As photographers, many of us are better with pictures than we are with words. That’s why it can sometimes be difficult to express thoughts about our work properly – but there are some people who have managed to say it better than we ever could. These 10 inspiring quotes will have you nodding your head in agreement, and could even teach you how to improve your work.
- “Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” — Destin Sparks
What this quote is telling us is that photographers are really storytellers. Some of us manage to grasp this quicker and easier than others. Take a look at a fashion editorial next time you open up a magazine. Although the focus may be on the clothes, see how the images flow together, and see what kind of character you can infer for the models. Editorials always have a story to them, even if it is only a vague idea or reference. When you take even one photograph, you can express a whole story through that image. Next time you shoot, try creating a story in your mind and shooting with it as your vision, so that every frame is another part of the storyline.
- “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” — Alfred Stieglitz
This is a great quote for documentary photographers and photojournalists in particular. When you take a photograph, it shows just one moment, and it shows everything about that moment in terms of what you can see. It can’t record sound, or smells, but it can show a snapshot of what it was like to be there. This is a very powerful and important thing. You can use a photograph to give your own version of reality, which in the end may be more important than the truth of the moment itself.
- “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.” — Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz teaches us with this quote that photography is an emotional medium. When you take a portrait of someone, allow yourself to love them. You don’t have to create a flat, straight portrait every time. Instead, allow yourself to gush over the curve of the cheekbone, admire the twinkle in the eye, praise the easy laughter. Recording these things in the portrait makes the image all the more powerful and faithful.
- “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
Here’s a thought to help you understand how to make your work more meaningful. If you don’t feel anything about the photographs you take, then others won’t either. Put thought and emotion into them and see what comes out.
- “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
This goes deeper into Annie Leibovitz’s idea of loving your subject. Capturing who someone is is a lot more powerful than simply making them look good. More than that, it will be much more appreciated, particularly in the long run. Your subject may ask for a photograph that makes them look beautiful, but they should look like themselves – this will be a portrait that they treasure.
- “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” — Matt Hardy
This quote reminds us that it is the way we take a photograph that brings the beauty to the surface. Being able to see beauty is one thing, but being able to capture it is another. That’s how you know you are a professional, not just another amateur with a point and shoot.
- “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” — Jim Richardson
If you are stuck in a rut, refer back to this quote. How do you revitalise your photography and find new inspiration? By finding interesting subjects. Get out of the house, go travel, meet new people, see new things. Your photography will improve and become so much more interesting than if you practice for the 90th time getting that perfect macro shot of your houseplants.
- “I like to photograph anyone before they know what their best angles are.” — Ellen Von Unwerth
The best portrait is one that is unposed and unstudied. Fashion photographers often find this when working with models who know the one look that suits them best and don’t want to try anything else. But without this preconceived idea, you can photograph the real person, not their “best” angle. You can often find that the image is a better one as a whole even for commercial uses.
- “In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated.” — August Sander
This applies in a practical sense as well as a philosophical one. There is nothing that you cannot capture with your camera – no subject too tricky that some experimentation won’t discover. There’s also nothing too taboo, nothing that you shouldn’t go into. Fancy using your photographic skills for activism? You can.
- “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” — Dorothea Lange
Finally, a reminder to step away from the lens now and then. Once you find your photographic vision, you won’t ever turn it off. You will see the beauty in the world and the art in it. That’s a gift that you should enjoy for yourself from time to time, as well as capturing it for other people.
These quotes are from people who know what they are talking about, but they could just as easily come from you. Don’t be afraid to embrace the art, the creativity, and the inspiration of your work. You’ll find there is a depth to photography that could be explored forever!