47 Famous Photographers + Their Works & Who They Were

Photography is an art. Photography is a craft. Photography is a business. Photography is a medium of communication.

Indeed, photography is many things to many people. Since there is so much to do with regard to photography, there is also a whole lot to learn.

One fantastic way to learn is to look at others involved in our chosen field. For many of us, photography is a mixture of all those things just listed. Taking advantage of the experience of others will help us improve in what we do.

So, let’s see what we can learn from a variety of influential, important, pioneering, and famous photographers. They are presented in no particular order, not even alphabetical order!

47 Famous Photographers + Their Works & Who They Were

1. Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre

How many photographers do you know that have an entire photographic process named after them? In 1839, Louis Daguerre perfected a method of coating metal plates that could be done by anyone with the time and material.

We may not be familiar with specific images from him, but we can learn from him how important it may be to our own photography to learn a new process or method.

2. Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge

His late 1800s pioneering work in capturing fast action, indeed any action, led to the creation of cinematography. There is a lot of cross-over between still and motion picture photography.

You might it very motivating to watch his motion studies, perhaps learning what type of motion makes for interesting movie footage. Since so many current still digital cameras also have video capability, this could be quite helpful.

3. Harold Edgerton

Harold Eugene Edgerton

Papa Flash was an inventor and photographer, introducing the use of strobes in photography. Some photographers are nervous about using flash. We don’t need to be.

Take note of what Papa Flash did with older, non-automatic strobe flashes. Then go ahead and start using flash as appropriate.

4. Roger Fenton

Roger Fenton

One of the first war photographers, Roger Fenton and Matthew Brady is sometimes cited as the beginning of photojournalism.

If you are at all interested in this, studying the Crimean War photos will help you see how important it is to have a good basic understanding of photography itself.

Mr. Fenton was a respected portrait photographer well before he was sent to record battlefields.

5. Matthew Brady

Mathew Brady

Photographing the American Civil War was another noted portrait photographer, Matthew Brady.

Additionally, his images were distributed a little more widespread than the Crimean War pictures because they actually made it into print in the U.S.A.

6. Robert Capa

Robert Capa

The only civilian photographer involved in the D-Day landings in Normandy during WWII, Robert Capa was both fearless and talented. His work should be studied by photojournalism students.

Might as well put the war photographers together in this list. Even studying the controversies surrounding some of his images is enlightening to those wanting to break into photojournalism.

7. Nadar


An illustrator who took up the “new” art of photography, Nadar can be viewed as one of the earliest street photographers.

Quite a feat to do what he did on and under the streets of Paris with the cumbersome cameras and processes of the day.

Furthermore, his images of the catacombs under mid 19th Century Paris still evoke a sense of wonder in viewers.

8. Samuel Bourne

Samuel Bourne

The architecture of India and grand views of the Himalayas were subjects that fascinated viewers of his images in the late 1800s.

The aesthetics of nature and buildings are still excellent subjects for photographers today, Bourne’s pictures benefited from his methodical approach to imaging that the slower processes of his day required.

He paved the way for later notable nature and landscape photographers.

9. Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

Founder of a detective agency contracted by early American railroads, Pinkerton makes the famous photographers list for pioneering the use of photographs of wanted criminals.

Previously, wanted posters and police forces had to depend on sketch artists, some of which were better than others.

Pinkerton distributed photos of known criminals and other wanted men which is a method still in use.

10. Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz

Stieglitz had a decades-long career as a photographer and promoter of artists of all types. His own photography started in the late 1800s in western Europe and continued as he came to New York.

Furthermore, street photography and early colorwork (in Autochrome) were his main interests.

He ran art galleries and camera clubs throughout his career, being instrumental in promoting new artists of various mediums, especially modern art. He was also married to artist/photographer Georgia O’Keefe.

11. Georgia O’Keefe

Georgia O'Keeffe

Probably best known for her art depicting flowers and nature, Georgia O’Keefe was a painter and a photographer. Her work could be seen as a form of modern art, as it generally highlighted form and color.

Interestingly, her paintings often looked like photographs and her photographs resembled paintings.

Her lasting legacy, besides the art, was in helping other artists find their voice in the art, promoting and sponsoring artists of all types along with Alfred Stieglitz.

12. P.J.C. Janssen

P.J.C. Janssen

An astronomer, Janssen was an early pioneer of using photography in the science of astronomy.

He is credited with discovering the gaseous nature of the Sun’s chromosphere, photographic observation being instrumental in that discovery.

He also helped in the discovery of helium. Besides the beginnings of astrophotography, he was also a groundbreaking cinematographer, making astronomical documentaries such as The Passage of Venus.

13. Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget

Documenting street scenes in and around Paris, Atget’s work was a mix of artistic expression and documentary photography.

He was determined to preserve images of what Paris looked like before everything became modernized.

In documenting the streets, buildings, and landscapes around Paris, he captured the beauty of what some may consider mundane.

Nothing is mundane if you care about it enough.

14. André Kertész

André Kertész

Hungarian photographer who documented street scenes in the 35mm format, one of the earliest photographers to make use of the relatively new ‘miniature’ film format.

A master of several types of photography, his street and landscape photography was sometimes very artistic in nature.

His photos were published in various magazines after he came to America and he is now considered one of the more influential photographers of the early modern age.

15. Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Educated as an Illustrator and painter in a conservative art school, Henri Cartier-Bresson became a photographer in the 35mm format in the 1920s and 30s.

He was able to take his art discipline and apply it to the burgeoning art of candid street photography.

A proponent of a school of thought of capturing the decisive moment, Cartier-Bresson’s style and technique can be applied to anything from wedding photography to sports and wildlife.

16. Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier

A very prolific photographer in America from the 1950s to the 1990s, Vivian Maier’s work was relatively unknown until just about a decade ago.

Her images documented numerous events and also captured urban Americana throughout the period in which she was active.

Her work is important as it shows a passion for realism without making images appear ‘gritty’ or incomposed.

Interesting that she became a famous photographer after her active shooting time period.

17. Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

A fashion and magazine photographer, Richard Avedon’s style is both realistic and flattering to the subject, a balance that can sometimes be difficult to achieve.

A study of his work is good for anyone who photographs people. Wedding photographers, portrait artists, and fashion photographers alike can learn from his unique style.

While working for Vogue magazine for much of his fashion photography, he also took portraits, both formally posed and candid, of various types of people in America and abroad.

18. Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

What makes a person a famous photographer? Sometimes it has to do with creating or exemplifying a set of rules, other times it’s all about breaking the rules.

Diane Arbus documented aspects of American life that other people perhaps didn’t even know about. Subjects ignored or avoided by classic portrait photographers became some of her favorite and preferred subjects.

She also enjoyed unusual vantage points and favored close-up or crowded compositions.

In her photography, breaking the rules worked because the care she felt for the subject shown through the display of her images.

19. Edward Steichen

 Edward Steichen

An artist, painter, and photographer from Luxembourg, Steichen was one of the most prolific advertising photographers during the period from about 1903 to 1938.

His fashion photography was some of the first-ever of its type published, strongly influencing fashion and advertising photography.

He also directed documentary films, winning an Academy Award in 1945. His 1928 portrait of Greta Garbo is considered an iconic image of the glamour of Hollywood.

20. Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

A documentary photographer who captured stunning and influential images of the American Civil Rights movement, he was also a fashion photographer and a director of major motion pictures.

He made a big splash in glamour photography, too, highlighting the beauty of people from a wide variety of cultures and races.

Studying Parks shows us how to capture and appreciate the art of variety.

21. Brassaï


Sometimes referred to as the Eye of Paris, Brassai was an artist, journalist, and photographer. He was especially active during the period between the two world wars.

His work showed the beauty of the streets and sights of Paris, as well as intimate candid portraits of people from the lowest social status to high society.

A friend of contemporary artists such as Dali, Picasso, and Matisse, he was able to capture aspects of their personalities that guided their own art.

22. Irving Penn

Irving Penn

Fashion photography for magazines such as Vogue is what many know Penn for. But he also made gorgeous modernist style still life compositions and portraits of famous people as well as ethnographic images from around the world.

His travel photography often captured more than merely the sights of the area, it showed what was behind the personality and feel of a place.

Penn was a master of simplicity. His portraits generally were shot against plain black, white, or grey backgrounds.

Still, life arrangements were composed with extreme precision and were sparse and basic, relying on line and contrast to enhance detail. He exemplified the nude as an art form, concentrating on line, form, and contrast.

23. Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

A prolific landscape and nature photographer, Ansel Adams is one of the best known of all of the famous photographers.

Founded of Group F/64 and inventor of the Zone System, Ansel Adams was a proponent of previsualization. This method can still be used with digital photography.

Controlling every aspect of the photographic process from the original concept all the way through to the very last step of the presentation is how Ansel Adams was able to create such iconic images of American landscapes.

Possibly both dyslexic and hyperactive, Adams channeled a sense of control in photographic methodology which he was able to teach to others.

24. Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange

Portraiture and journalism during the Depression-era are how we get to know and learn from Dorothea Lange.

A photographer for the Farm Security Administration, her images brought to light the plight of the displaced poor and other disadvantaged people.

One thing to note about photojournalism, something that is a valuable teaching point, is that just being there with a camera is not enough to make good or compelling photojournalistic stories.

A person needs to be a master of their craft in order to be able to capture and present moving images, images that tell a real story.

25. Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado

A photojournalist and maker of documentary films, Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an international economist.

His photography is obviously influenced by his desire to understand and aid the economically disadvantaged.

A passion for a cause can translate well into a passion for photographic art. We learn how moving a basic image can be, especially one that is technically correct.

26. Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz

Intimate portraits of famous people make up much of her work. Creative posing and composition exemplify care for the art and craft of photography.

Her portraits are interesting and eye-catching, not merely because of the famous people being photographed but also because of the not standard posing and compositions that she uses.

Still an active photographer, she also is the subject of some documentaries on the art of portrait photography.

27. Addison N. Scurlock

Addison N. Scurlock

After becoming a photographer in the early 1900s, Scurlock became the most notable photographer in the Washington D.C. area, primarily shooting portraits and events centered around successful black businessmen and women.

He presented race relations in a very positive light and was an influential inspiration for a generation of Black photographers that would come later.

28. Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Conceptual art in mainstream media is the focus of Sherman’s art. Being a makeup artist, stylist, and model herself, she often inserts herself into her scenes.

An interesting style, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s a big part of the appeal for some.

29. Robert Frank

Robert Frank

Documentary photography and film making helped propel Robert Frank into the international spotlight of magazine and book photography.

Working as a fashion photographer for magazines, his documentary work stands in sharp contrast to those glamorous images.

A great example of using talent and skill in a craft to create meaningful art as well as images that make a living for the photographer. A prolific photographer, his images are interesting and instructive.

30. Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham

A member of Group F/64, Cunningham created a style called Sharp Focus Photography.

This style centered on creating extremely sharp and crisp details in the images, making the images stand out from some other more mainstream styles of portrait or nature photography.

Her images of nudes highlight line and form, while the industrial landscapes she shot showed art in things others may see as mundane.

A talented botanical photographer as well, her art is worthy of study for photographers wishing to branch out from their familiar genres.

31. Frans Lanting

Frans Lanting

It may seem that many lists of influential and famous photographers center a lot on street photographers, photojournalists, and portrait or fashion photographers.

Lanting is a noted wildlife photographer who has been featured in numerous issues of National Geographic.

We’ve spoken a lot about learning from these notable photographers, Lanting hosts workshops and online classes to share his artistic vision of wildlife with other photographers.

32. Galen Rowell

Galen Rowell

One of the most prolific outdoor photographers, Galen Rowell also helped design and market photographic bags, filters, and accessories that are useful for outdoor and nature photographers.

An accomplished mountaineer, Rowell’s photography inspired many nature lovers to create beautiful images themselves.

Numerous images in National Geographic show the care he took in his photography and his adventurous spirit in finding himself in the right spot to make these images in the first place.

33. Mitsuaki Iwagō

Mitsuaki Iwagō

As a spokesman for the Olympus camera corporation, Mitsuaki Iwagō has encouraged many photographers with his wildlife and nature photography.

Having been on the cover of National Geographic multiple times, his images are inspiring and technically correct. Besides still photography, he also makes wildlife documentary films.

34. Gene Stratton-Porter

Gene Stratton-Porter

As a well-known author, Stratton-Porter used her popularity to advance worthy nature conservation projects as a naturalist in the U.S.A. during the early 20th Century.

She wrote numerous nature books and magazine columns which she was able to illustrate with her own wildlife photography.

She focused on close-up views with extreme attention to detail. She also became a producer of numerous silent films during the early filmmaking era.

35. Amy Gulick

Amy Gulick

One of the founding Fellows of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Amy Gulick is active in promoting wildlife photography among women, even teaching workshops on actual wilderness excursions.

Conservation photography is using photography in order to advocate for conservationist agendas. Sort of like photojournalism for nature.

36. Pepe Soho

Pepe Soho

As a successful businessman, Soho had a passion for wildlife and nature and decided to become a full-time nature photographer at the age of 40.

What we can learn from Soho is that we can follow our passion for photographic art at any time in our lives.

He is currently viewed as one of the most influential photographers from Mexico.

37. Eliot Porter

Eliot Porter

Best known for his color photography of natural subjects, Porter also has degrees in chemistry and medicine.

Introduced early in his career to Alfred Stieglitz, he found inspiration for finding subjects for his incredibly intimate style in the words of Henry David Thoreau.

An early proponent of Kodachrome, he applied himself to finding better ways to increase film speed through chemistry.

38. John G. Zimmerman

John G. Zimmerman

Sports photography is a specialty all on its own within the realm of photography, bringing its unique challenges and solutions.

Zimmerman was a pioneer in developing or adapting techniques and technology to create better sports images of athletes in action.

He was among the first sports photographers to use motor drives for rapid film advance while shooting games, and also for placing remote-controlled cameras in unique positions to capture image perspectives never before published.

39. Bob Martin

Bob Martin

Award-winning sports photography dominates his work. Besides the action itself, Martin creates photo editorials to illustrate current stories in the world of sports.

He also makes fascinating portraits of sports figures that communicate the passion and skill of the individual athletes.

An early adopter of the image platform social media sites, his method, and images are available to study for anyone interested in sports photography.

40. Weegee


Well, here we are back to looking at street photographers! Weegee is one of the more interesting the famous street photographers and photojournalists of the mid-20th Century.

His style could only be described as stark. His photography career began as a press photographer in New York City.

He followed emergency services on calls throughout the city, finding art in images of despair, heroism, danger, and death.

So, there is little doubt that this early work helped shape his later photographic vision. Studying his work is an eye-opening exercise in how to look at the world and events from a different perspective.

41. Tragoolchitr Jittasaiyapan


Astrophotography is a fascinating and technically challenging specialty genre of photography. Getting things right is absolutely critical to getting good images.

Sure, we could all simply navigate over to Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD.com) and view processed images from NASA and other space agencies.

What makes Jittasaiyapan’s work worthy of examining is the use of consumer-available equipment for Astro imaging, though it is certainly very high-end consumer equipment.

His name may not yet be famous, but be on the lookout for astrophotographers in general, as they all have some amazing images.

42. Wisanu Boonrawd

Wisanu Boonrawd

Also an astrophotographer, Boonrawd uses travel photography techniques in order to capture images of the night sky.

Taking advantage of already learned skills and methods can really benefit a photographer trying out a new genre of photography.

Using familiar objects in the foreground is a method used by many photographers for great Milky Way photos.

Taking a look at photos made by other photographers, we can often find inspiration for our own efforts.

A person doesn’t actually have to be one of the most famous photographers around for their work to benefit our own art and craft.

43. Heinz Kluetmeier

Heinz Kluetmeier

With over 100 Sports Illustrated cover images to his credit, Kluetmeier’s work is more well known than his name is.

Some of his most notable subject matter is shot with unique and unusual points of view. He was one of the early pioneers of remotely triggered cameras at Olympic sports events.

He is possibly the first to put remote cameras under the water in competition swimming pools. His most iconic image, the celebration of the Miracle On Ice, didn’t even need any text when as Sports Illustrated’s cover.

The image itself told the story all on its own. Learning how to capture the peak of action, the decisive moment, or the feel of the event is what we may be able to earn by examination of his sports photography.

44. James Presley Ball

James Presley Ball

Being in business as a photographer in the 1840s meant you probably used the Daguerreotype process. Ball’s portraits included such notable public figures as P.T. Barnum, Charles Dickens, Ulysses S. Grant, and Queen Victoria.

Ball used his masterful portrait talent to also document important political movements of his time and other newsworthy events.

A careful, meticulous approach to photography is a method that has worked for well over a hundred years and can be employed in various types of photography from portraits to landscapes.

45. Edward Weston

Edward Weston

No list of famous photographers can cover everyone, but few will leave out any mention of Edward Weston.

A master of Black and White photography, Weston could take everyday objects, such as pepper, and transform them into amazing works of art.

One of the most influential photographers of the 20th Century, Weston’s imagery crossed over several different genres of photography. Still, life, nudes, portraits, and artful parodies were among his works.

He can teach us a lot about patience in controlling the entire photographic process. His methods were very similar to the Zone System but modified by what he called a ‘feel’ for the exposure necessary for his desired end result.

Studying his works, we see that controlled application of technology can result in images that can only be labeled as fun.

46. Erik Johansson

Erik Johansson

Commercial photography is big business. It’s, therefore, no surprise that some commercial photographers will be well known. Especially if they have a hook, a twits, an edge.

The twist in Johansson’s images is the masterful combination of photographic images, other materials, and computer processing to make the final piece appear to be logically incomprehensible yet realistic at the same time. Surreal is how some would describe it. His work is worthy of study because of the multidisciplinary aspect of it.

There is a new wave in photography, made possible by advanced technology and an artistic vision of the intended end results. Basically, the Zone System previsualization but with digital computing power as part of the equation.

47. Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh

When you want to see an interesting, important, intriguing, amazing portrait, you look at what Yousuf Karsh photographed. Easily one of the top famous photographers, especially in portraiture, Karsh’s style it at once both simple and complex. He used basic lighting techniques, whatever was needed for the particular subject. He used basic exposure and developing techniques, whatever was necessary for the subject.

He used the lens and perspective and composition that was best for that particular subject. We see a pattern here. If are a master of the craft of photography, that frees us up for the art of photography. Karsh is one of the more commonly cited inspirations for portrait artist photographers.

{insert name here} Whose name would you there? Who has inspired you to take your photography to the next level? Or to try a new type or style of photography? It’s a serious question, I would really like to know.

Who knows, maybe a list in the near future will have YOUR name on it!

To learn more about photography, you can see my guide on the top online photography courses to master your skills!