Few people have seen a giant bass up close and personal. Even fewer have seen more than one or two. It is therefore exceedingly difficult, even for expert anglers to accurately judge the size of a fish by a picture. That doesn’t stop most of us from trying though.
Here’s a tale of two big fish. Before you proceed, take a minute and try to guess the weight of each. Clearly, the fish on the top looks bigger. Then again, you know there has to be a catch right? Perhaps you’re thinking the two fish are actually the same size? It turns out the first fish is 8.5lbs and the second is just over 13lbs. The difference between the two is much more than 5lbs. The difference is the fine art of a big fish picture.
There’s an old debate as to whether it’s the dress that makes the woman, or the woman that makes the dress. The same can be said of fish pictures. You can have a true giant, but if you get a bad picture, you’ll be forever defending the honor of your trophy to skeptical buddies...which we know is all of them! With these thoughts in mind, let’s examine a few picture taking strategies that can help make your giant look as big in a picture as she did when you pulled her out of the water.
In the picture of the 8.5lber, the first thing that stands out, is that the fish itself takes up about 80% of the entire horizontal frame of the picture. This effect can be achieved in three primary ways. First, the angler extends his arms to make the fish appear large against the backdrop of his body. Next, the photographer is close enough that the fish fills the majority of the frame. Finally, the fish is held horizontally which maximizes the perception of length.
Adding to the effect, the individual is sitting down, making the fish occupy a large portion of the frame vertically. This is an often overlooked tactic that can make a huge difference; no pun intended. The angler is also careful to position his hands in such a way that they are barely visible. This maximizes the perceived size of the fish and removes what would otherwise be a useful reference to proportions. As icing on the cake, the angler also positions the fish perfectly to ensure the degree of bend in his arms is not discernible. Perhaps most impressive of all, he does this with a smile. Well played sir; well played.
Here are a few additional tips for a healthy release: Be sure to support the weight of large fish with the use of both hands while raising them from the water and posing for a picture. There have been many instances of delayed mortality, as a result of broken or dislocated jaws, from otherwise well-meaning anglers. As fish approach or exceed 10 pounds, this risk becomes exponentially greater. Do whatever you can to minimize the time the fish is out of the water. Remember, they cannot hold their breath any longer than you. It's a good rule of thumb to try and keep fish out of the water for no more than 30 seconds. Finally, make sure you prep your photographer on all these important concepts prior to removing the fish from the water. At the end of the day, perhaps the most important aspect of the perfect picture is achieving it quickly. This helps ensure a strong release.
In closing, I’m not advocating fish fraud by making 5’s look like 10’s. There is no need to extend your arms so far the lens is wet afterward. Seasoned anglers will see right through this charade. All that said, I do not believe there is anything wrong with a few wise photographic strategies. You and your bass had a date with destiny. It was a lifetime in the making; don’t sell either one of you short.