Living in a world that is constantly inspiring us to be driven, passionate and creative, it’s always nostalgic (and essential) to remember those who have paved our pathways. While parents, teachers, and incredible friends help shaped the people we are today, we can never forget the leaders and forward thinkers of our beloved industries who continue to influence us through their work and dedication.
For photographers, the great artist that continue to set high standards in our trade leave behind positive words of wisdom— or something we like to call inspirational photography quotes. Whether we’re speaking about those who came before us (during the start and the introduction of the first camera) or those who are continuing to set great examples and create brilliant and beautiful work — there is no shortage to content to pull to create serendipitous moments within each of us. Below, we chose twenty of our favorite photography quotes and broke down both their importance and significance in the photography community.
- “When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph.”— Annie Leibovitz
Photography is an intimate art through and through. It’s capturing someone in an instant, in particular, someone’s most intimate and vulnerable moment. There’s a lot to learn about a person when they are behind the camera: are they shy, do they always put their best foot forward, do they tend to be more silly or serious? The list of characteristic and personality traits goes on. The beauty of photography as demonstrated in one of her photography quotes,
Annie Leibovitz (the current masters of her trade), is not that just shooting content or people for a beautiful end shot, but getting to know those who stand in front of her lens ready to get to know them.
2. “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” — Karl Lagerfeld
The art of photography and the act of taking pictures is the closest thing humankind will have to time travel. We’re able to snap an exact moment or instant in time and hold onto it forever. While the occurrence in time will never happen again— it will continue to be captured permanently through imagery. When we hold onto photographs and memories, we’re able to remember and relive a special moment.
When Karl Lagerfeld mentioned in one of his photography quotes, that his love of photography is brought on by catching a moment before it’s gone indefinitely, is extremely poetic. A photographs’ ability to hold onto an instant in time and a collection of memories is something no other form of art can replicate. As it’s even possible, to not only remember what was happening at the moment (when looking at a photo), but also how you were feeling.
3. “I walk. I look. I see. I stop. I photograph.”— Leon Levinstein
Photographers have the lucky privilege and constant desire, to always be seeking and observing. Whether it’s walking to work to get their morning cup of coffee or planning an incredible hike through the mountains to witness mesmerizing views. Those who capture moments for a living are enjoying and appreciating instances in time, as they’re always looking for beautiful things to catch on camera. Unlike the majority of modern society glued to their phones walking from point A to point B, photographers make sure to never miss out on appreciating new perspectives from the world around them. Making photographers, an artist who is living their most creative and artistic lives while developing a deep sense of self through unpredictable and meaningful actions.
- “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin
There is some days artist (including photographers) feel like they’re on an artistic hiatus and need to push through the noise to be inspired and feel creative. The difference between those who are passionate about the arts and those who are not, is their constant strive to be the best in the industry so people stop and notice. What we love about this quote from Steve Martin, is that the ambition and drive to deliver top quality and ingenious pieces is something photographers work very hard to manage and create. That’s why it’s critical when working in the creative space to look at elements uniquely, while also striving to do your personal best and aspire to build top quality content — work that others can’t ignore.
- “A camera didn’t make a great picture anymore than a typewriter wrote a great novel.” — Peter Adams
Considered one of our favorite photography quotes of all time, it is enlightening to hear an artist like Peter Adams put into words, the thoughts (and even criticism) photographers hear or receive on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief, the camera does not make the photographer any more than a pen or computer (taking this particular quote to modern day era) can create a fantastic story. A camera only acts as the vessel to connect a creative photographer to his or her subject. The rest of the image comes from the thoughts, attention to detail, and eye for beauty that is not possibly delivered by the machine or object, but through the eye of a creator or inventor — a photographer.
- “When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” — Alfred Eisenstaedt
Growing up (or growing in their field) the outlet or inspiration that photographers would use to become invincible and untouchable were always their cameras. Behind the lens of a camera, a photographer is a king, the master of their trade. Like many photography quotes, this one by Alfred Eisenstaedt demonstrates the sheer capacity of power photographers feel when capturing their next piece of art. For photographers, a camera might have been their saving beacon of bravery into telling those they love (like their parents or friends) that they were pursuing a career in the arts — a daunting task as it’s not only difficult to make it, but initially low paying. But with a camera in hand, no decision nor situation is too out of reach nor a challenge too difficult to overcome.
- “I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.” — Pablo Picasso
While Pablo Picasso himself was not a photographer but a painter, there’s no doubt that his expression qualifies and belongs amongst the other photography quotes as it follows similar ideation and creative processes. As an artist, we’re always inspired by the surrounding world and each environment we place ourselves into. When we initially think of a space or an area our next creative project will come from, it’s likely that it will change and manifest in so many ways and into so many different ideas that what we started with looks nothing like our end product. But there is no doubt, that to have come up with the final project, the creative thought process had to bob and weave through each avenue (starting with the initial thought) to get to its final destination.
- “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham
One of the reasons people love being around or even dating creative individuals is their constant zest for life and their self-determination to do more or push their limit continually. While many photography quotes focus on the empowerment of film or the strength behind a photographer (or even a lense), this quote by Imogen Cunningham speaks to not only our confidence as creators but our insecurities as well. As an artist, we’re humbled by our work because we always know it can not only be better, but our creativity and skill will continue to grow with time and experience. So while we may have pieces or photographs that we love and get pride from sharing, our favorite parts of work will continue to be the ones we strive to shoot in the future.
- “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell
While Joseph Campbell was not a photographer, we’re putting his words of wisdom in our list of photography quotes because his experience with the arts and human behavior are entirely applicable to photographers. No matter your industry, whether the arts, business or even medicine, there will always be changes and uncertainties that arise throughout our lives both personally and professionally. It’s up to us (as part of the creative process) to accommodate for change and be flexible within our schedules and projected plans. Life happens and sometimes to capture the best work and shoot amazing footage we must be able to move through our lives with both eyes and hearts opening to whatever the world throws at us.
- “Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest.” — Lisette Model
Especially in the modern era, where everyone can be their own photographer by merely owning a phone — the noise in the industry is loud and hard to push through. While we’re grateful for the access to cameras and the love modern technology has created for the art of photography, it does make it that much more difficult to stand out. While also inspiring photographers to pursue their passions and dreams, many people believe that photography is in fact ‘easy’ because of access. But to be a good photographer, a camera is purely the tool to get you from point A to point B. Point A being the photographer — skilled, creative, and hungry for the best shot. Point B being the subject — unique, beautiful, and having a story to tell.
- “The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” — Elliott Erwitt
Creativity has multiple outlet and avenues. An artist can be skilled with a brush, a song, a pen, or a camera. There is no limit on creativity, and just because you may not be the world’s best writer, doesn’t mean you’re not extremely talented with a camera and an amazing photographer. Elliot Erwitt’s words on our photography quote lists, because along with photography being an element of art and creativity, these words also serve as a metaphor. The phrase we’ve heard a thousand times before, a picture is worth a thousand words, serves as a constant reminder of the power of imagery and content where minute details and perfectly captured memories are frozen in time and shared with the public.
- “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” — Paul Caponigro
What we love about this expression from Paul Caponigro and why we’ve decided to include as one of our favorite photography quotes, is because it truly speaks to the art of photography and what we love best about the skills that go behind shooting a piece of content and telling a story through imagery. While yes it’s possible to take a great picture and create aesthetic charm, it’s the job of a photographer to make an ordinary image of a person and turn it into a meaning portrait of who they are. A skill only the most skilled and very best in the field can pull off. Whether through years of school or attentive self-teaching, it’s possible to capture a person’s true dynamic and sense of self through a film.
- “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” — Aaron Siskind
Ever feel nostalgic and rummage through old photographs and scrapbooks of a particular time in your life or a certain trip you took with your family or loved ones? That’s because the power of imagery and the art behind photography does have a way of taking us back and making us feel, remember and love – wholeheartedly. Even those moments that have passed with time and seem to be forgotten, are brought back to life with the existence of photographs. Now with the age of digital, imagery is more accessible now than ever. The clouds of storage at our disposal for dozens (and even thousands) of images all holding and storing our memories, means we’ll continue to remember those special moments.
- “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” — Dorothea Lange
Similar to Aaron Siskind’s above quote, these words by Dorothea Lange also speak to the element of holding time still. Capturing every ounce of feeling and life in a photograph is a photographer’s main objective when pressing the shutter button. An old tale claims that Native Americans refuse to have their pictures taken as they believe the spirits will get captured in time and removed from their beings. While personally not believing in removing the soul completely from our bodies, there is something to be said about the elements of a photograph capturing our souls. The moment in time we sit for a photo, the camera instantly captures our exact self (an instant of time) and holds onto it forever.
- “For me, photography is to place head, heart and eye along the same line of sight. It’s a way of life.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson
When photographers chose their next subject to shoot, regardless if it’s nature, humans or even pets, there is something about capturing the essence in their area of expertise that draws all the senses together. In Henri Cartier-Bresson’s above photography quote, he highlights how our minds, our hearts, and our visions all align to create beautiful work. What’s fascinating about this ideology and photography in general, is that the art of shooting photos through this mindset as well as the ability to align your creativity isn’t something that is learned through a textbook instead through continuous practice and passion of the trade. It’s what makes all creative spaces both a flexible an admirable career (or even hobby) because it’s purely based upon the way you view your art and inspiration.
- “A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.” — Irving Penn
There are so many reasons to love this quote by Irving Penn, especially when it relates to photography. Rather than just a piece of art to look at, photos can capture and highlight so many elements including moments of time and history, as well as feeling and emotion. A great example to help bring this quote to life is the ‘War Ends Kiss’ photo (also referred to as The Kiss) shot after the end of WW2 on Valentines Day in 1945. It shows a soldier pulling a nurse in for a kiss after the war has been declared over. In one picture you see love, happiness, and excitement. While additionally seeing the wardrobe alluding and hinting at the couple’s occupations and time in history.
- “No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.” — Robert Adams
While the exception to the quote may be trying to land a good night’s sleep (what’s a good amount of sleep anyway?), Robert Adams has an amazing point, especially to those who love film and the art of photography. A creator can look for excitement and entertainment anywhere, and a photographer is no different. While to some a fallen leaf on an empty bench is just something to pass by, a photographer sees the subject of their next photo. There’s no site nor scenery too dull or uninspiring to those with wild imaginations and creative minds. To many photographers, the idea of going out exploring with a camera in hand an empty sim card (modern-day unexposed film) is an exciting adventure — no matter where you travel.
- “I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.” — Harry Callahan
Taking a picture and capturing a moment through photography is creatively telling a story. A story filled with emotions, feelings, and depth. When photographers chose to take their images and put together their stories, they’re expressing a part of themselves which can sometimes be raw and vulnerable. In Harry Callahan’s quote, we see how important it is to share and express these characteristics not only through our work and our imagery but in everyday life as well because each new day is truly a blessing and an adventure that makes each morning and day worth living.
- “A good photographer must love life more than they love photography.” — Joel Strasser
A constant urge and zest for life turn an ordinary and good photographer into a beautiful photographer. One true passion, creative thinking, and non-conforming. People in the photo industry must constantly be seeking new adventures in life, whether they be physical (like mountains or the contours of a woman’s face) or mental (like abstract imagery). There are always new occurrences happening around us, and it’s our responsibility to maintain our love for life so that it smoothly translates over into our love of photography.
- “There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” — Abraham Lincoln
… Because our photography quotes list needs to end on a high note, and who better to wrap up our uplifting listicle than one of America’s favorite presidents. In the words of Abraham Lincoln (rephrased), sometimes we don’t just ‘wake up like this’. Meaning no photo we ever take should be considered a bad photo, sure some days we’re on our A-game and others we’re not – but overall whether it’s the subject of the picture or the time of day, there will always be factors outside of our control that need to be put into consideration and accounted for. It’s important to remember that we should never be too hard on ourselves, we’re constantly doing great work!
Do you have some favorite inspirational photography quotes? Have a favorite quote that we didn’t include? Share with us your favorite quotes in our comments below!