So you caught a big one, the bass of a lifetime, your biggest muskie ever or a king salmon in a place you’ve never been before. Now what? You can either put the fish on ice and send it on a one-way trip to the taxidermist, or you can slip it back in the water so someone else can share the same thrill you just experienced. Of course, letting a fish go doesn’t mean you’ll never see it again. By shooting a batch of photos, you can hang the fish on your office wall while knowing that it is still swimming.
You don’t need a high-dollar camera and a giant lens. You simply need the basic knowledge of how to take a good picture. Here’s a few pointers:
Work fast. If you want the fish to survive, you should keep it out of the water for no more than a minute or two. Also, avoid excessive handling. Keep your camera close at hand and have an idea of what you want to do before you start handling the fish. If you can, put the fish in your boat’s livewell as you get everything ready for the photos.
Stage the photo. Instead of taking the lure out of the fish’s mouth and holding the fish up for the camera, try keeping the lure in place and holding your rod and reel. Move the lure to a spot where it will show up in the photo, look at the fish instead of the camera, or even pretend the camera isn’t there. Draw the viewer into the picture and tell the story of the moment through the photo.
Take lots of pictures. Just as any professional photographer fires off a rapid succession of frames, you should too. Shoot verticals and horizontals. Shoot from below and above, and if possible, get out of the boat. Zoom in on the fish, back way out to show the scenery, and then frame just the angler holding his fish. Have him turn slightly after each shot and try different poses. Some photos will look great, some won’t turn out so well, but the odds are good you’ll get a few keepers if you take lots of pictures.
Use your flash. Occasionally, the light will be perfect and you won’t need any flash at all. However, a high, bright sun or a dark, overcast day calls for a flash. A flash can fill in those dark shadows created by the brim of a hat and it can turn dull colors into bright, lively ones. As a rule, it’s best to shoot with the sun at your back, but reversing that—shooting into the sun—in the right situation can create a great photo.
Pay attention to details. Is the horizon level? Is your shirt tucked in and your zipper pulled up? Straighten your hat, take off your sun glasses and clean up any clutter that might show up in the background. Remember, everyone who walks into your office or den, including you, will see this picture. How do you want the moment to be remembered?
Practice. Digital cameras give us the freedom to an infinite number of pictures at virtually no cost. That’s why it’s wise to take lots of photos of small fish, ones you don’t really care about showing off to your friends and family. It’s good practice and you’ll have a better idea of what to do when you land the fish of a lifetime. Analyze your pictures and figure out what looks good and what doesn’t. That way, you’ll be ready for the moment when it happens.