Top 10 Most Famous Photographers of All Time

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If you want to take truly memorable and moving photographs, you can learn something by studying the pictures of famous photographers. Some of the most beloved artists are deceased, but some are still delighting us with their photographs. The list below includes some of the more famous photographers that still impact our lives today.

famous photographers

"Wishin I was Ansel Adams" captured by Samantha (Click Image to See More From Samantha)

1. Ansel Adams is probably the most easily recognized name of any photographer. His landscapes are stunning, and he achieves an unparalleled level of contrast using creative darkroom work. You can improve your own photos by reading Adams’ own thoughts as he grew older, when he wished that he had kept himself strong enough physically to continue his work.

2. Yousuf Karsh has taken photographs that tell a story, and that are more easily understood than many others. Each of his portraits tells you all about the subject. He felt as though there was a secret hidden behind each woman and man. Whether he captures a gleaming eye or a gesture done totally unconsciously, these are times when humans temporarily lose their masks. Karsh’s portraits communicate with people.

3. Robert Capa has taken many famous war-time photographs. He has covered five wars, even though the name “Robert Capa” was only the name placed to the photos that Endre Friedman took and that were marketed under the “Robert Capa” name. Friedman felt that if you were not close enough to the subject, then you wouldn’t get a good photograph. He was often in the trenches with soldiers when he took photographs, while most other war photographers took photographs from a safe distance.

4. Henri Cartier-Bresson has a style that makes him a natural on any top ten photographer list. His style has undoubtedly influenced photography as much as anyone else’s. He was among the first to use 35mm film, and he usually shot in black and white. We are not graced by more of his work since he gave up the craft about 30 years before he passed away. It’s sad that there are fewer photographs by Cartier-Bresson to enjoy.

5. Dorothea Lange took photographs during the Great Depression. She took one photo of a migrant mother that is also titled by that name, and is said to be one of the best-known photographs in history. In the 1940′s, she also photographed the Japanese internment camps, and these photographs show sad moments in American history.

6. Jerry Uelsman created unique images with composite photographs. Being very talented in the darkroom, he used this skill in his composites. He never used digital cameras, since he felt that his creative process was more suited to the darkroom.

7. Annie Liebovitz does fine photographic portraits and is most well known for her work with Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazine. Her photographs are intimate, and describe the subject. She was unafraid of falling in love with the people she photographed.

8. Brassai is the pseudonym for Gyula Halasz, and he was well known for his photographs of ordinary people. He was proof that you don’t have to travel far to find interesting subjects. He used ordinary people for his subjects, and his photos are still captivating.

9. Brian Duffy was a British photographer who shot fashion in the 60′s and 70′s. He lost his photographic interest at one time, and burned many negatives, but then began taking photos again a year before he died.

10. Jay Maisel is a famous modern photographer. His photos are simple, and he doesn’t use complex lighting or fancy cameras. He often only takes one lens on photo outings, and he enjoys taking photos of shapes and lights that he finds interesting.

Of course there are other famous photographers that may be a part of your top 10 list. There is much to be learned in the art and craft of photography and from those who inspire us most.

About the Author:
Morris Pawtucket writes about the famous photographers throughout history who have changed the way we see.

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45 Comments

  1. Michal says:

    What exactly is the point of this list? 10 photographer’s names I can remember at moment? Should any of them feel grateful that the author decided to to include them on the list?

    What does it mean to be famous anyway? There are photographers who are famous but in no way they are artists or pioneers, on the other hand there are pioneers and artists who remain fairly unknown. Is “fame” really more important than anything else?

    I consider compilations like that to be a waste of time.

    • Anon says:

      I see where you’re coming from but I, being a student, found this list useful because I have to write a paper on a photographer. I couldn’t think of any so I just Google searched it and this came up. I don’t think it’s a waste of time. Granted the title is a little misleading, there are many other more famous photographers, but maybe they wanted to include different types of photography. Each of the artists listed have different styles.

    • R'laine says:

      @ Michal – yet you commented.

    • Duncan says:

      Dude, they why did you bother to read the damn article?!

      “Q:Why do you keep hitting yourself over your head with a Hammer? A:Because it feels so good when I stop!”

    • Drew says:

      It is so that you can search them further but at least find their names. They are famous because they made a difference. They are famous being they changed someone’s point of veiw, someone’s way of thinking. They don’t have to be artistic or unique. They just have to make a difference. And HELLO it’s called integrity. It doesn’t matter if they are noticed or not it matters that they did what they did.

  2. Michael says:

    I have to agree with Michal, what is the point? Besides the fact that literally half of them I have never heard of before, you left out a few who are at least as famous, if not more so.

    I think a title, and concept, along the lines of “10 Photographers Worth Checking Out” would be better.

  3. Famous may be much less important than significant. Of important photographers, that is photographers who made important contributions at significant times, you would have to include Edward Weston and Paul Strand, both of who were mentors of Adams. Perhaps without them Adams work may not have been as ground breaking as it was. I absolutely agree about Adams and Karsh but would also have to add Eliot Porter, since he was a “ground breaker” in color photography. As for Brian Duffy and Jay Maisel, not so much.

  4. Good point Nathan McCreery.
    I would also include Eadweard Muybridge and Jacques Henri Lartigue.

  5. Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead says:

    Inspiring and refreshing.

    I clicked on Ansel Adams which took me to Wikipedia. I didn’t know that he had an eidetic (photographic) memory.

  6. eiffair says:

    A very american list…

    What about Andreas Gursky, Jacques-Henri Lartigue and thousands of others.

  7. Kendall Adams says:

    I can appreciate the earlier comments but I feel you perhaps are missing the point. Famous or not, technically skilled or not, these photographers have made a significant impact on photography and its ever growing history. The photographers mentioned are “famous” in there own right, as are many less well known photographers. The “mentors” as were mentioned were actually more contemporaries of Ansel Adams, even collaborators.
    Many other photographers can and should probably be added to this list, but then we wouldn’t be able to limit our list to only 10. Opinions are what makes the viewing of photographs so interesting. Seldom do two people share the same opinions, particularly as they relate to visual imagery. A photograph is meant to communicate. If it does that in any form it is considered to be effective, maybe even “famous”. Enjoy the photographers listed for what they accomplished. Create your own lists if you would like. Do not denigrate another’s opinion simply because it differs from yours. Variety and our abilities to interpret as we please make photography what it is, the single most communicative medium in the world. Even more so than the printed word, every sighted person can enjoy and understand a photograph. Lighten up guys, maybe someday someone will want to include you on their lists.

  8. What about Eddie Adams?

  9. …”maybe someday someone will want to include you on their lists”. Could be, not likely though, given the huge number of photographers out there. Actually, I understood the point quite well. However, my point is that significant may be more to the issue than famous. I can name a number of people (not photographers, necessarily) who are famous because of our societies ridiculous obsession with celebrity, but very insignificant to everyone but themselves. My point is, that although some on the list my be well known, there are others who have had a larger impact on the history of photography and aren’t so well known. I guess the point is, everyone will have a different list depending on preference. However few could argue the importance of Adams or Karsh etc. Actually Adams and Edward Weston and Paul Strand were contemporaries, although they were much older than Adams. I said they were mentors. Perhaps strong influencers (not a word but should be) would be more accurate.

  10. Michael O'Neill says:

    Aren’t top 10 list a great way to generate blog traffic?

    Interesting list, but I’ve never heard of Brian Duffy… Ever heard of of Richard Avedon?

  11. Tiberman – That’s interesting about Adams. However, I approach anything from Wikipedia with a grain of salt. I’m not sure how well it’s documented.

  12. Rodney says:

    If you are tlking about to top 10 photo’s then howabout showing them.

  13. School Girl says:

    I found it very helpful for my art homework. THANK YOU FOR THIS LIST!!

  14. cynthia says:

    This is the dumbest list I have ever read. Useless!

  15. Ansel Adams- the most famous photographer of all time! This has been a great help for my assignment.

  16. Jason says:

    Folks, Top 10 Lists are written from the perspective of the person writing / compiling the list and when there are billions of people on the planet, you can expect that many lists. Some convergent and some dramatically divergent. Are there other notable photographers who might be on such a list, the answer is a Yes. What we should understand is this list is this particular author’s list. Someone above mentioned they never heard of Brian Duffy. Possible. He was British and at one point in his career he decided to quit photography and burned his negatives, this from a person who shot for the leading European magazines in the 60′s and 70′s. If you have heard of David LaChapelle and Annie Liebovitz , then think of Brian Duffy as their forerunner in that arena. Don’t criticize an article because your favorites are not on it or because you don’t happen to know the people mentioned in the list. Read up about these photographers and see their online galleries and decide for yourself if you find their work interesting / impressive / inspiring. Slander is easy, but the writer did his own research and has reasons that appeal to him. Its that simple.

  17. I don’t have anything at all against lists, particularly when it comes to making ones of artists to review their work for inspiration but I think Top 10 lists are really just loaded posts designed to create some traffic, like this one is doing. Given the highly subjective nature of art, these are, as someone has already said, just a perspective of one person. No problem having a list like this as long as those that are using them for school assignments and the like understand that this is not a definitive list and only a starting point. In looking through this particular list I can see at least one photographer that the only Top 10 list I would put them in would be “Most Overrated Photographer of All Time”, but that’s just my opinion. That being said, if blog posts are for the purpose of communicating information to your readers, which I personally think they should be, then I guess this list should be taken as a starting point for further research.

  18. Giuseppe says:

    I live ijn an assisted health facility, so I can’t remember everything I’d like to. But that said, and I can’t remember the photographer’s entire name, his last name is “Rosenthal”, I believe his photograph of
    “Raising the American on Iwo Jima, is really the iconic photography of WWII. It’s one I’ll never forget.

  19. Aisha says:

    This is great information..thanks..:)

  20. Cutiepier says:

    Man, this website is great!!! These are really great

  21. Lucky says:

    I found this useful as a model, i needed ideas for a photoshoot and could not think of any photographers! brilliant thank you!

  22. John Dido says:

    Most of these have quality, but they also were from a time where only a bunch of guys in the world had cameras and the money to develop their works and as because they were only a few of course their images would have much more impact than now, when you have pictures jumping from everywhere, everysecond. Now, they wouldn’t make any difference, they would just be another photographer. They could never become famous in a world like ours today.

  23. Nancy Young says:

    In my opinion fame is a matter of chance. A person becomes famous by his/her talent, but sometimes he or she does something really memorable. There are a lot of different talented, but still unknown people in all the spheres of life. Fame is a relative term, because today you can be famous, but tomorrow everybody would forget about you.

    Anyway, I think there is a lack of imagies in this post to make it memorable and famous.

  24. Nancy Young says:

    By the way, here is an awesome post about famous photographers that shares their photos and stories behind them: http://photodoto.com/25-famous-photographers-share-favorite-shots-stories-behind-them/ Feel free to check it out!

  25. Jess says:

    Why are you guys picking on the author so much? Give them a break. So they posted a top 10 lest. And so they included famous photographers. Get over it. Famous photographers are the people who shaped photography, and they deserve the title famous. They’re famous for a reason. No where in the article did it say, “If you’re not famous, you’re not good enough”. So calm down. I’m not famous, and I’m happy with my photography. It’s a list, and it’s meant to help you. It’s only a collection of names to look at, and the author’s trying to help us. It’s almost as if you guys want your name on the list or something.

  26. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression.
    Don’t like it, do this the way YOU want to do on your own blog!!!

    Thx for the post. I enjoyed all 10!!!

  27. Richard Cofrancesco says:

    If you take a photo that evokes a feeling to your self and others consider your self famous, all of these photographers have done that to me any way and I have learned so much by viewing there work that I can have my own style of taking photos. Never stop learning from the past greats achieve your own style and enjoy the art.

  28. Munaza says:

    I’ve been learning about Dorothea Lange in my photography class :D

  29. Leona says:

    I want to be a photographer. Am going to Hudson valley to study photography for two years but I don;t know where to go from there.

  30. Unaiz says:

    Thanks for sharing this great list, i am a great fan of ” Brassai ” :-)

  31. Rebecca says:

    Helmut Newton…

  32. Tim Shetz says:

    Great list. Ansel Adams is one of my all time favorites. I had forgotten about a few of these. Thanks for the reminder.

  33. bob marly says:

    bob the builder is the best

  34. madison rebello says:

    kevin key has the best photos iv ever seen.

  35. harry bosh says:

    One thing’s for certain. Mr. Morris Pawtucket will never be on anyone’s most famous list. Nor even on anyone’s “must read” list.

    What an absurd premise and even more absurd compilation.

  36. I agree with with the comment above. Seems like an all American list.

  37. Taiga says:

    Hello, guys!
    Do you know a fantastic contemporary photographer, whos exhibitions are only in Las Vegas, Australia and somwhere else, I don’t remember. My friend and I ran into his exhibition in Las Vegas this summer. He makes very colourful, bright, large-sized photos of the Grand Canyon, deserts, whatever else. The exhibition was entitled like ‘The world of colour and passion’. And his photos are really expensive, about half million dollars or smth like this.
    Does anyone knows anything about him? His name?
    I’ll appreciate if someone could give a hint ;)

  38. I agree with some comments and still find it interesting :^~)

  39. Good Collection of Famous Photographer.

    Thanks
    Ajay Walia

  40. Carl Nikelis says:

    Good information, gives me a good feel in my tummy when I have a good look.

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