50 Inspirational Quotes About Photography

day 40: decisions, decisions

The photographers behind some of the greatest images also had some wise words about the craft. We thought we’d put together 50 of our favorite quotes that move us, and in turn, we hope they move you. Reading what they have to say can prove particularly useful when you’re in a creative slump. Read on for some food for thought.

  1. “Just put on the lens and go.” –Miroslav Tichy
  1. “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” –Chase Jarvis
  1. “You know, I really don’t think you learn from teachers. You learn from work. I think what you learn, really, is how to be- you have to be your own toughest critic, and you only learn that from work, from seeing work.” –Garry Winogrand
  1. “If you have something to say with a camera then show it, otherwise it’s better to bake a cake.” –Jason Eskenazi
  1. “Some photographs are like a Chekhov short story or a Maupassant story. They’re quick things and there’s a whole world in them. But one is unconscious of it while shooting.” –Henri Cartier-Bresson
  1. “Shoot freely. Meaning can be applied to your images later – either through their content, symbolism and position within a sequence.” –Charlie Kirk
  1. “Photograph the world as it is. Nothing’s more interesting than reality.” –Mary Ellen Mark
  1. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” –Robert Capa
  1. “No matter how much crap you gotta plow through to stay alive as a photographer, no matter how many bad assignments, bad days, bad clients, snotty subjects, obnoxious handlers, wigged-out art directors, technical disasters, failures of the mind, body, and will, all the shouldas, couldas, and wouldas that befuddle our brains and creep into our dreams, always remember to make room to shoot what you love. It’s the only way to keep your heart beating as a photographer.” –Joe McNally, “The Moment It Clicks, Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters”
  1. “I found that the camera was a comforting companion. It opened up new worlds, and gave me access to people’s most intimate moments. I discovered the privilege of seeing life in all its complexity, the thrill of learning something new every day. When I was behind a camera, it was the only place in the world I wanted to be.” –Lynsey Addario, “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War”
  1. “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” –Ansel Adams
  1. “A good snapshot keeps the moment from running away.” –Eudora Welty
  1. “The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” –Robert Frank
  1. “I think all art is about control – the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.” –Richard Avedon
  1. “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells the less you know.” –Diane Arbus
  1. “Unless you photograph what you love, you are not going to make good art.” –Sally Mann
  1. “You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them. You just have to care about what’s around you and have a concern with humanity and the human comedy.” –Elliott Erwitt
  1. “I always wanted to be a photographer. I was fascinated with the materials. But I never dreamed I would be having this much fun. I imagined something much less elusive, much more mundane.” –Lee Friedlander
  1. “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.” –Annie Leibovitz
  1. “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” –Dorothea Lange
  1. “I don’t trust words. I trust pictures.” –Gilles Peress
  1. “What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” –Karl Lagerfeld
  1. “In America, the photographer is not simply the person who records the past, but the one who invents it.” –Susan Sontag
  1. “If I am dissatisfied, it’s simply because good photos are few and far between. A good photo is a miracle.” –Josef Koudelka
  1. “What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.” –Roland Barthes
  1. “If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph.” –Bruce Gilden
  1. “Whether you are Minor White or Robert Frank, almost every photograph starts with an act of pure description – a window. But every now and then you catch a glimpse of the photographer’s reflection. The mirror is just another function of the window.” –Alec Soth
  1. “Photography is a language more universal than words.” –Minor White
  1. “Most of my photos are grounded in people, I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.” –Steve McCurry
  1. “The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.” –Susan Meiselas
  1. “When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” –Alfred Eisenstaedt
  1. “Photography can light up darkness and expose ignorance.” –Lewis Hine
  1. “The main thing for me is that I’m happy that I’ve been able to work as a professional photographer. What is at the core of my work is, in essence, a mediation on being a human being.” –Eli Reed
  1. “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” –Imogen Cunningham
  1. “A good photographer records; a great photographer reveals.” –Skyler Reid
  1. “Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” –Marc Riboud
  1. “I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.” –Man Ray
  1. “In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more than reality.” –Alfred Stieglitz
  1. “The knack is to find your own inspiration and take it on a journey to create work that is personal and revealing.” –Martin Parr
  1. “It’s not the photographer who makes the picture, but the person being photographed.” –Sebastiao Salgado
  1. ““A photograph is a universe of dots. The grain, the halide, the little silver things clumped in the emulsion. Once you get inside a dot, you gain access to hidden information, you slide into the smallest event. This is what technology does. It peels back the shadows and redeems the dazed and rumbling past. It makes reality come true.” –Don DeLillo, “Underworld”
  1. “With a painting, you’re taking basic building blocks and making something that’s more complex than what you started with. It is a synthetic process. A photograph does the opposite: It takes the world, and puts an order on it, simplifies it.” –Stephen Shore
  1. “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
  1. “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” –George Eastman
  1. “The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been, and always will be.” –Bill Cunningham
  1. “If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.” –Jay Maisel
  1. “Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” –Walker Evans
  1. Redacted
  1. “Since I’m inarticulate, I express myself with images.” –Helen Levitt
  1. “Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.” –William Klein