Everybody knows a good picture when they see one. While it isn’t foolproof, there are some ways to stack the odds in your favor and get that awesome picture to frame on the wall.
1. Read these tips, read them again, then have your buddies read it. Even if you know how to get a decent fish pic, if you ever want to be in one of them, your friends need to know what they’re doing. I have TONS of great hero shots with my friends holding fish, but not many with me…. and that sucks.
2. Take a few deep breaths…. calm down. When you’ve just landed a slab, your first thought is to grab that fish out of the net for the photo. Rushing things will just make for bad pictures and stress the fish. Take a moment or two to admire your catch in the net while leaving it in the water.
3. Get yourself presentable. After you’ve caught your breath, check your appearance. You want to look your best for that hero shot, so zip all of your zippers, tuck in any loose clothing (don’t forget your wader pouch), and get ready to smile.
4. Get the camera ready. Now that you’re not a disheveled mess, have your photographer, most likely your buddy (refer to step #1) get the camera out, check the settings and make sure the lens is clean. It’s best to have the camera prepared prior to wetting a line.
5. Assume the position. Get comfortable, you don’t want to be all hunched over, or in some awkward position while you are holding the fish. I suggest you take a knee in shallow water if that’s an option.
6. Figure out where the light is coming. It’s best to have the sun (ideally filtering through some clouds) behind the camera. Attempt to get even light on the face and the fish, and if you can, go for a darker background.
If you have bright sunlight, the fish is going to glow. It will be much brighter than the angler’s face, so try to angle it with the least amount of reflection possible. It often helps to align the sun to one side or the other as opposed to directly behind the photographer in this case.
7. Figure out which is the fish’s good side. Before you handle the fish, determine which side looks best with the fewest scars or marks on it… however, sometimes a scar or abnormality is what makes that fish awesome. Use your best judgment here. Often, the position of the fly is important.
8. Try to look like you’ve been here before. You can always tell the guys who have handled lots of fish because they look like that fish should be in their hands. Try to be comfortable and confident. Smile or don’t smile, look at the camera or look at the head of the fish. It doesn’t really matter – just try not to have the deer-in-the-headlights look.
9. Be careful with the fish. When you squeeze a fish too hard, it will look like it’s eyes are going to pop out, or that it’s about to throw up it’s last meal. If you hold a fish correctly, there is no reason to squeeze.
10. Hide your fingers, leader, and fly line. Try to show off as much of the fish as possible. It is most comfortable to put your hand on the camera side of the tail, but it looks better if your hand is behind the fish. Also, it looks awful when leader and fly line is between the fish and the camera.
11. Keep the fish close to the water. Fish look best next to the and they only need to be lifted a few inches for a good photo. You might even catch a badass reflection if you have good light. Keep them over the water just in case they’re dropped and avoid the whole outstretched arms thing. That looks stupid.
Sometimes (especially with big fish) it’s cool to get right in the water with them.
12. Fill the frame. The subject should be the angler, and of course the fish, so fill the frame with them! You want some background, but just a bit. Sometimes it’s easy to turn what was supposed to be a hero shot into a scenery shot with a tiny little guy (or gal) with a fish in the center of it. If the scenery is amazing, there are some happy mediums, however (as in the photo above).
13. Act quick and be efficient. That fish just fought for its life and is stressed out and low on oxygen. Don’t keep it out of the water for any more time than is necessary. Keep it in the water until everybody is ready, and then take a few quick photos and get it back in there. Also, don’t forget the release, often those can make some awesome photos as well.
Hopefully these tips help you get that perfect shot.