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35 Quotes From Master Photographers to Inspire You to Take Great Pictures

Photography Quotes

Photo: “The Tetons and the Snake River” (1942) by Ansel Adams, via Wikimedia Commons

Since the advent of photography in 1839, it’s safe to say that it has changed our world. It’s revealed things that were once hidden and documented important events and cultures so that they’ll never be forgotten. These aspects of it affect more than the viewers, but the picture takers, too. To understand the impact, they’ve offered their wisdom through compelling quotes about photography.

Many sayings speak to the silent truths that the camera captures. “I don’t trust words. I trust pictures,” photographer Gilles Peress. A quote by Aaron Siskind echoes this statement: “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.” And a particularly moving image can teach empathy. Dorothea Lange, famous for her series depicting the Japanese internment camps in the U.S., sums it up: “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

While those photography quotes will get you behind the lens, practical advice is also helpful for snapping meaningful pictures. Sometimes, it’s as easy as taking a step in the right direction. “A good photograph is knowing where to stand,” Ansel Adams instructs. But if that fails, just remember, according to Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Photography Quotes

Photo: Film still from Vivre sa Vie, 1962

On what is photography…

“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

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” — Destin Sparks

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” — Andy Warhol

“A tear contains an ocean. A photographer is aware of the tiny moments in a person’s life that reveal greater truths.” — Anonymous

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange

Quotes About Photography

Migrant Mother” (1936) by Dorothea Lange

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”— Diane Arbus

“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” — Richard Avedon

“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” — Peter Adams

“Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be.” — Duane Michals

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”— Karl Lagerfeld

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a 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

Photography Quotes

Photo: The Hand of Man, 1902, by Alfred Stieglitz

On why they take pictures…

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams

“We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.” — Ralph Hattersley

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.” — Annie Leibovitz

“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.” — Scott Lorenzo

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photography Quotes

“Identical Twins” (1967) by Diane Arbus

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” — Diane Arbus

“I don’t trust words. I trust pictures.” — Gilles Peress

“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

“If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.” — Richard Avedon

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” ― Marc Riboud

“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.” ― Nan Goldin

“Araberscheich mit Kamelkarawane” (1925) by Walter Mittelholzer, via Wikimedia Commons

Offering their own photography advice…

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” — Robert Frank

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” — Edward Steichen

“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

“If you see something that moves you, and then snap it, you keep a moment.” — Linda McCartney

Quotes About Photography

“Trolley — New Orleans” (1955) by Robert Frank

“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” — Ansel Adams

“Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees.” — Paul Strand

“Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner.” — Author Unknown

“Which of the photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow.” — Imogen Cunningham

“Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.” ― Robert Frank

We hope that these insightful photography quotes inspire you to take fantastic shots!

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