50 Great Photography Quotes

By Geoff Harris

In an idle moment, I thought it might be fun to have a browse on Google for some quotations about photography – and found so many that it would have taken me days to read them all!

Photography can sometimes be a solitary occupation, and so it’s fascinating to see what other photographers have said about their own experiences. After browsing through several different sites, I picked out a list of 50 quotes which particularly appealed to me, either for inspiration or for amusement!

1) “Photography is the art of frozen time… the ability to store emotion and feelings within a frame” - Meshack Otieno

2) “Photograph:  a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.” - Ambrose Bierce

3) “Photography is my meditation” - Czar Anthony Lopez

4) “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

5) “Some photographers take reality...and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation.” - Ansel Adams

6) “Photography is all about light, composition and, most importantly, emotion.” - Larry Wilder

7) “Buying a Nikon doesn’t make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner.” - Author unknown

8) "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop" - Ansel Adams

9) “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” - Dorothea Lange

10) “The world just does not fit conveniently into the format of a 35mm camera.” - W. Eugene Smith

11) "The photographic image ... is a message without a code." -Roland Barthes, French thinker.

12) "I shutter to think how many people are underexposed and lacking depth in this field." - Rick Steves, travel guide and author.

13) "...the most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads—as an anthology of images." -Susan Sontag, On Photography

14) "Photography does not create eternity, as art does; it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption." - André Bazin (1918–1958), French film critic.

15) "To visualize an image (in whole or in part) is to see clearly in the mind prior to exposure, a continuous projection from composing the image through the final print." -Ansel Adams, The Camera

16) "These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago... I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me." -Ansel Adams, in the preface of Jacob a Riis: Photographer & Citizen

17) "The term accessories has come to include a host of photographic gadgets of questionable value..." -Ansel Adams, The Camera

18) "I am always surprised when I see several cameras, a gaggle on lenses, filters, meters, et cetera, rattling around in a soft bag with a complement of refuse and dust. Sometimes the professional is the worst offender!" -Ansel Adams, The Camera

19) "To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things." -Ansel Adams

20) "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter." -Ansel Adams

21) "There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept." -Ansel Adams

22) "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." -Ansel Adams

23) "A good photographer is knowing where to stand." -Ansel Adams

24) "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." -Robert Capa

25) "Life is like a good black and white photograph, there's black, there's white, and lots of shades in between." -Karl Heiner

26) "You press the button and we do the rest." -Kodak advertisement …….(not any more you don’t)

27) "You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it." -Pentax advertisement

28) "I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn." -Pablo Picasso

29) "...everything looks worse in black and white."-Paul Simon, Kodachrome, from Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-86

30) "Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures." -Susan Sontag, On Photography

31) "When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself." -Edward Steichen, quoted in Penelope Niven's Steichen: A Biography

32) "A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever." -Mark Twain

33) "Photography is 90% sheer, brutal drudgery!" -Brett Weston

34) "Anything more than 500 yards from the car just isn't photogenic." -Edward Weston

35) "Buying a Nikon camera does not make you a photographer - it makes you a Nikon camera owner" –anonymous

36) "No photographer is as good as the simplest camera"  -Edward Steichen

37) "F8 and be there" -Ken Rockwell

38) "A photograph is neither taken nor seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos" -Henri Cartier-Bresson

39) The only thing that gets in the way of a really good photograph, is the camera" -Norman Parkinson.

40) It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary"  -David Bailey

41) "Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does"  -John Berger

42) "Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships!" –Ansel Adams

43) "The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt" -Henri Cartier-Bresson

44) After 40 years of ingesting every aspect of photographic science and composition, I still find the camera to be an endlessly intriguing partner that challenges my imagination and knowledge. All that with only 3 variables of shutter speed, aperture and focal length"  -Ralph Auletta

45) “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” -Dorothea Lange

46) “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

47)  “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

48) Look, I'm not an intellectual - I just take pictures.” Helmut Newton

49) “It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.”
- Paul Strand

50) “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” -Ansel Adams


If you have any favourite quotes about photography, let us know!

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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