Alright, so I feel like I need to start this with a disclaimer. My first real camera purchase (one that you can interchange lenses) was only a few months ago and I've never taken a photography class. So I'm no expert when it comes to taking high quality photos. Although I'm a novice, I've learned a lot through trial and error. For every decent photo I get, there are about a dozen that would make you cringe.
Now that, that's been said, let's talk about responsible fish photography. More and more evidence is coming out that the good old "Grip 'n Grin" can actually have a significant impact on fish survival rates. I won't go on and on about that here, we all care about the wonderful resource we spend hours pursuing. So let's all agree that catch and release fishing along with responsible photography will help maintain healthy populations of trout in your local watershed. Below, are my five tips for keeping fish wet (#Keep'emWet) when taking photos.
1) Use a Net:
This one is simple. Using a net can help keep the fish fully submerged, water pulsing over their gills, while you quickly grab your camera from you bag. The net can also provide for an interesting context or backdrop for the photo. Without a net, the fish usually remains in your hand (and out of the water) or struggling on the end of your line while your prepare your camera.
2) Have a Plan:
I always go to the river, with a general idea of what kind of shot I want to get that day. Honestly, there are only so many variations you can get so I usually think about the backdrop or other items (rod, reel, line, net) that I want to have near the fish.
Having a plan with a friend is also a great way to keep fish healthy. While one person is getting the camera ready, the other can have the fish fully submerged underwater. Whoever has the camera, can then do a little creative directing, snap a few photos and then the fish can be released. Capturing photos of the landing or releasing of fish can also provide for some interesting photos.
3) Different Angles:
Don't just square the fish up and snap a photo. We've all seen that photo, so try to get a new or different angle. Get low to the water, or high above the fish. Get creative here! You'll certainly have some bad photos, but then again, sometimes the new ideas pay off big.
4) Think Macro:
You don't need to get the entire fish and angler in the photo. In all honesty, unless you're Maddie Brenneman or April Vokey, most people are more interested in the fish than your toothy grin and beard. Again, get creative here. Capture the spotting patterns, parr marks, tail, fins, or a streamer tangled in a brown's teeth. Change it up!
5) 30 Seconds:
No matter what you do, keep the fish in the water for as long as possible. If you decide the fish needs to come out of the water for the photo, keep it less than 30 seconds. This is where having a plan can really help. For every second a fish is out of water, they aren't breathing. After a struggle on the end of our lines, they need all the O2 they can get, so keep water moving over their gills as much as possible.
So, those are my novice tips for responsible fish photography. If you're interested in seeing some really great fishing (and lifestyle) photography check out the following feeds on Instagram. These folks are the real deal!