Draw Endless Inspiration From These Famous Photographers
Attempting to improve your photography skills can seem like a daunting task at first. There’s a near infinite number of online guides and an even larger selection of available gear. This never-ending stream of tools often leaves budding photographers, as well as seasoned professionals, overwhelmed and jumbled. It’s astoundingly difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat. So what’s one surefire way of getting to the cream of the photography crop? Walking in the footsteps of the greats, of course. And, we’ve already taken the first steps for you! Here’s a list of our favorite famous photographers along with their favorite tools, tips, and techniques.
The Classic Famous Photographers
Ansel Adams is an American photographic legend. He is the godfather of American landscape photographers and helped crystalize imagery of the early 20th century American West. He used relatively inexpensive gear to capture astonishingly iconic photos of beautiful and particularly untouched environments.
Box Brownie #1, a Zeiss Milliflex, a 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 glass plate camera and a 4×5 camera.
- The editing process is at least equally important as the actually image capturing. Adams spent countless hours perfecting his developments in the “dark room”.
- Plan your shots with purpose. Adams reportedly had a very clear understanding of what the final product was going to look like prior to taking any photograph.
- Know your equipment. You don’t have to own the nicest camera in the world to capture amazing images. Instead of pining over expensive new gear, you should aim to know everything that you can about what you own. Like most of the famous photographers on this list, Adams had an incredibly intimate knowledge of his gear. He was subsequently able to utilize his equipment as an extension of himself.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French pioneer of candid photography. He was a master of timing and a monumental influence on the genre of street photography. Bresson blurred the lines between photojournalistic practices and artistry.
Leica 35mm rangefinder camera with a 50mm lens.
- Insert yourself into the thick of it. Don’t wait for interesting things to happen around you. Go out and place yourself in the center of the action. Bresson had a bone to pick with landscape photographers like Adams. He questioned the importance of “photographing rocks” at a time when “the world is going to pieces.” Bresson had a much more urgent understanding of photography and felt a need to capture action.
- Develop your instincts so you don’t over-think everything. Bresson was an advocate for spontaneous and improvised compositions, despite the seemingly perfect arrangements in his own photographs. He was able to achieve this by relying heavily on instincts that he’d developed over the course of his career. Obviously, having a career’s worth of experience would provide a healthy base for your spontaneity. Still, you can start actively developing your instincts at any point in your personal photographic journey.
- Forget about the photograph and pay more attention to the subject. Let your guard down. Neglect the finished product. And focus on being present and in-the-moment. In the end, you’ll capture a more genuine and unique image if you let it come naturally.
Dorothea Lange was an American photojournalist and a driving force of 20th century documentary photography. She is best known for her work for the Farm Security Agency, through which she documented migrant workers and others affected by the Great Depression. Lange had an incredible ability to capture stunning compositions while on-the-go or in the streets.
Graflex Series D SLR
- Try to capture something beyond the image. Like many famous photographers, Lange knew that the true potential of photography was to reveal a type of depth that the naked eye might overlook. When taking a picture, you should be attempting to uncover a truth from within the subject.
- Stick to a single subject matter. Lange became famous for her Depression Era photographs of migrant workers. She found a theme that she could effectively capture and communicate with, and she dove in head-first. Find something that you’re interested in and photograph it until you’re nearly sick of it. Then photograph it some more.
- Don’t be afraid to share intimacy. It’s important to feel comfortable with and close to your subject. It’s equally as important to have these feelings about your potential audience. You should consider your photography to be a means for connecting two previously untethered satellites within the universe.
The More Contemporary Famous Photographers
Steve McCurry is an award-winning editorial photographer and photojournalist. His work is primarily published in National Geographic, and he takes a humanistic approach toward his subject matter. His best known work, “Afghan Girl”, is one of the most globally recognizable images of all time.
- The best compositions are all about drawing imaginary lines. McCurry highlights his own use of diagonal lines to emphasize movement, as well as natural lines that direct the eye toward the center of the frame. He also relies on the rule of thirds to place points of interest at line intersections.
- Try capturing images where the primary subject is an interruption within a larger scheme. McCurry makes incredible use of patterns and the variations that disrupt or discontinue them. Finding chinks in the system will provide more powerful images.
- Similar to finding digressions in a pattern, creating contrast between your foreground and background is crucial. McCurry stresses the importance of filling the entirety of the frame, while maintaining a striking degree of contrast. It’s also worth remembering that your background can rightfully dominate the foreground in some cases.
John “Rankin” Waddell is a British fashion and portrait photographer. He is the co-founder of the popular style magazine Dazed & Confused (now just Dazed) and influential voice in contemporary pop culture. Rankin has authored over 30 photography books and has also enjoyed some success in music video production.
RZ67 Professional II and a M65mm f4 L-A. Likes wide-angles and sometimes shoots with 90mm, but never with anything over 110mm.
- Like many of these famous photographers, Rankin emphasizes the need to familiarize yourself with your gear. At the same time, he states that the type and quality of gear is less important than the subject matter. A “bad” camera can still capture an amazing image.
- Experimentation is key. Emulation can help. Rankin points out that you need to experiment and “try on” a variety of styles in order to find your own.
- Light is everything. Cameras capture light. Every photograph is about light. Regardless of what the subject is, light will always be the most important piece of the puzzle.
Steve Bloom is an author, wildlife photographer, and activist. He is best known for his nature photography taken throughout the African continent. Bloom is also known for his large, outdoor, and usually free photo exhibitions such as 2010’s Spirit of the Wild.
Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III, a 15mm Canon EOS Fisheye, a Canon 24mm f/2.8, a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, Canon 24-70mm Canon f/2.8, a Canon 300mm f/4, a Canon Speedlite 580 EX Flash, a Gitzo Carbon Tripod, Jobo GIGA Vu SONIC Portable Storage, a Dell Notebook Computer, a Lacie Rugged Portable Hard Drive, and Sandisk Memory Cards.
- Have respect for the personal bubbles of your subject. This is especially poignant advise for wildlife photographers like Bloom. You want to get as close to your subject as possible, while maintaining an air of respect for their space.
- Always have extra memory cards on hand. Bloom isn’t ashamed to fill up several cards during a single shoot. Considering how unobtrusive and lightweight they are, you’ll never be sorry for bringing “too many” memory cards.
- Research your subjects ahead of time. Again, for wildlife photography this is an obvious requirement. Although, the research approach can be applied to all subject matter. The more you know about your subject, the better you can become at capturing their essence.
So What’s The One Tool All Photographers Should Use?
Regardless of your photographic capabilities, your subject matter, or how expensive your camera is, there’s one tool that every photographer can benefit from. It’s not a type of lens or a fancy camera bag. It’s not a high-tech light meter or a futuristic tripod. It isn’t even a physical object. It’s software! But not just any software. The most universal tool for all modern photographers is the younity media server app.
younity is the ultimate solution for your digital file conundrums. As media server software, younity creates a personal and private network between your devices, connecting your computers, smartphones, and tablets and all of the files stored within them. With younity, you can access, stream, download, or share any file using any of your devices, without ever having to worry about where the actual files are stored.
younity is the perfect digital photography companion.
You can access entire photo collections and Lightroom catalogs while on-the-go. You can share images stored on your computer directly into Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, or any third-party apps from your smartphone or tablet. And, you can use younity to automatically organize and consolidate all of your image files across all of your devices.
As an avid supporter of having extra digital storage capacity, Steve Bloom would certainly benefit from the space saving mechanisms that younity can provide. He could have access to his entire photo history without storing anything on his smartphone or laptop. He could even decide to store all of his digital media on a separate home computer, while maintaining his ability to stream his favorite playlists or view important documents during his photography expeditions. Consequently, Bloom would have an enormous economy of available laptop and smartphone storage.
Despite his use of film cameras, Henri Cartier-Bresson would have been a younity zealot as well. One of younity’s primary intentions is to foster creative spontaneity while users move from one device to the next. Bresson advocated the need for photographers to be in-the-moment and spontaneous, and younity provides a tremendous amount of support for that type of on-the-go inventive momentum. With younity, you can focus on creative output and evade getting bogged down by tedious file maintenance, transferring, and storage issues.
Famous photographers and budding amateurs alike can equally profit from the younity’s endless fountain of digital support. As a universal media tool, younity is perfect for anyone who uses multiple devices and has files scattered throughout them. Build a new and improved relationship with your media and ultimately become a better photographer with younity!
Click here to learn more about younity.