When starting out as a photographer, you may find yourself in a creative rut. A lack of ideas, or rather, an abundance of ideas can make it difficult to find a photographic theme.
This is where the masters of photography can help you. We’ve put together a list of some of the most famous photographers this world has ever seen.
Most of the photographers in our list have shifted from our mortal plane. Yet, their images, messages and creativity live on. We can all take something away from their careers and work.
27. Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman (January 19, 1954) is an American conceptual artist. she is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists in the modern age of photography.
This is easy to understand, especially when she has two images in the list of The 10 Most Expensive Photographs in the World.
Her photography explores contemporary identity and the nature of representation. These are drawn from the unlimited supply of images from TV, magazines, the internet and art history.
She places her self in her own work, using a range of disguises and personas. They are disturbing, distasteful and sometimes amusing.
Not only is she the photographer, but model, hairdresser, stylist and makeup artist too.
26. Robert Frank
There was never a more prolific photographer than Robert Frank (November 9, 1924). From 1941, he worked as a commercial photographer in Zurich, Basel and Geneva.
In 1947, he found a job as a fashion photographer in the US. He used his 35mm Leica, unconventional at the time. Between 1950 and ’59 he turned his attention to street photography and photojournalism.
This is where he became most famous. The Guggenheim Fellowship allowed him to travel the country, resulting in his most famous work: The Americans.
He worked closely to Walker Evans and became one of the world’s most famous street photographers. He supplemented his visuals with text, written straight onto the negatives and prints.
25. Eliot Porter
Eliot Furness Porter (December 6, 1901 – November 2, 1990) was an American photographer best known for his intimate color photographs of nature.
He started to photograph birds and landscapes with a Kodak box camera as a child.
Porter acquired a Leica in 1930. In 1933, he was powerfully moved by the photographs of Ansel Adams. Ansel encouraged him to work with a large-format camera.
Porter did so upon meeting Alfred Stieglitz, who exhibited his work at An American Place in 1939.
Imogen Cunningham (April 12, 1883 – June 23, 1976) was an American photographer known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes. Cunningham was a member of the California-based Group f/64.
Cunningham’s early work consisted of soft focus and blurred imagery, which gave a mystery to the photographed figure.
As Cunningham began experimenting with sharper, crisper images she began to create a style known as sharp focus photography.
23. Frans Lanting
Frans Lanting (born July 13, 1951) is a Dutch photographer specializing in wildlife photography. He operates a studio and gallery as well as a stock photography services in Santa Cruz, USA.
Lanting works in many different parts of the world including the Amazon basin, Africa and Antarctica. His photographs regularly appear in National Geographic, where he served as photographer-in-residence.
22. Paul Strand
Paul Strand (October 16, 1890 – March 31, 1976) was an American photographer who helped to establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. His diverse body of work spanned six decades.
He covered many genres and subjects throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Alfred Steiglitz helped to influence his modernistic approach.
Paul even worked with renowned documentary photographer Lewis Hine.
Here, he learned how to capture urban bustle, formal abstractions, and street portraits.
Weegee was born Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968). He was a Hungarian photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography.
Weegee worked in Manhattan as a press photographer during the 1930s and 1940s, where he developed his signature style.
He followed the city’s emergency services and documenting their activity. Much of his work depicted unflinchingly realistic scenes of urban life, crime, injury and death.
20. Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004) was an American fashion and portrait photographer.
His fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.
He started as a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar, which helped him fund his studio, starting in 1946. Here, he produced images for Vogue and Life magazines.
Avedon was always interested in how portraiture captures the personality and soul of its subject. As his reputation as a photographer became known, he photographed many noted people in his studio with a large-format 8×10 view camera.
19. Don McCullin
Sir Donald McCullin (born 9 October 1935), is a British photojournalist. He is well known for his war photography and images of urban strife.
His career, which spans 60 decades, specialized in examining the underside of society. He presents photographs that depict the unemployed, downtrodden and the impoverished.
He is a photojournalist without equal. Whether documenting the poverty of London’s East End, or the horrors of wars in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.
Simultaneously, he has proved an artist capable of beautifully arranged still lifes, soulful portraits and moving landscapes.
18. Edward Western
Edward Henry Weston (March 24, 1886 – January 1, 1958) was a 20th-century American still life photographer.
Over the course of his 40-year career, Weston photographed an increasingly expansive set of subjects. These included landscapes, still lifes, nudes and portraits.
He came to focus on portraits after spending part of his career capturing trees and rocks in California. In 1937, Weston was the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Over the next two years, he produced nearly 1,400 negatives using his 8 × 10 view camera.
17. Man Ray
Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky; August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976) was an American visual artist who spent most of his career in France.
He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements.
He considered himself a painter above all, but yet, best known for his fashion and portrait photography. Man Ray is also noted for his photograms, which he called “rayographs” in reference to himself.
16. David Bailey
David Royston Bailey (born 2 January 1938) is an English fashion and portrait photographer. He was determined to become a photographer, buying his first camera in 1957. That Rolleiflex soon became a Canon Rangefinder.
He started off assisting David Ollins, and then John French. His poor school attendance stopped his dream of attending the London School of Fashion.
Bailey helped to create and photograph the ‘swinging sixties’, a culture of fashion and celebrity chic.
15. David LaChapelle
David LaChapelle (born March 11, 1963) is an American commercial photographer and fine-art photographer.
His photography references art history, religious scenes and those that convey social messages.
His photographic style is “meticulously created in a high-gloss, colour-popping, hyper-realistic style” and as “kitsch pop surrealism”.
LaChapelle has worked for international publications. His work has found themselves in commercial galleries and institutions around the world.
14. Anne Geddes
Anne Geddes (born 13 September 1956) is an Australian-born photographer, currently living and working in New York. She is a newborn photographer.
Her books have been published in 83 countries and sold more than 18 million copies. In 1997, Cedco Publishing sold more than 1.8 million calendars and date books bearing Geddes’ photography.
Her debut book, Down in the Garden, made it to the New York Times Bestseller List. Her books have been translated into 23 different languages.
13. Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist.
She is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA).
Her early work mostly involved photographing the social elite in a studio setting. Later, Lange’s photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.
She influenced the development of documentary photography into what it is today.
12. Robert Doisneau
Robert Doisneau (14 April 1912 – 1 April 1994) was a French photographer. In the 1930s he captured the streets of Paris. He was a master of humanist photography.
Alongside Henri Cartier-Bresson, he was a pioneer of photojournalism.
Doisneau was known for his modest, playful, and iconic images. They show amusing juxtapositions, mingling social classes, and eccentrics in contemporary Paris.
His influences cite Atget, Kertesz and Bresson.
11. Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry is an American photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. His most famous photo is of the “Afghan Girl”, the well-known girl with the piercing green eyes.
McCurry has photographed many assignments for National Geographic and has been a member of Magnum since 1986.
McCurry is the recipient of numerous awards. These include Magazine Photographer of the Year, the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and two first-place prizes in the World Press Photo contest (1985 and 1992).
10. Mario Testino
Mario Eduardo Testino Silva OBE (born 30 October 1954) is a Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer. His work found its way in magazines such as Vogue, V Magazine, Vanity Fair and GQ.
He has also created images for brands such as Gucci, Chanel and Estée Lauder.
Alongside his practice, Testino has also worked as a creative director, guest editor, museum founder, art collector and collaborator and entrepreneur.
The Observer described him as “the world’s most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer”.
André Kertész (2 July 1894 – 28 September 1985) was a Hungarian photographer. He contributed avant-garde photographic compositions, never before seen or used.
In the early years of his career, his unorthodox camera angles and style produced very powerful street photography.
Kertész never felt that he had gained the worldwide recognition he deserved. Today, many considered him one of the seminal figures of photojournalism.
Andreas Gursky (born 15 January 1955) is a German photographer and professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Germany.
He is known for his large format architecture and landscape colour photographs, often employing a high point of view.
Before 1990, his work was in no way, shape or form manipulated using computer software. Now, he depends on it, helping him to create his style of straightforward, enigmatic and deadpan photography.
Robert Mapplethorpe (November 4, 1946 – March 9, 1989) was an American photographer, known for his approach on controversial subject-matters.
His highly stylized black and white images depict celebrity portraits and male/female nudes. He also covered self-portraits and still-life images of flowers.
His most controversial work is that of the underground BDSM scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography. He was an early user of 35 mm film, where most others used large or medium format cameras.
He pioneered the genre of street photography, capturing powerful moments.
His view on photography produced a book, describing the decisive moment. This occurs when the visual and psychological elements of people in a real-life scene spontaneously and briefly come together in perfect resonance.
Anna-Lou “Annie” Leibovitz ( born October 2, 1949) is an American portrait photographer. She famously photographed John Lennon on the day of his assassination. Her work has been featured in numerous album covers and magazines.
She became the first woman to hold an exhibition at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery in 1991. When she says she wants to photograph someone, what it really means is that she’d like to know them.
Her style that sets her images apart from every other portrait photographer.
Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior (born February 8, 1944) is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist. He has traveled in over 120 countries for his photographic projects.
Most of these have appeared in countless press publications and books.
Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He received the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant in 1982.
In 1992, he received Foreign Honorary Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in 1993.
Brassaï (born Gyula Halász; 9 September 1899 – 8 July 1984) was a Hungarian/French photographer who rose to international fame in the 20th century.
He was one of the numerous Hungarian artists who flourished in Paris between the World wars.
His black and white street photography is both descriptive and even humorous. The streets were his canvas, where he found himself wandering through late at night.
He is a master of composition. This is something installed in him during his time studying painting and sculpture.
2. Ansel Adams
Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) was an American photographer and environmentalist.
He is best known for his black-and-white landscape photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park.
Ansel and a colleague developed the zone system for a proper way to expose an image and help adjust the contrast of the final print. He predominantly used a large format camera.
Adams was an original founder of Group f/64, along with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston.
1. Robert Capa
Robert Capa (born Endre Friedmann; October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954) was a Hungarian war photographer and photojournalist.
He was also the companion and professional partner of photographer Gerda Taro. Capa was a nickname (meaning shark in Hungarian) due to his up-close and personal style.
He was arguably the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history. His most notable work is of the Spanish civil war.
He was present with the first wave of soldiers during the D-Day landing, where only a few images of his survived.