People send me all sorts of fishing photos. Some are good, some are bad, but all could be better.
A couple of weeks ago, we started posting "Great Catch!" photos on our website. Taking a picture of a fish is a great way to preserve the memory and make a digital trophy that can be shared with family and friends.
The hardest part, of course, is catching the fish. Remember, a 16-inch snook may seem like a major accomplishment to the newbie fisherman, but in a competitive fishing market such as Tampa Bay, that linesider better be a smoking 38 inches if you want to get attaboys from our discerning readers.
Exception to the rule: cute kids. A 3-year-old holding his or her first pinfish scores much higher on the piscatorial scale than a veteran guide posing with an armful of yellowmouth trout.
Now before you get all worked up and head to the grass flats, remember to pack a camera. Technology has improved and prices have come way down on digital cameras in recent years.
A simple $100 point-and-shoot can take a photo that is every bit as good as one that came from a 10-year-old, top-of-the-line SLR that once cost $1,000. And smartphones are also well-adept at taking fishing photos.
But when I'm fishing, I don't take any chances. I have a basic, inexpensive digital camera that I keep in a dry bag in my tackle box at all times.
Why? Because over the years, I have talked to hundreds of anglers about amazing fish they either hooked and lost, or caught and released. Those stories always end the same way: "I wish I had a camera!"
When I'm out on assignment, I start early, because I want to catch that "magic hour" of great light, right after the sun comes up. My best fishing photos are usually taken before 8 a.m.
If you remember one thing about photographing fish, it should be light. Even on a sunny day, a flash can help bring out the natural colors of a fish. A flash also helps remove the shadow cast by ball caps, favored by most fishermen on the water.
Anglers should remember to always shoot with the sun at their back. If not, the picture will look washed out. And when that sun is at your back, be mindful of your own shadow.
A clean background is also important. Shoot with a blue sky and blue water in the background. Don't wait until you get back to the boat ramp or even worse, your driveway, to shoot the picture. Keep the background simple and natural.
Eliminate as much clutter (fishing rods, tee tops, etc.) from the photograph as possible. Look at the details before you shoot. If your subject is shirtless, wait until they cover up; nothing ruins a great fishing photo like a trophy-sized beer belly.
Another common mistake is that many anglers stand too far from the subject. Get close. When you look through the viewfinder, fill up the frame with the angler and the fish.
In most fishing shots, the angler holds the fish horizontally, which means you'll have a lot of sky or water in the frame. To counter that, have your subject hold the fish at an angle.
Once you have a great fishing photo, take a moment to record the pertinent details, such as what species, and when and where it was caught.
Include information such as the angler's name (correct spelling, please), age and hometown, as well as the approximate length and weight of the fish.
You won't believe how many people cannot tell the difference between a black and gag grouper on the boat.
Imagine how hard it is in a photo.