How To? Shoot Schooling Fish

November 14th, 2016

How To? Shoot Schooling Fish

There is perhaps nothing more stunning than watching a giant school of fish move through the water column in a display reminiscent of a large, pulsating organism. Schooling fish have an uncanny ability to seemingly “move as one”, which helps them to ward off predators by appearing larger than a single individual. As incredible as it is to watch in person, capturing interesting photographs of schooling fish is not as easy as it would seem. Here are a few tips and tricks to capturing great photographs of schooling fish.


  1. Try to capture “eye contact” with leading members of the school in order to create a sense of interaction.Schooling Fish Batfish Raja Ampat
  2. The most inspiring images of schooling fish tend to have the fish swimming in the same direction. By swimming in a relaxed manner, photographers can slowly get close to schools. Don’t rush straight at the fish or this will result in them scattering across the reef.
    Schooling Fish

    Fish which are situated in a haphazard fashion, this detracts from the effectiveness

    Schooling Fish Sweetlips

    Fish all facing in the same direction, a more effective technique

  3. Many fish don’t feature very bright colouration such as jacks, barracuda, and several species of surgeonfish. In order to capture a stunning photo of bland coloured fish, try to include brightly coloured reef or corals in the foreground.
    Schooling Fish Surgeonfish

    Bright red seawhips contrast well with bland coloured fish

    Schooling Fish and Seawhips

    Blue/grey surgeon fish don’t stand out well against a blue water background

  4. Use the schooling fish as the “background” of your photo. When it comes to composing wide angle photographs, having “Near and Far” compositional elements in the frame is always a winning combination. With this advice in mind, try to find a complementary foreground subject to illuminate with the fish as background.

    Soft Coral and Schooling Fish

    Bright pink soft coral creates a great foreground subject

  5. Try to add a sense of movement by varying shutter speeds, a slow shutter speed can create a touch of motion blur that creates the idea that the fish are moving.
Motion Schooling Fish Jacks

A slow shutter speed allows these jacks to look like they are swimming


That’s it, a quick set of 5 tips to help improve your schooling fish underwater photography.  Try these tips on your next holiday and let us know about your results.