Admit it or not, everyone takes photos of their fish. In the world of Instagram and social media, a photo is almost required to cap off a successful catch. You can act like that doesn’t apply to you, but I’m willing to bet you have at least ten different grip and grins sitting proudly in your photo gallery as you read this. With that said, I’m not here to shame you on it. In catch and release fishing, a photograph is the only trophy we get to take home with us. If you’re going to collect that trophy, you might as well do it with class and style. Here is my process for getting “the shot” when it comes to trout fishing.
The Safety Shot
So you’ve just landed an absolute giant that barely fits in the net, your hands are shaky, and stoke levels are through the roof. At this moment, things can flop in a salty direction rather easily. One Houdini act and that giant is gone for good. Don’t even try grabbing at the water as it swims away, because your attempts are futile. We’ve all been there, and staring at an empty net with nothing to show can be quite the bummer. For this reason, I always make sure to grab a quick “safety shot”. Keep that fish wet and take a few pics in the net while you still have the fish secure. Now at the very least, you’re guaranteed a few photos so nobody can say it didn’t happen. Thank me later.
The Hero Shot
I’m not going to give a “keep ‘em wet” lecture. But hey, keep ‘em wet! However, if you’re going for the classic grip and grin and plan to take the fish out of the water (we’ve all done it), here’s how I recommend you go about it.
First off, have a plan and be efficient, but don’t rush. Choose a position that allows you the best lighting and watch out for any camera man shadowing. Most importantly, make sure any camera settings are dialed to where they need to be. This means getting your f-stop, ISO, shutter speed, and camera focus figured out before raising the fish. When it comes to focus, agree before lifting the fish where that fish is going to be held. This will make finding the correct focus a fast and smooth process. Blurry photos suck. With a phone, this is all much easier, but be patient when there's a legit lens involved.
Once it’s time to raise the fish out of the water, stick to the plan! Raise it to where you agreed and don’t try and do any of that weird arm extension stuff. And of course, don’t hold it by the gills. Catch and release or not, it just looks weird. I recommend doing a single hand hold for any fish 17 inches or smaller, and two hands on anything bigger than 17. On the camera man's end, rapid-fire on that SOB! Out of 20 photos, maybe 2 will be keepers. If you’re using autofocus, quickly move around with the camera to get different angles and distances. All said and done, that fish should only be out of the water for 3 to 5 seconds and you should get a solid grip and grin out of the deal (recommended science-based timing for safe catch and release is 10 seconds).
Once you’ve secured your hero shot and a safety shot, anything else is extra icing on the cake. It’s time to put that fish back where it belongs. The angler should do his part to ensure a healthy release. However, the camera operator can still play their part! Not every fish is instantly ready to kick back into the depths. Sometimes they need a second to get their bearings and hang out in the angler's hand until they're ready to go. This is prime time to get your close up beauty shots, underwater shots, or any other clever content you want. Get creative! Once that fish wants to go, respect its wishes, and let it go. As I said, these final shots are just a bonus.
One of my favorite parts to a day of fishing is going home, cracking a beer, and editing photos. I recommend using Adobe Lightroom to edit, but there are a million editing platforms to choose from. Regardless of what you use, take a few minutes to clean your photos up. Photo editing can turn an OK shot to a great one through just a few minor changes. Exposure, clarity, contrast, and temperature are three variables I always mess around with. However, you should experiment and find your style!
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