30 Inspirational Photography Quotes That Will Change Your Life

No artist – whether they’re a painter or photographer – is an island unto themselves. There are always lessons we can take from each other, and in many cases, it’s through little more than meaningful and inspirational photography quotes.

William James once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” These photography quotes can help you reach the right state of mind, and in some cases, they may even change your perspective for the better.

Photography Quotes About Emotion

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

– Peter Adams (Commercial photographer)

No matter what anyone says, photography has never been about the technical aspects. You could have one of the most expensive cameras on the market, but without an eye towards snagging the perfect image — which is often imperfect — the highest-priced equipment on earth will mean little.

As it turns out, some of the most striking images ever taken have been on non-expensive cameras. If you can elicit a feeling from the viewer or even the subject, what should be a Facebook image can touch hearts around the world. It’s the emotion — not the price tag — that’s important.

Street Photography

“Photography is an immediate reaction, drawing is a meditation.”

– Henri Cartier-Bresson (Pioneer of street photography)

First impressions aren’t always accurate, but in that first moment, the feeling you experience seems more real than anything that comes after. Take Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photography quote, for instance. Upon reading it, you likely felt that it was deep and meaningful.

No matter what interpretation you hear from now on, the feeling you have now means something. Drawing, on the other hand, gives you time to reflect. You can take time to meditate upon what it is you want the image to say. If you want, you can make it perfect.

Drawing is the prime opportunity to create the world we envision. Photographs capture raw emotion and therefore show the world as it is.

“Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.”

– Edward Steichen (Photographer, painter, and curator)

Everything that’s been documented in images tells a story. It’s a story many of us would never know otherwise. Even in the digital age, we don’t fully understand each other. Photography at least gives us the opportunity to try.

Green eyed man looking at sun

“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.”

– Eve Arnold (Photojournalist)

Anyone can take a picture of anything in this world. If the photographer doesn’t understand or care about the moment, though, it’s hard for them to accurately capture its essence.

This photography quote reminds us there must be emotion, endearment, and passion on all sides. This includes the subject, photographer and the eventual viewer.

If the person taking a photo cannot precisely commit the moment to film, how can anyone be expected to fully appreciate it?

“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 (Held first female exhibition at National Portrait Gallery)

Photographers are creating something that will make their subject last forever. You can witness this by walking into any antique shop and looking through their photos. Even if no one else remembers who these people are, you’re looking at their lives as they were. For a moment, you know them better than anyone else on this earth.

As this photography quote, the subject is handing a part of themselves over. The viewers of those images are able to experience emotion even worlds away. Nothing could be more intimate than these relationships.

Girl with Neon Sign

Photography Quotes About Defining Photography

“Photography is the simplest thing in the world, but it is incredibly complicated to make it really work.”

– Martin Parr (Photojournalist)

A total of 1.8 billion digital images are uploaded daily. To claim that all these are “art” or even “photography” isn’t something many would do. It’s simple to take a picture – it’s more difficult to take one that means something.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

– Elliott Erwin (Documentary photographer)

Photographs contain images that we often envy, but if we see the subjects in real life, they can sometimes seem mundane. After all, driving past that field near your home that boasts a single tree in the center might not seem like much. With the right photographer, though, it can look like the most beautiful place in the world.

Boats on the water

Even the most ordinary things on this earth can become spectacular with the right person behind the lens. This photography quote reminds us that the beautiful things in life won’t always jump up and fight for your attention. Sometimes, you have to seek them out.

“Photography is the recording of strangeness and beauty with beguiling precision.”

– Sebastien Smee (Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic)

Those mundane, everyday subjects mentioned above? They have their own strangeness and beauty.

Again, it takes the right photographer to see them, and then they can share this vision with millions.

“The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.”

– Roland Barthes (Philosopher)

Many people never personally experience the images they see in their favorite pictures. The emotions they feel, however, are just as real. This photography quote brings another thought to mind: since light travels at a finite speed, an alien being who lives 10,000 light-years from earth – with access to a strong-enough telescope – could watch us as we are today.

No matter what happens to us now, light particles will ensure that we live on forever. Strangely enough, it’s the exact same concept as photography. Light creates the images that we see, and even if decades separate viewer from subject, photographers make this intangible connection possible.

What once was will always be thanks to photography.

“Photography is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

– Alfred Stieglitz (Photographer, made photography an accepted art form)

Photographs create a reality that simply may not exist. As we’ve mentioned, most of us have perfect lives on social media. The reality, however, is much more complex. Even with this being the case, it’s the images that people really remember.

Even more importantly, though, is the fact that photographs give us an idea of who the person was. Maybe they’re forcing that smile in their best photograph, but what does it tell us about a person when they’d put aside personal struggles to keep the rest of us content?

This photography quote reminds us that reality isn’t always reality, and although others may put their best face forward, that action may not be the best strategy. Still, it shows us the empathy within the human heart.

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

– Destin Sparks (Landscape photographer)

A picture is worth a thousand words, but in many cases, this is simply because words fail to convey real significance. Even these photography quotes likely don’t tell the full story of what their authors intended. In fact, the words you’re reading that are analyzing these quotes likely fall short as well.

Photographs can tell stories that the best orator would have difficulty giving justice to. They may be nothing more than an echo of a moment in time, but as we’ve learned all too well in this world, it only takes a moment to change everything.

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”

– Henri Cartier-Bresson (Pioneer of street photography)

The person behind a camera obviously recognizes the significance of an event. The magical thing is that everyone – across location and time – also recognizes that significance. The moment they see the image, they realize the importance just as quickly as the original photographer.

Wedding couple

Photography Quotes About Perspective

“When people look at my pictures, I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”

– Robert Frank (Photographer and documentary filmmaker)

Have you ever read a line of poetry that you simply had to read over one more time? How about one of the photography quotes you’ve looked at here? Did you take a few seconds to read even one of them multiple times?

A picture can have the same effect. It’s not always possible to garner every truth and analyze every intention with a moment’s notice. If you’ve ever spent minutes staring at a single image, the photographer accomplished a special feat.

“To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart.”

– Henri Cartier-Bresson (Pioneer of street photography)

When we experience something in real life, it’s either our eyes, heart or brain that dictates our reaction. A photograph provides the opportunity to let each of these traits form our reality.

“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”

– Diane Arbus (Photographer, focused on marginalized populations)

We can never really know the thoughts or emotions experienced by a photograph’s subject. The more complex and seemingly in-depth an image is, the more difficult it is to truly understand the feeling of the moment. Some of the most historic images out there seem to tell us a story, but do they ever really?

Imagine a friend’s Facebook page. It’s loaded with images of big smiles and exciting moments, and they may even have a few of these photography quotes tossed in there just to show they’re more what meets the eye. Are we ever really fooled into thinking that the page embodies everything about their lives, though?

That smile can hide a darker truth, but witnessed trials can also lead to triumph. Pictures are secrets about secrets, but even when they seem to tell us nothing, they can help us understand everything.

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.”

– Susan Sontag (Writer, filmmaker, and political activist)

A painting shows the world as the artist creates it. A photograph shows the world as it is. This is much like the earlier photography quote that compared pictures to drawings. Drawing, painting and similar artistic endeavors far too often tell us what we want to hear.

Photographs tell us what we need to hear. It’s a distinction that’s as clear as the one between fictional works and The New York Times.

The New Yorker

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

– Andy Warhol (Artist, director, amd pioneer in pop art)

A world of emotion, experience, and reality takes place in the time after an image is taken. A single day, event, moment or even word can change everything in the time after an image is captured. This photography quote reminds us that, even if an image is permanent, its reality is not.

People and everything about them can change. Thanks to a photograph, though, we never lose the reality that was. After all, sometimes looking back at the world that was is far more emotionally gratifying than surrounding ourselves with what it is now.

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

– Richard Avedon (Iconic fashion and portrait photographer)

This again harkens back to the perfect life on social media analogy. Everything we witness in a photograph really did take place. There’s not a photography quote out there – no matter how deep and intellectual – that can change this reality.

In many cases, though, the truth is something else entirely. Sure, that person may have been at the beach. They may have gone bungee jumping. No matter what it is that took place, though, there’s always more to the story.

Why We Take Photos

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

– Don McCullin (Photojournalist)

Nothing in this world is entitled to be a great image. Even the most spectacular events can trigger nothing if devoid of emotion. Photographers have to experience this emotion themselves if their viewers are ever going to.

No other photography quote listed here will convey just how much responsibility this puts in the hands of the individual holding the camera. It almost seems irresponsible to bring up a quote from Spider-Man, but “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Photogs are saddled with a great yet imperfect task: to tell us about the world and all the people in it. If they don’t take this responsibility seriously, an awesome quote about photography might be the best thing they can send our way.

Sunset and Water

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”

– Diane Arbus (Photographer, focused on marginalized populations)

This photography quote again reminds us of the great responsibility that photogs have. Potentially the most philanthropic reason to take photographs is to show others a world that simply wouldn’t exist to them otherwise.

The first pictures let people experience things that had been no more real to them than Santa Claus. Photography continues this tradition today.

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera.”

– Lewis Hine (Sociologist and photographer)

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: words sometimes just fall short. A great photographer doesn’t need words to tell a story.

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

– Ralph Hattersley (Photographer, educator, and journalist)

While many people don’t realize it, the photographs we take, share and enjoy are more a testament to our own lives than those who were actually in front of the lens.

Photography Quotes About Capturing Moments

“You don’t take a photograph. You make it.”

– Ansel Adams (Environmentalist and landscape photographer)

Any photographer knows that angles, lighting, timing and – more importantly – a recognition of the prevailing emotion is worth more than a simple image.

“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 (Photographer, part of abstract expressionist movement)

The mourning of a family during the Civil War. The smile on a child’s face when a hearing aid allows them to hear their mother’s voice for the first time. These moments are fleeting – even in our minds – but the images that capture them will evoke emotions for eternity.

“The camera is much more than a recording apparatus, it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world.”

– Orson Welles (Actor, director, writer, and producer)

Time and geography spent millennia preventing messages from being shared. Maybe the best life-affirming thing you could get would be a photography quote you read in a book. After all, people weren’t taking photos in the 1800s – which always proved expensive – just to ship them out west.

Photography has managed to conquer both time and geography by allowing communication between these different worlds across every generation.

“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 (Writer, filmmaker, and political activist)

When we look at a photograph of a strapping young lad from the late 1800s, we understand that it’s simply a memory of what was. An image of ourselves from 10 years ago also shows that time has also not spared us.

Pictures are a reminder that time waits for no one, and by taking the photo, the photographer has inserted themselves into this unavoidable process.

“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 (Founder of Eastman Kodak)

Light is what can take a moment seemingly lacking emotion and transform it. There’s something unique in everything that happens on this earth. This photography quote reminds us that knowing how to use light to convey this fact is a magical thing.

Spiral Staircase

“My interest in photography is not to capture an image I see or even have in my mind, but to explore the potential of moments I can only begin to imagine.”

– Lois Greenfield (Photographer)

Witnessing a moment is one thing, but capturing a moment creates the necessary time to explore what they really mean. In some cases, what we see are things we could never have before imagined.

“There are always two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer.”

– Ansel Adams (Environmentalist and landscape photographer)

This photography quote reminds us that an image doesn’t necessarily say much about the subject. The emotions experienced when the shutter clicks likely don’t even exist any longer.

There is something felt, however, by the person who chose to take the image and those that choose to view it.

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph.”

– Susan Sontag (Writer, filmmaker, and political activist)

It seemed only appropriate to end a piece on photography quotes with this particular quote. Nothing in this world is forever. The only hope anything has at being immortal comes in the form of an image. Words can tell a tale, but if we can’t see something, it’s nearly impossible to connect to it.

In essence, photographers ensure that we don’t go quietly into that good night.

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  • shivangi sharma

    March 15, 2019 at 6:00 am
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    amazing content and beautiful presentation thank you for sharing

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