Take a Photo; It
Will Last Longer!
Taking a photo of a fish
and then releasing it has become the trend for sports
fishers right across the globe. Whether you chase trout
or bonefish the unwritten rule is now 'release' as often
as possible. This is something we support wholeheartedly
and we have not killed a single fish for many years.
Instead we carry a small camera which is used to capture
the moment forever. Something that takes a brief moment
and allows the fish to swim away unharmed and can be
revisited in the album for years to come. A digital
camera even allows you to share successes via email
with friends around the globe instantly.
But how do you ensure that
you get that shot? A decent shot of the fish, fisherman
and situation that will be a fitting reminder of the
occasion. Here we have put together some hints to help
you ensure that you do get a good shot of your next
With most of today's cameras,
taking a sharp, well lit photo is relatively easy. The
automatic control of exposure and focus makes it a simple
exercise. Just point and shoot. But there are still
ways to ensure that you get the most from your camera
and there are some simple rules to follow when composing
a fish photo.
1/ Lights, Lights, Lights,
Lighting is the single
most important variable and you could write your thesis
on it alone. We don't have that sort of space here so
the basics should suffice. The best times to take photos
are in the morning and late afternoon, away from the
harsh midday sun. These times of day usually produce
very 'warm' photos that convey the natural colours of
the day well. Shooting outside these times requires
a little more thought.
First things first though.
You should try and manipulate the scene so that you
get the sun over your shoulder as you take the photo.
Always work out where the sun is before taking a shot.
The subject should have the light coming towards him/her
and it should be coming from behind the camera. Shooting
into the sun often creates severe light situations with
extreme backlight burning out the detail of the surrounds
and leaving the subject in darkness. If you have to,
get in the water and shoot back at the subject on the
bank to get the light right.
If you are shooting someone
in very bright light you often find that the face of
the subject is darkened especially with us fly fishers
who wear hats all the time. The trick here is to use
the flash to fill in the dark areas. I usually take
two shots in this instance. One with flash and one without
to cover all bases. You can see and example of this
below. The first photo was taken with no flash and the
second with the flash. The first shot is too dark with
poor colour and contrast of the angler and fish. The
second using the flash has lit the subject and the angler
and fish are accurately reproduced. The bright side
of the background has been blown away by the flash but
the subject is naturally lit.
Settings; No Flash
Settings; Flash Enabled
2/ Compose Yourself
Photo composition is important
if you want to convey more than just the angler and
fish. While we all agree that the fish and smiling angler
are the most important part of the equation some of
us like to include some of the scenery as well. To take
a 'subject' oriented photo simply put the subject in
the centre and press the shutter button down half way
to get the focus and then take the snap. Taking a SOP
(Subject Oriented Photo) is the main choice near last
light and during the middle of the day as the background
is not important in low light and when using a flash
during the middle of the day the background will often
be blown away by the flash.
For taking a photo with
background included (in this case the raft and river)
getting the depth of the focus correct can be challenging
. The problem is that when using automatic settings
the focus is taken from a central point and this means
that when trying
to put the angler off to the side to include the background,
you often end up with an out of focus subject. By aiming
the centre of the viewfinder at the subject first and
pressing the shutter button down half way you can set
the depth of focus. Then while maintaining the shutter
button half way down to keep the focus you can then
move the the camera to compose the photo as desired.
This means you can first set the focal depth and then
position the the angler off to the side to get the background
in the frame too. The photo on the right is a perfect
example of this technique. This stops the camera from
setting the depth from the middle of the photo and in
this case giving us a sharp shot of the raft but not
of fish and angler.
3/ Remove Unwanted Clutter
Many fishing photos are
ruined by distracting objects in the shot. Anything
that distracts the eye from the subject (unless so desired)
should be removed. For starters you can remove the person
standing behind the subject in the Victoria Bitter T-shirt!
A classic way of ruining a good shot.
Other things such as empty
cans in the boat or a cigarette hanging from the subjects
mouth can all destroy the wide appeal of a photo. Sort
of like the photos taken fifty years ago with an angler
and thirty dead fish on the bank beside him.
Good backgrounds to shoot
at are a mountain range, river or lake you have just
caught the fish in and a blue sky is hard to beat.
4/ Handling the Fish
Taking photos of fish should
be done with the utmost of care. While fish can survive
after sometimes extended periods out of the water, you
should only have the fish out for a matter of seconds.
Keep the fish in the net facing upstream while getting
ready to take the shot. Once set, get the the subject
to wet their hands before touching the fish. Remove
the hook in the net and then hold the fish up for the
shot. Hands should be behind the fish and out of the
way so that you get a good shot of fish and not the
hands! Don't hold the fish out with extended arms. It
is unnatural and doesn't look good. Besides which the
size of a fish can always be told by looking at the
subjects hands in relations to the fish and holding
the fish out only makes the person
After a couple of snaps,
one with flash and one without the fish should be returned
within seconds. The fish should be supported gently
facing into the current until it is ready to swim off.
You should let the fish take as long as it has to, even
if you miss the last opportunity for the night. Wait
until the fish is fully recovered and swims off strongly.
There is no point releasing it early and letting it
possibly die as it is washed away by the currents. To
release a fish early to keep fishing is the height of
selfishness. For more info on releasing fish click here!
5/ Now Act Naturally!
This oxymoron sums up the
final ingredient of a good fish shot. Try and take the
photo with a natural pose. Holding the fish out of the
net while releasing it or with rod in one hand and fish
in the other are both good. There are many options.
Avoid having to hold an awkward position or balance
on a streamside log. Try and be relaxed about the whole
thing. If you can, take plenty of photos of the whole
process leading up to the two take (flash & no-flash)
'money' shot. This often results in a couple of bonus
natural looking shots.
Use the camera's automatic settings to be safe
Take one photo with flash and one without
Be aware of where the sun is. Get it behind the
camera every time.
Do not allow the camera to shake especially with
Use flash under low light conditions on evening
and under the harsh midday sun
Centre the subject or set the focus before recomposing
the photo to include scenery
Remove other people/objects that may draw attention
away from the subject
Handle fish carefully with wet hands and only have
them out of the water for the time it takes to get
your two photos
Keep hands behind the fish and don't hold the fish
out to the camera. It looks unnatural and people
can still tell the size of the fish by comparing
it to your hands
Gently support the fish until it is ready to swim
off on its own. However long it takes
Act naturally and avoid overly contrived shots