99 Best Photography Quotes to Inspire You

Last Update: January 8, 2024

Photography is much more than pressing a button. It’s an art form, a mode of expression, and a profound way of seeing the world. Just as every picture speaks a thousand words, the words of master photographers can offer a window into the depths of their craft.

The medium of photography has inspired many quotes over the years. Whether you’re an avid photographer or an admirer, we hope these quotes will resonate and inspire you.

Photography quote overlayed on a photo of a person surrounded by butterflies

99 Photography Quotes

We’ve gathered our 99 favorite photography quotes below. These quotes shed light on the philosophies, visions, and emotions intertwined with photography.

We’ve split them up into eight sections:

  1. General Photography Quotes
  2. Camera and Photo Quotes
  3. Photography Mindset and Feelings
  4. Reality and Illusion
  5. Picture-Taking and Composition
  6. People and Portrait Photography Quotes
  7. Language, Nature, and LIght
  8. Photography Thoughts

General Photography Quotes

Ansel Adams photography quote overlayed on a photo of a person holding a camera

1. “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

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

3. “What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.” – John Berger

4. “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange

5. “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

6. “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 Erwitt

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

8. “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

9. “You don’t take a photograph. You ask quietly to borrow it.” – Author Unknown

10. “The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

11. “You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Camera and Photo Quotes

Photography quote overlayed on a photo of a person holding a camera

12. “When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

13. “The best camera is the one you have with you.” – Chase Jarvis

14. “For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant, which—in visual terms—questions and decides simultaneously.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

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

16. “The camera sees more than the eye, so why not make use of it?” – Edward Weston

17. “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

18. “I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything.” – John Steinbeck

19. “Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” – Joe McNally

20. “Every other artist begins with a blank canvas, a piece of paper the photographer begins with the finished product.” – Edward Steichen

21. “Every photograph is a certificate of presence.” – Roland Barthes

22. “Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.” – Ambrose Bierce

23. “What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.” – Roland Barthes

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

25. “A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.” – Brigitte Bardot 

26. “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score and the print the performance.” – Ansel Adams

Photography Mindset and Feelings

Yousuf Karsh Photography quote overlayed on a still life photo of a camera with colorful lens

27. “Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” – Yousuf Karsh

28. “The camera captures light, our minds capture images.” – Unknown Author

29. “I’m always mentally photographing everything as practice.” – Minor White

30. “I believe photographers should shoot what they want, not shoot what they get.” – Roberto Valenzuela

31. “The photographer is filled with doubt. Nothing will soothe him.” – Raymond Depardon

32. “I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it long enough. That’s the curse of being a photographer.” – Irving Penn

33. “Most photographers would feel a certain embarrassment in admitting publicly that they carried within them a sense of wonder, yet without it they would not produce the work they do, whatever their particular field.” – Bill Brandt

34. “I have always felt that photography is a language for seeing and not for transforming, hiding, or modifying reality. I allow its intrinsic magic to reveal to our gaze the spaces, objects, and landscapes I want to represent.” – Luigi Gurri

35. “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

36. “Most things in life are moments of pleasure and a lifetime of embarrassment; photography is a moment of embarrassment and a lifetime of pleasure.” – Tony Benn

37. “The best way to go into an unknown territory is to go in ignorant, ignorant as possible, with your mind wide open, as wide open as possible and not having to meet anyone else’s requirement but my own.” – Dorothea Lange

38. “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

39. “The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer.” – Author Unknown

40. “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

Reality and Illusion

Diane Arbus Photography quote overlayed on a mysterious portrait photo

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

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

43. “Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our private world.” – Arnold Newman

44. “Photography is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz

45. “The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

46. “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.” – Susan Sontag

47. “Photography is truth.” – Jean-Luc Godard

48. “A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie, but nor is it the truth. It’s more of a fleeting, subjective impression. What I most like about photography is the moment that you can’t anticipate: you have to be constantly watching for it, ready to welcome the unexpected.” – Martine Franck

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

50. “Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real.” – Ansel Adams

51. “In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz

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

Picture-Taking and Composition

Robert Capa Photography quote overlayed on a mysterious portrait photo

53. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa

54. “We must avoid… snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

55. “In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular . . . sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.” – Ansel Adams

56. “Every photograph is a battle of form versus content.” – Garry Winogrand

57. “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

58. “The key to good photography is… to be able to really see what’s in front of you.” – Joachim Ladefoged

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

60. “I shoot a little bit, maybe two rolls, medium format, which is 20 pictures, and if it’s not working, I change the position.” – Annie Leibovitz

61. “My theory of composition? Simple: do not release the shutter until everything in the viewfinder feels just right.” – Ernst Haas

62. “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

63. “It’s not how a photographer looks at the world that is important. It’s their intimate relationship with it.” – Antoine D’Agata

64. “The eye should learn to listen before it looks.” – Robert Frank

65. “One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and turn on. It’s on all the time.” – Annie Leibovitz

People and Portrait Photography Quotes

Andy Warhol Photography quote overlayed on a portrait photo

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

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

68. “There is no single form or style of portraiture. Portraiture means individualism and as such means diversity, self-expression, private point of view. The most successful images seem to be those which exist on several planes at once and which reflect the fantasy and understanding of many.” – Peter Bunnell

69. “I like to photograph anyone before they know what their best angles are.” – Ellen Von Unwerth

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

71. “It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

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

73. “In my portraits, I try to convey the essence of the person.” – Eve Arnold

74. “Photography has the capacity to provide images of man and his environment that are both works of art and moments in history.” – Cornell Capa

75. “To photograph people is to violate them… it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” – Susan Sontag

76. “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

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

Language, Nature, and Light

Bruno Barbey Photography quote overlayed on a still life photo

78. “Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.” – Bruno Barbey

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

80. “The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” – Elliott Erwitt

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

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

83. “The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness.” – Yann Arthus-Bertrand

84. “I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of a place could be photographed.” – Annie Leibovitz

85. “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

86. “I find it some of the hardest photography and the most challenging photography I’ve ever done. It’s a real challenge to work with the natural features and the natural light.” – Galen Rowell

Photography Thoughts

Photography quote overlayed on a photo of a person holding a camera

87. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

88. “A photograph is a click away. A good photograph is a hundred clicks away and a better one, a thousand clicks away.” – Kowtham Kumar K

89. “You have to take a lot of bad pictures. Dont’ be afraid to take bad pictures… You have to take a lot of bad pictures in order to know when you’ve got a good one.” – Martin Parr

90. “To photograph is to confer importance.” – Susan Sontag

91. “A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence.” – Susan Sontag

92. “Photography is a major force in explaining man to man.” – Edward Steichen

93. “I think of photography like therapy.” – Harry Gruyaert

94. “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

95. “Every time someone tells me how sharp my photos are, I assume that it isn’t a very interesting photograph. If it were, they would have more to say.” – Author Unknown

96. “I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.” – Mahatma Gandhi

97. “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” – Susan Sontag

98. “The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.” – William Thackeray

99. “We are not interested in the unusual, but in the usual seen unusually.” – Beaumont Newhall

Photography quote overlayed on a funny bird photo

What’s Next?

We hope you enjoyed the profound insights from photography’s finest. As you reflect on the above photography quotes, let them inspire action.

Pick up your camera. Seek beauty in the everyday. Capture moments that resonate with you.

Let these quotes guide you, and share your unique view with the world. Because every picture you take adds to the grand mosaic of life’s experiences. So, get out there—click, capture, and create!

Ready to get started? Have a look at our posts on the best indoor photography settings, fog photography,or essential camera angles next!