Trophy Photos: Don't Try to Make the Fish Look Bigger With Camera Tricks

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I was out with a couple of friends the other evening, having fun with panfish in a local lake. Eventually I caught what was probably my smallest largemouth bass ever. This immediately sparked a discussion of all those silly fishing pictures in which the angler tries to enlarge the apparent size of a fish by using a wide-angle lens, arms outstretched toward the camera.

So we took the photo shown here. I'm reaching with the baby bass, arms outstretched toward the camera as far as possible while a friend obligingly focused on the fish. The whole thing is a bad idea taken to extremes. "I guess if the fish is smaller than your hands, then it is," said one friend, laughing.

From what I recall from my days as a pro-photographer, a wide-angle lens (most common to digital point-and-shoot cameras) enlarges the visual perspective, while emphasizing foreground objects. This is why so many people hold their fish out toward the camera. It is a really bad idea, one that's become so cliched as to be like a bad joke told over and over.

Maybe you should just accept the fact that there's no way to make a small fish look bigger than it is. And it's likewise true that a really big fish will look big no matter what. (It's not always about the fish, of course. Any shot of a grinning little kid with his/her first sunfish is inevitably wonderful.)

So what I wish would happen is this: In fish pictures, the photographer will use a moderate telephoto setting on the zoom lens. The angler, meanwhile, will hold the fish, arms relaxed, close to his or her body. The visual perspective won't be distorted, and a large fish will still obviously appear large.

I'll add that you should take your fish photos however you want. That's up to you, of course. But if I see yet another shot of arms stretched toward the camera holding a fish, I'm going to smirk and shake my head. It just looks dumb. I do like fish photos, but I don't like dumb.