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03 Sep
Musings from the Masters- Wise Photography Quotes

Musings from the Masters- Wise Photography Quotes

Even the very best photographers don’t always get it right, and they embrace and grow from it. We’ve scoured the web for some of the wisest words from photography masters which can help you to rediscover the meaning of photography, and give your photographic pursuits a new lease of life.


“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange

There’s no denying the simple addition of a camera gives a person a new view of the world around them. You start to look at more, in more detail, see the beauty in things you would normally overlook and consider how others would process what’s before them- What kind of emotions does it give and story does it tell?


“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photography is a continuous learning experience, and you probably won’t even notice how much you’ve changed. At some point you will begin to be able to observe your captures as if someone else was looking at them and photograph for the finished shot. Take a look at one of your earliest photos and compare to your most recent; can you see how your method has changed? Composition? Ability to recognise and capture a great shot? It’s not about getting the best photograph the first time but instead growing through each one and developing your skills.

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”

Robert Frank

“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

Sometimes we overthink things, a lot! With photography it’s just as important to capture the seemingly mundane everyday things as those shots you’ve constructed. Rather than looking for the perfect shot, feel for it. Does a particular scene evoke new emotions or tell a story? Try to bring the focus away from simply looking for the shot, avoid thinking ‘would this make a good photo’ before capturing, just shoot.


“The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.”

Anne Geddes

If you can look back at a photograph and reminisce your thoughts and feelings evoked in that exact moment, from that scene, that is what makes a great shot.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”

Ansel Adams

Not every photograph you take is going to be a keeper, and you’re not going to like them all. As a photographer it’s important to have the ability to see the true beauty of a shot, recognise imperfections as potential assets and learn to look at your captures objectively.



“Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.”

Berenice Abott

You can only capture that unique photo in that one moment; a little later the light may have moved, a breeze passed by, a change of expression. It’s important to recognise the value of every shot you take as no one will be able to take that exact one ever again. In the same sense, make the shot count as often as you can, strive to capture that present moment before it becomes the precious past.

“Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation, and execution.”

Ansel Adams

It’s unlikely everyone will interpret and see your photo in the same light that you did when you took it, or even after when you look back. Embrace this and the value of other’s perceptions of your work, value and discover what the photo means to others and the story they see behind it, as it may help you to capture better in the future.


“It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.”

Timothy Allen

It’s a misconception that the more time and effort you put into a shot, the better it will be. This is not the case. In that one moment where you’re considering angles, setting your lens before pressing the shutter is time enough for that precious emotion/facial expression to pass, that action to stop, the lighting to change. Look back at your captures; which would you consider were the best? The ones that are technically perfected or the ones that illustrate that one moment in time perfectly?

“Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Imogen Cunningham

Never settle in your captures, always seek to improve and reach the next best high in your photography. With the constant opportunity for growth it’s likely your best photos are yet to come.


“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

Taking a picture and capturing a portrait are two very different things. When taking a picture you are simply pausing your subject in a moment in time. When capturing a portrait your are attempting to portray the individual; stories, a millisecond look into their lives. It’s all about the ability and insight to capture who the person is.

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

Joan Miro

Every photograph has a different meaning, a different value. It’s all about finding and working towards that one shot that you will always remember and treasure.


“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.”

Eve Arnold

It may sound silly but a photographer will often unconsciously be able to reflect their own feelings simply through a photograph. If they are passionate about a particular subject they will be able to perceive ways to capture, depict and evoke deeper emotions for the viewer. Try to remain connected to your shot, don’t simply be a bystander pressing the shutter.

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

Diane Arbus

Photography opens the world up to all. There are things that many would not have been aware were happening without them being photographed, iconic moments in history we wouldn’t have ever been able to understand or perceived without a photograph. Images are universal, that one thing you’re about to photograph could mean a lot to someone who missed that moment.


“I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.”

Diane Arbus

The very best photographer will see the shot in their mind first. It’s likely that you’ll never get the exact shot you wanted to, it’s just part of the journey.

“I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.”


Our favourite quote of the bunch. When you take a capture it should seek to tell a story; in the eyes of the subject, in actions, in perceived moods. The very best photos are the ones that draw the viewer in and they feel like they were there with the photographer in that exact moment.


Is there a quote which is particularly special to you and your photography? Let us know in the comment box below or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

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