When your mate's just caught his personal best Brown, of course he's going to want a photo of it! And why not too. We spend so much time and effort in chasing that fish, when it finally lies defeated in the net, let's celebrate! A great “grip and grin” or “hero shot” can bring back memories of that special moment for a very long time; something to show the grandkids.
I freely admit that the grip and grin is my nemesis. I hate shooting them, mainly for the fear of not getting the shot. For me, the shot is not really about the fish at all, but more about the angler. To capture the emotion that special fish will evoke, you need to be on point as soon as he hoists it aloft for the very first time. Human emotions change so rapidly, by the time the angler has dipped the fish for a breather and lifted it again for a second time, that smile just isn't going to be the same. Make that first shot about the angler and after that, make the fish the hero.
Treat the fish with the utmost respect. They live in water, and die out of it, so keep them in it for as long as possible. Use a net, and to calm them down while you're removing the fly, flip them upside down. With a wet hand, grab the fish firmly by the wrist of the tail, without squeezing, and flip them upside down. Studies suggest that using a glove for grip removes the fishes slime and breaks down its natural barrier to infection. When the camera's ready, simply flip them up the right way and with the other hand, gently cradle the fish under the pectoral fins, supporting the fishes weight. Accidents happen, and fish will slip away, so if you're crouching or kneeling low to the water, any dropped fish will suffer minimal damage. And it makes for a nicer photo.
Here's a few thoughts on shooting grip and grins:
- Be bossy. Tell the angler what you want him to do
- Make sure the fish is clean and you get it's good side
- Consider if you want to leave the fly in the fishes mouth; escaping fish have been known to break rods
- Remove sunglasses and buffs, hats optional, but make sure you throw some light under the hat and watch out for “hat head” on a long day
- Use fill flash, or off-camera flash or a reflector to get a more dynamic angle of light
- A reflector is a low tech alternative to a flash so long as you've got someone to hold it
- A long lens and a wide aperature will help isolate the subject from the background
- Get the camera to the same level as the angler
- When framing up the shot, remove the clutter. Get the net man to shift, and watch out for backpacks and other distractions
- Don't cramp the frame and cut off heads. Give them some space and a bit of wiggle room in case you need to straighten the horizon
- Review your shots as you go, and keep shooting till you get it right