How to Get Your Fly Fishing Photos Published

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Question: I love looking at all the great fly-fishing photography in magazines and on Midcurrent, and I aspire to take pictures that good. Once I have some great shots, how do I go about getting them published?

Greg G. Albuquerque, NM

Answer: The world of fly-fishing photography has undergone a sea change in the past decade, with the advent of the digital SLRs and the wealth of information available online. I started as editor of American Angler in 1999, and when I needed a cover image, there were fewer than a dozen people whom I could call—photographers with good enough technique and a wide selection of images. It was even harder to get illustrative photos for the articles inside the magazine, especially if the subject was something very specific, such as “female angler high-sticking in pocket water.” Oftentimes, I had to settle for images that were at best close to what I wanted, which was very frustrating.

Fly Fishing Photography

photo by Lucas Carroll

I remember the first time I realized how digital photography was going to change my world. I had written an article on fishing tandem rigs and needed a gorgeous opening image that showed a two-fly rig. One morning, I called Barry Beck to see what he had in stock, and he replied, “I’ve got a friend visiting. We’ll run down to the river and shoot something.” By lunchtime, I had a set of fantastic lo-res images in my email. We’d gone from concept to finished product in less than three hours, a process that would have been days long and much more expensive if Barry had been shooting film.

But I was calling Barry in the first place because he was one of that handful of photographers described above. As digital cameras got better and more anglers started shooting with them, the pool of quality photographers expanded exponentially. I started posting photo calls on the “Photography” board of ItinerantAngler.com and discovered a host of new angler/photographers doing great work. I searched Google Images and Flickr and other sites, constantly trolling for more photographers. I eventually started my own American Angler flickr group to which photographers could post their own images. I am proud to have been the first to publish images by several photographers whose pictures have become commonplace in the fly-fishing media.

This brave new world is a double-edged sword for aspiring photographers, though: on one hand, there’s plenty of opportunity to get published—in print magazines, Web magazines, advertisements, etc.—but there are way more lensmen vying for those spots. Getting your stuff noticed by an editor will require some self-promotion on your part. Here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Join a couple message boards where other fly-fishing/sporting photographers hang out. These places are fonts of wisdom and advice.
  2. Learn what kinds of images magazines are looking for. Just because something is a great photo doesn’t mean it’s a great magazine photo. Magazine editors are mostly looking for photos that illustrate something specific or fit a specific compositional formula. For more on this, check out the podcast I did on the subject.
  3. Choose 3 or 4 of your best images and email them, along with a short introduction, to both the editor and the art director of the magazines you’d like to work for.
  4. Build yourself an online portfolio that editors can search when they’re looking for images. Provide a link to the portfolio in any email you send to editors.
  5. Make yourself available for special assignments, if possible.
  6. Ask to be put on the magazine’s “photo call” list, so when an email goes out describing the editor’s photo needs, you’ll get it.

If you’ve got quality images and you’re persistent, you’re bound to get noticed. But check out the MIDCURRENT photography page and you’ll see the kind of competition you’re facing. Good luck.