighed it in at the tournament we were fishing. If you look at his face, (what face?), it is totally shadowed by the bill of his hat. This was my fault for not paying attention to what I already knew about how to take snapshots, midday with a bright sunny sky. And, that is, what you see through the view finder is not necessarily what the lens sees and, consequently, what the picture is going to look like. I could see his face but with the contrast of the bright sky and the shadow of the bill of his cap the lens couldn’t.

Best time to take a photo is in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky. Turn the boat or swap ends with your buddy who’s holding the fish. Get the sun over your shoulder and on their face before shooting. This is one of the first things you’ll learn from any tips on how to take snapshots.

When taking a picture during the mid afternoon, make sure the subject takes their hat off. At the very least have them tip it back or turn it around so the bill is not shading their eyes. You may need to use a flash to light up their face if you see any shadow. Also use a flash on cloudy overcast days.

Fill the Frame

Florida Largemouth Bass 12 Year old boy with 8 pound FL. Largemouth

When I was learning how to take snapshots of fish, I learned early on to hold the fish in front of you, extend it towards the camera and up to your chin. Even better beside your face, as in photo #3, to get everything in the view finder without having to back up or zoom out. You’re trying to fit as much as you can into as small a space as possible so you do not have to back up or zoom out making the subject smaller. You could go crazy with this and over do it. Holding the fish too far out and towards the camera is going to cause the photographer to focus on one or the other leaving the other blurred. There are camera tricks to avoid this. I always said, “Those with the longest arms catch the biggest fish”. Don’t worry about cutting off the top of the hat or even the tip of the fishes’ tail. You’re trying to compact everything into a small area so you can get in as tight as possible and fill the frame.

Look at the fuzzy picture (#4) of me with a kid. This was a 12 year old boy with an 8 pounder that he couldn’t hold up by himself. I had his mother take the picture. I should have asked her if she knew how to take snapshots to fill the frame but I didn’t want to insult mistake. As you can see we appear small and look like we’re several feet away. Also it was right at sun up and we should have used a flash to lighten the shot up. I really can’t see anything we did right on this shot. In the other picture (#3), you can see how the camera was in tight (good) but again there’s too much shadow to see the detail on the fish or the anglers face.

The primary subject is the fish. You, or whoever is holding the fish, just happen to be the proud angler that caught it.

More “How to Take Snapshots” Tips

  • Wet the fish before taking your shot.
  • All the pictures you see here were taken with a 35mm camera and then scanned to put on the web. The difference between a 35mm and a digital camera is, with the digital, you have the ability to see exactly what you have right away. When learning how to take snapshots with a digital camera the same principles apply. You can make the same mistakes with a digital camera but have the advantage of correcting them on the spot.
  • The little pocket cameras that you can buy for about $8.00 work great too, just follow the same rules.
  • Remove the sunglasses.
  • Smile. It always bothers me to see someone holding up a trophy fish and staring at the camera like it’s a bother. It’s a proud moment anytime you catch a big fish even if it’s not your personal best. Fishing is supposed to be fun, look like you’re having a good time.

Remember the Three S’s

When learning how to take snapshots it’s important to keep in mind these three simple rules.

  1. Shadows (the lens doesn’t see what you do)
  2. Smile (say cheese)
  3. Sunglasses (who’s the cool dude holding that fish?)

Photo Gallery

Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge.

Lake Walk-n-Water, FL. 7 pound largemouth bass Colombo's friend 7 plus Florida bass

All of these pictures are good examples of how to take snapshots. Look at how the fish is in front of the person holding it and up to the chin or beside the face. Although there are shadows on their faces, you can still see them well enough to pick them out of a line-up.

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