Tips for Fish Welfare and Quality Photographs

1 - Fish Care

Specimen Fish:
a) Once you have weighed your fish and decided that it is worthwhile photographing it to capture the memory forever, you should ensure that you have your padded unhooking mat wet and exactly where you wish to photograph the fish. If you are going to hold the fish within a landing net briefly whist preparing for the photograph, make sure you check that the fish is OK and secondly you’re your landing net is secured to the bank.

b) Ideally, you should set up your camera prior to lifting the fish from the water. If you are competent at handling both fish and camera, then using the timer on the camera is an option, but hopefully you will have somebody to take the picture for you.

c) The photographer should be ready with the camera before you attempt to lift the fish and when lifting, try to avoid holding the fish against your body as clothing can damage the skin of the fish and remove its protective membrane. Avoid lifting the fish from under its belly, where many delicate organs including the heart are located. The best way to lift the fish is to have one hand under its head, just in front of the pectoral fins, and one hand under its body, just past the stomach by its anal fin.

d) With the photographer in front of you, place the fish on its side with its back towards you and its belly facing the camera and carefully place your hands under the fish from behind and bring them round to the front of the body. Place one hand under the head and slide the pectoral fin between your fingers and then place your other hand under the rear section around to the anal fin. Slowly lift the fish whilst keeping it level.

e) Be prepared for the fish to kick and be ready to cushion it if it does. Always keep the fish as low as possible to the mat and hold it steady. Big fish can be hard to hold and it helps to brace fish, a common practice is to put your elbows on your knees, therefore giving a rigid frame.

f) Once you have your photo it’s time to get the fish back into the water, making sure it fully recovers, before allowing it to swim away under its own strength. The whole process of photographing the fish once out of the landing net should take less than 2 minutes.

Several fish or a net of fish:
a) If photographing a net of fish, they or the open end of the keepnet should be placed on an adequately sized and fully wetted protection mat and doused with water before the photo is taken.

b) Do not roll you fish down the keepnet, but gently move the fish through the net in the water towards the opening to prepare for your photograph.

2 - Focus on Subject

a) The subject of your photograph is the most important part of the picture—it may be a person or a spectacular part of the scenery. This is where you want the viewer’s eyes to focus and you can do this through some simple techniques.

b) A busy or distracting background will draw attention away from the subject. When you take a picture, look at the entire viewfinder and not just the subject. Ensure there isn’t a tree growing from someone’s head or something distracting going on in the background, a plain background tends to show off the subject.

c) Make sure your subject is in focus. This is especially important if your subject isn’t in the centre of your picture. Point and click cameras focus on whatever is in the centre of the viewfinder. If your subject is off to one side, you’ll have to lock the focus on your subject then reposition the camera so the subject is off–centre. See your camera’s manual to learn how to lock the focus.

3 - Consider the Light

a) Light is the second most important aspect of a photograph. Whether the photographer utilizes natural light or a flash—the type, amount and location of the light source should always be considered. Different lighting can change the entire appearance of a photograph.

b) The bright sun can create deep shadows on the face and intensify wrinkles, scars and blemishes. When taking pictures on sunny days, it’s a good idea to use your flash to lighten your subject’s face and reduce unattractive shadows.

c) Overcast days often provide pleasing results without the use of a flash or other artificial light sources. If you do use a flash, try the camera’s fill–flash mode if it has one. The flash will lighten the subject’s appearance and make it stand out.

d) When using a flash, make sure the subject is within the flash’s range. Most cameras have a range of up to 15 feet. Check your owner’s manual for the specifics on your camera’s flash range. To be safe, don’t position your subjects further than 10 feet away.

e) Remember if you don’t like the light positioning on the subject, you can always move the subject or yourself.

4 - Position Subject

a) The subject is the most important aspect of your photograph, but doesn’t always have to be in the centre of the photo. Sometimes you can add dramatic effects to your picture simply by shifting the subject to one side or the other. Play with your pictures and see how repositioning the camera slightly can alter the image. Taking a picture of a person close up can have a completely different feel than if the person is in the distance. Sometimes the subject’s eyes or expression can tell the whole story. Don’t be afraid to get close to your subjects.

b) Another tip—get down to the level of your subject, this may means bending down to photograph the angler and their catch or your subject.
Sometimes tipping your camera on its side to take a vertical picture can improve the quality of the photo. Tall subjects can fill a vertical frame much better than a horizontal frame.

5 - Remember the Basics

a) Many rare photo opportunities are bungled by forgetting the basics:
Remember not to move the camera while taking a photo and it’s a good idea to use a tripod when shooting at night.

b) Make sure the lens cap is off, the lens is clean and your fingers are away from the lens.

c) In addition, it’s a good idea to carry extra batteries and memory cards or film.