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Inspirational photography quotes are great for three reasons.
First, they sound good, providing us motivation to pursue our craft.
Second, you know they're words of wisdom because people don't quote other people who aren't particularly good at something! In other words, these motivational quotes are words that belong to some of the best photographers to ever live.
Lastly, these photography quotes serve as inspiration, and sometimes they can pull you out of creative ruts when you least expect it. Here's a few of my favorites:
If you need a go-to list of photography quotes, check out our collection below. Check it whenever you feel like you need an old man whispering in your ear, telling you what to do. Happy reading!
Photography Quotes: Ansel Adams
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“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” — Ansel Adams
By crops Mr. Adams means an entire year's work, of course. Some digital kids might mistake it for something else.
“You don't take a photograph, you make it.” ― Ansel Adams
It's not all about capturing things. Sometimes you have to make stuff happen on your own.
"Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art." — Ansel Adams
To be perfectly honest, it's probably both.
"Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships." — Ansel Adams
Some photographers will be shocked to find out that editing techniques are a lot older than Photoshop.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams
This certainly speaks to the power of photography to communicate.
Photography Quotes: Creativity
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“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson
Emphasize the word "instrument.”
“One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and on. It’s on all the time.” — Annie Leibovitz
Photography is not a job, it's a lifestyle. Leibovitz knows best.
“Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment." — Elliott Erwitt
Need I say more?
“A good photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” — Diane Arbus
A beautiful quote that could come only from the mysterious Diane Arbus.
“If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up." — Garry Winogrand
Because ordinary is the opposite of great.
Photography Quotes: Motivation
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“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
Truer words have never been spoken!
“Photography is an itch that won’t go away. No matter how much you scratch it.” — Dara McGrath
I know many will understand this.
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a good photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” ― Susan Sontag
Sontag's relationship with Annie Leibovitz must have been an intellectual delight!
“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” ― Marc Riboud
Talk about living photography to the max!
“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” — Andy Warhol
I know this is a rather too famous quote on Facebook, but its meaning is timeless, regardless of how many people with no real interest in photography share it.
“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.” – Anonymous
Sometimes it's easier to see the beauty around us in a photograph than with our own eyes.
“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” — Alfred Eisenstaedt
Just don't use this quote as a pretext to get into a street fight and fight with your camera.
"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." — Henri Cartier-Bresson
Of course, this was written in a time when 10,000 photos meant a lot. Add another to bring it up to date.
''The more you photograph, the more you realize what can and what can’t be photographed. You just have to keep doing it." — Eliot Porter
It's a thing of personal development, but you'll get it eventually.
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“There is one thing the photograph must contain – the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank
It's easy to detach ourselves from the moments we photograph. I don't think Robert Frank would want that to happen.
''If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.'' — Robert Capa
Robert Capa was never afraid of getting too close. Eventually it lead to his end but it also made him a legend.
“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz
Stieglitz nailed it on the head - photos are lasting versions of reality long after our memories of the events we photograph are gone.
''There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.'' — Ernst Haas
This is one of the most important things you can learn about photography. Ever.
"The beauty of women was the first expression of my photography." — Alberto Korda
And to this day it is the expression of many.
"Which of the photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. " — Imogen Cunningham
Cunningham probably knew he was never going to feel content with his work as long as he could still create.
"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding still." — Dorothea Lange
One of the few things that has remained unchanged throughout the history of photography is its unique ability to freeze time.
"The camera can photograph thoughts." — Dirk Bogarde
And it does so a lot more often than you think.
"Photography, alone of the arts, seems perfected to serve the desire humans have for a moment - this very moment-to stay." — Sam Abell
And it's this particular trait that stood at the core of the motion picture as well.
"The photographer does the world a great disservice when she leaves her camera at home." — Mark Denman
Lucky for us we now have smartphones with decent cameras.
"No photographer is as good as the simplest camera." — Edward Steichen
This little piece of information is absolutely gold, but far too few see that.
"Photography is the story I fail to put into words." — Destin Sparks
Sometimes a great photo is all you need to tell a compelling story.
"My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” — Steve McCurry
You wouldn't expect any less from the man who photographed the Afghan girl.
Composition & Approach
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"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
Have you ever really used your camera as a communication tool?
"To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.” — Edward Weston
So...yeah. Composition matters.
"What's really important is to simplify. The work of most photographers would be improved immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of the extraneous. If you strive for simplicity, you are more likely to reach the viewer." — William Albert Allard
At the end of the day, simplicity isn't all that simple.
"Don't pack up your camera until you've left the location.” — Joe McNally
Always be prepared because unique opportunities won't wait for you to take your camera out.
"Emotion or feeling is really the only thing about pictures I find interesting. Beyond that it is just a trick.” — Christopher Anderson
A sophisticated trick nonetheless.
Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash
"All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.” – Elliott Erwitt
"Good eyes" will take you far in this line of work, in case you haven't already noticed that.
"Buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don’t forget to smile.” — Matt Stuart
Nothing to it, right?
"When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.” — Anonymous
This is the only anonymous quote on the list and it’s here because it carries a lot of weight.
Photography Quotes: Just for Fun
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"Look, I'm not an intellectual - I just take pictures." — Helmut Newton
The world would be a much better place if more photographers were this humble.
"Photography is my one recreation and I think it should be done well." — Lewis Caroll
You should take care of the passion that once started it all and find ways to use photography as a mean of relaxation as well.
"Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts." — Walker Evans
How beautifully Mr. Evans puts it.
"The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don't have to explain things with words." — Elliott Erwitt
Most photographers feel like they express themselves best through images.
"Photograph: A picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.” — Ambrose Bierce
"Often while traveling with a camera we arrive just as the sun slips over the horizon of a moment, too late to expose film, only time enough to expose our hearts." — Minor White
It's best to enjoy such moments without having a missed frame in mind.
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"The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera." — W. Eugene Smith
I know some might argue .
"I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything." — John Steinbeck
Another one for gear lovers claiming to be photographers.
"All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth." — Richard Avedon
This is one of Avedon's most famous photography quotes.
"What I did, anybody can do.” — Weegee
Ultimately this should be the goal of every creative person, to create something nobody else can.
"I guess I’ve shot about 40,000 negatives and of these I have about 800 pictures I like.” — Harry Callahan
That's one good example of the ratio between how much you have to photoshoot to get good stuff.