Shooting Fish CloseUp

When I set about photographing fish, my objective is to show the character of that particular individual. I try to get personal as if to develop an almost silent connection.

The side view of a fish, though well lit, often looks static and flat, with very little impact. This type of picture is ideal for identification purposes, but not much else, and it's certainly not for me in any way whatsoever.

The alternative is the animal portrait — an image approached and captured in such a way as to breathe life and character into the subject. To appreciate this concept in a positive way is the secret of success. The photographer sees the subject and is able to apply his or her own set of principles. Certain techniques, however, can help you to achieve your goal.

As soon as you see a potential subject stop and consider the following:

• The location of the subject

• The image you would like to obtain

• Possible lighting angles

• Your angle of approach.

Remember that you are invading the fish's territory, and so your approach should be very gradual. If possible, stand back and observe its routine. To obtain that better picture you need to anticipate behaviour. This can only occur over a period of time and requires a good deal of patience. If a subject does something interesting once, it will do it again provided that it is at ease with your intrusion into its territory. It's this behaviour that will help to capture a creature's personality, and make it stand out as a special picture. The 'peak of the action' may be a fraction of a second, a moment to anticipate that point of interest in order to turn a good picture into a brilliant one. Where possible, camera and flash adjustments should be made prior to your approach to avoid, as far as possible, frightening the creature away. If this does occur, don't chase it — it's tempting, but it won't work. Given time, the creature will return and, once familiar with your presence, may provide you with the opportunity you require.

Various books describe how fish pictures should 'speak to you'. They should be face to face, close, and looking at the eyes and mouth. Applying the rules of conversation, you don't talk to a person while looking down or looking at the back of their heads. So why do it to a fish?

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