This collection of essential photography wisdom aggregates the essence of great photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, Diane Arbus and more, and you will also find useful tips on professional photography in here.
[From the 100 Ways To Be Being Remarkable Series.]
First, Quotes from Great People Who were not Photographers
1. It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
- Henry David Thoreau (writer/philosopher)
2. A photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see.
- Roland Barthes (philosopher)
3. You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus.
- Mark Twain (writer)
4. To us, the difference between the photographer as an individual eye and the photographer as an objective recorder seems fundamental, the difference often regarded, mistakenly, as separating photography as art from photography as document. But both are logical extensions of what photography means: note-taking on, potentially, everything in the world, from every possible angle.
- Susan Sontag, 'On Photography by Susan Sontag'
5. Photography is truth. The cinema is truth 24 times per second.
- Jean-Luc Godard (filmmaker)
Henri Cartier-Bresson [famous for his idea of 'the moment']
6. Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
7. To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms that give that event its proper expression.
8. Pictures, regardless of how they are created and recreated, are intended to be looked at. This brings to the forefront not the technology of imaging, which of course is important, but rather what we might call the eyenology (seeing).
Note: Cartier-Bresson was inspired by this old quote: 9. There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.
- Cardinal de Retx, 17th century
Robert Capa [great war photographer]
10. If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
[Note: Robert Cappa sadly died from stepping on a land mine]
11. Q: Do you really distance yourself from your subject? I mean, what would you do if presented with a young girl burning to death?
A: about 1/60 at f5.6
(This one is attributed)
12. The truth is the best picture, the best propaganda.
In a war, you must hate somebody or love somebody; you must have a position or you cannot stand what goes on.
Ansel Adams [famous for B/W American Landscape photos]
13. When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
14. There are two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer.
15. You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
16. Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
17. No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.
18. There are two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer.
19. The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.
20. No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film.
Diane Arbus [famous for B/W photos of deviants/freaks]
21. I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.
22. I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse.
23. Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.
24. My favorite thing is to go where I've never been.
25. Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe.
Annie Leibovitz [famous celeb/portrait photographer]
26. I am impressed with what happens when someone stays in the same place and you took the same picture over and over and it would be different, every single frame.
27. In a portrait, you have room to have a point of view. The image may not be literally what's going on, but it's representative.
Anonymous Quotes on Photography
28. Amateurs worry about equipment, Professionals worry about time, Masters worry about light.
29. Owning a DSLR does not make you a photographer. It makes you a DSLR owner.
30. I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.
31. There’s a photograph everywhere and it’s the photographer’s job to find it.
32. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.
33. What happens inside your mind can happen inside a camera! (Advertising slogan for Minolta)
Garry Winogrand [great street photographer]
34. I take photographs to see what something looks like as a photograph.
35. If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.
On Photography as art
36. Photography is the easiest art, which perhaps makes it the hardest.
- Lisette Model
37. 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
38. Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term - selectivity.
- Berenice Abbott
39. The word ‘art’ is very slippery. It really has no importance in relation to one’s work. I work for the pleasure, for the pleasure of the work, and everything else is a matter for the critics.
- Manuel Alvarez Bravo
40. How aware were photographers in the past of other visual arts? No photographer of any distinction at all could approach his work without some awareness of what was going on in other visual media, and for that matter neither the painter nor the draughtsman could ignore photography.
- Aaron Scharf
41. Photography is the power of observation, not the application of technology.
- Ken Rockwell’s
42. Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.
- Matt Hardy
On the Work of a Photographer
43. The difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is that the amateur thinks the camera does the work. And they treat the camera with a certain amount of reverence. It is all about the kind of lens you choose, the kind of film stock you use… exactly the sort of perfection of the camera. Whereas, the professional – the real professional – treats the camera with unutterable disdain. They pick up the camera and sling it aside. Because they know it’s the eye and the brain that count, not the mechanism that gets between them and the subject that counts.
- David Hemmings
44. The important thing is not the camera but the eye.
- Alfred Eisenstaedt
45. 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 (famous for his subway portraits)
46. 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
47. You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.
- William Albert Allard
48. Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
- Imogen Cunningham
49. If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.
- Jim Richardson
50. What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
- John Lubbock
51. People say photographs don’t lie, mine do
- David LaChapelle
52. Our pictures are our footprints. It’s the best way to tell people we were here.
- Joe McNally
53. If it makes you laugh,
if it makes you cry,
if it rips out your heart,
that’s a good picture.
- Eddie Adams
54. At forty-two I decided to become a photographer because it offered a means of creative thought and action. I didn’t rationalize this, I just felt it intuitively and followed my intuition, which I have never regretted.
- Wynn Bullock
55. Getting the technological foundation to make perfectly exposed photographs was easy, but amounted to nothing on its own. I simply had to commit myself, to express feelings about what I was undertaking.
- Bjorn Rorslett
56. Everyone will take one great picture, I’ve done better because I’ve taken two.
- David Bailey
57. Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
- Cecil Beaton
58. Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.
- Man Ray
59. On Professional Photography
Clients don't need photographers, they need photographs.
- Bill Westheimer
60. Use right brain when shooting, left brain when looking over contact sheets.
- Blake Andrews
61. It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.
- Timothy Allen (On editing photos)
62. The photographs don't arouse me. All I can think about is the hard work it took to make them.
- Helmut Newton (On Erotic Photography)
63. Remember that the person you are photographing is 50% of the portrait and you are the other 50%. You need the model as much as he or she needs you. If they don’t want to help you, it will be a very dull picture.
- Lord Patrick Lichfield, British Royal Family Photographer
64. Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
- Peter Lindbergh (On Fashion Photography)
65. A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.
- Arnold Newman
66. Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is... the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.
- Richard Avedon (famous fashion/celeb photographer)
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