Thanks to today's technology, anglers are able to share their catches with the world in a matter of seconds. Even those who don't fancy the crazy world of social media can quickly text photos of their latest catch to their friends and family. These darn smartphones we're so attached to are capable of taking some excellent grip-and-grin photos, as well.
There are, however, some important elements to consider when taking fish photos. I've seen a lot of big bass photos ruined by some common—and very avoidable—mistakes. After working so hard to catch a quality fish, you owe it to yourself to make sure you properly document the memory.
1. Poor focus
Most smartphone cameras will try to auto-focus when taking photos. They'll recognize a human face and hone-in on it. For the fisherman, this often means your face and torso will appear crisp while the bass in the foreground is blurry.
It ain't about how pretty you look. The focus of the image should be on the bass.
When your phone is in camera mode, hold it still and press your finger on the screen where the eyeball of the bass appears. This will override the auto-focus and essentially force the camera to focus on the fish. As a result, the fish will be in perfect focus and will look much more natural to the observer.
2. Improper fish handling
You will be scrutinized on how you hold your bass—I promise. Don't let your catch be overshadowed by a bunch of comments regarding improper handling methods. So let's go ahead and address the elephant in the room.
Particularly on large bass, it's widely frowned upon to hold them horizontally by the jaw without supporting the rest of their body weight with a second hand. Some scientists believe this can cause irreversable jaw damage, hindering the fish's ability to feed.
Even if you don't subscribe to this belief, this method doesn't do any justice to a bass' size or profile: It just looks awkward. The point of the photo is to show off its belly and length and this pose achieves neither.
To achieve this and properly showcase your catch, hold the bass by its lower lip in a completely vertical fashion. If the bass is especially heavy, a horizontal hold with a second hand cradling near its anal fin makes for a great photo while also ensuring a healthy release. Be sure to curl your fingers inward in order to better show off the bass' big stomach.
3. Bad lighting
The beautiful coloring of a bass can really make your photo stand out from the rest. Nothing will screw that up more than bad lighting. This isn't necessarily a problem in lowlight conditions or on overcast days, but shadows can be a real booger when the sun is high.
To remedy this, the subject of the photo—the person holding the bass—needs to be looking into the sun. It's not always fun for the subject, but this illuminates the bass and achieves the nice glisten that makes the fish look healthy and vibrant. When the sun is setting or rising, this method can result in some incredible shots with that special "golden hue" to the photo.
4. Incorrect framing
For most basic fish photos, there's no reason to have a bunch of noise in the background. That's why it's good practice to fill the entire frame with you and your catch. A bunch of dead space above, below or to the side of the subject distracts from the focal point of the image.
This can be achieved by using the camera's zoom, but image quality will often suffer and become grainy. Instead, the photographer should simply move closer to the subject. Make sure the entire fish is in the frame and if the angler's legs are cut out of the photo, there should be no empty space above their head and vice versa.
5. Too many filters
Photo editing apps give us a lot of opportunities to spruce up our favorite fishing photos, but that doesn't mean we're required to use several filters on a single image. Too much doctoring can be incredibly distracting to the viewer.
This is a matter of preference to a degree, but here is my personal belief: If a viewer can tell you edited the photo, it's edited too much. I want my photos to look the way my eyes saw them, but that's not to say you can't tinker with a few basic settings to achieve a more dynamic photo.
Some easy-to-tweak settings include contrast, shadows, highlights, vibrance and saturation. Take some time to mess around with them, but don't get too carried away.
6. Not smiling
Fishing is supposed to be fun. It's even more fun when you catch a big bass. So why in the world wouldn't you smile? Show people how much fun you're having. Not only will it make the photo look better, but it also helps grow our awesome sport. Take your face cover off, make your ballcap straight and look like you're enjoying yourself.
It's interesting how much a mughshot-esque look can negatively affect a fish photo. If I share a big bass photo to our Facebook page in which the angler isn't smiling, nearly every single comment mentions it. The audience's mind totally bypasses the fish, notices someone who looks miserable and comments without paying a bit of attention to the supposed focal point of the image. Coincidence? I highly doubt it.