WON Landing Page March 2022

Retro WON: Shoot to Thrill, Gretchen Steele Gripes about ‘Grip-and-Grins’


Pelican memory card case

I am griping about grip-and-grin fish photos in this installment of Shoot to Thrill. We all know that I am little buggy about trophy photographs, whether it be mammal, fowl or this time of year – fish. I’d like to share a few tips with you about getting some great fish trophy photos that will become treasured family portraits, rather than just snapshots.

There are 3 basic types of fish trophy photos: in the water, out of the water and harvest. Each type comes with its own challenge and each with some simple things to remember.

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Beautiful shot of trout by Gretchen Steele.

Always think conservation before creativity. Some fish, such as the huge sturgeons, should never be removed from the water, and in fact it may not be legal to so.  In that case you are going to have to don your waders, and work out into the water to do the photographing. If you absolutely are not going to wade out into the water, use a wider angle lens to capture the angler gently floating the fish on the surface.  Remember that in all fish photos it’s best to have the sun at the photographer’s back or at 45 degree angle and as always – sunglasses off – hat brims up – we want to see those smiling faces! If you have fill flash available, it can be invaluable during bright sunny days.

It’s important to be conservation minded when doing catch-and-release fish out-of-water photos.  The angler should always have wet hands when handling the fish, and keep it out of water no longer than absolutely necessary. The rule of thumb I use is no longer than I can hold my breath.  Hold the fish properly for the species, some can be held lip style, some should have their whole body supported. At all costs avoid the dreaded grip and grin, with the fish held straight out in front of the angler in death grip with both hands , yes, it makes the fish look larger , but it’s a trick we are all on to and it also makes the anglers hands look abnormally large.  I ask the angler to bend her arms at a 45, with elbows touching her sides or abdomen.  That still gives a good separation of fish and angler yet doesn’t make things seem disproportionate.

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Taylor Farrar — the man, the truck, the boat, the bowfin!

Harvest – If your fish are going to be harvested, you have a bit more leeway. You can actually take the time to clean up the fish and the angler and get a little creative with posing.  Have the angler admire her catch for the day, arrange the tackle combination used alongside the fish, get in close.  You still need to remember to work fast and keep the fish wet. The longer the fish is out of water, the more the colors begin to fade.  You want to capture those sparkling drops of water on a brightly colored fish.

Don’t just limit yourself to trophy photos when fishing, snap photos throughout the trip of anglers casting, close ups of rods, reels, bows, netting a fish.  Capture the memories of the entire trip!

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You can win a Pelican memory case if you provide the winning caption for this photo of Ashley Allison and her carp from a bowfishing trip.

This Retro WON by Gretchen Steele first appeared Aug. 9, 2011.

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