The growing awareness of the impact that recreational fishers can have on fish stocks has highlighted the paucity of information used to inform their management. Most of the available information on the scale and nature of recreational catch and effort has come from intermittent and labour-intensive surveys that provide fragmented insights into often highly variable fisheries. Digital cameras offer a more cost-effective means of continuously monitoring trends in recreational fishing effort, and it is surprising that greater use of this approach has not been made to date given its widespread use in other contexts. We share lessons learnt from four early adopter studies in New Zealand, Australia and Germany, where digital cameras have been used to monitor recreational fishing effort. Many of the challenges that we have encountered and overcome were initially unforeseen, and we suggest solutions and strategies to address these issues. We conclude that all aspects of a camera-based monitoring system should be considered from the outset, to optimize the utility and value of the information they provide over the long term. Aspects to consider include the location and configuration of a camera system, ensuring service continuity, image quality, data storage, image interpretation and ultimately the analysis of any data collected. Robustly designed digital camera monitoring systems can be used to gain greater insight into recreational fishery dynamics, leading to more informed, responsive and effective fisheries management.