10 Photographers to Look to for Inspiration

No matter what skill level you're at in photography, it's often helpful to take a break and spark the creative process on some new ideas by looking at the work of others; this shouldn't be confused with imitation, but rather used as a tool for building original ideas. The following list highlights the work and skills of creatives who offer inspiration throughout the industry that I, and many others turn to for a new perspective. Of course this is purely opinion, and readers who follow others who aren't listed are encouraged to promote them in the comments.

10. Peter Lik - Fine Art/Landscape 

While he doesn't offer the kind of informative content to the photo community as some others on this list, there's no arguing that Peter Lik knows what he's doing when it comes to shooting and marketing amazing landscape prints, as he's found unbelievable fame and fortune in the fine art world. His combination of surreal subject matter and expertise behind the camera creates a final product that will catch the eye of the most experienced photographers, and is in high demand for the walls of homes and offices around the world.

Website

9. Kai Wong/Digital Rev - Misc

The team at DigitalRev TV, a Youtube channel sponsored by the DigitalRev online photo store based in Hong-Kong, and hosted by Kai Wong, with co-hosts Alamby Leung and Lok Cheung  have found a loyal fan base through their videos ranging from gear reviews and helpful tips to tongue-in-cheek skits and creative challenges. The content is appropriate and entertaining for all photographers, and continues to raise the bar for the standard of what a Youtube Channel can offer to the masses, with their latest venture being an hour long 3 part special in which the team travels to Amsterdam and completes tasks assigned by the evil yet brilliant "bloody producer".

Full Channel

8. Eric Kim - Street Photography/Fine Art

Another Youtube star, Eric Kim has found fame in the industry primarily through his POV street photography videos in which he mounts a GoPro to his camera and walks around major cities like LA and Chicago taking portraits of strangers with varying reactions. For those interested in doing street photography themselves, he also has a huge library of gear reviews, helpful tips (like zone focusing with manual lenses), and behind the scenes videos of his street photo workshops around the world. By putting this content out there, he's built an entire culture of self-proclaimed "Streettogs" among social network groups like Flikr and Facebook.

I encourage you to check out some of his videos regardless of your interest in the genre, it was because of him that I found myself picking up a Pentax k1000 last summer to shoot for myself, which in turn opened my eyes to a new perspective of shooting with my commercial work.

Full Channel

7. Fabio Bacciarelli - Photojournalism

In a world where press photographers are losing their jobs left and right in favor of bystanders with camera phones, a few talented photographers are still willing to take their expertise and equipment into the action to share a story with the world. Fabio Bacciarelli was the gold medal recipient of the 2013 Overseas Press Club for his "Battle to Death" series highlighting conflict in Syria, and many of you were introduced to his work a couple months ago in this article about the awards. For anyone curious about what it takes to get the shot and be recognized today in the world of photojournalism, I would recommend taking a look at the up close and personal work on his site.

Dispaches from South Sudan(From the set "Dispatches from South Sudan")

BattleToDeath_05(From the set "Battle to Death)

Website

6. Yuri Arcurs - Stock

Few photographers can boast the level of financial success that Yuri has found in the world of stock photography, one of the most competitive industries in the world. While we often think of stock photos as generic, coming up with the subject matter and being able to predict what will be in demand requires a consistent creative process as well as in-depth technical knowledge of lighting, framing, staging, etc. Unfortunately his site doesn't seem to have been maintained much within the past year, but I still recommend checking out some of his articles that provide insight into the market as well as his vast portfolio.

For a strong case of studio envy, check out this video tour.

Website

5. Ian Ruhter - Fine Art

While he's likely not as well known as many on this list, you can't get much more creative than turning an entire truck into a giant wet plate camera.

the_camera_truck

To create his art, Ian backs his camera truck up to face his subject whether it's a landcape, person, or event and uses his manually operated shutter to form an exposure on a giant metal plate coated in silver nitrate. This is obviously a simplified explanation of the process, but not only is this method time consuming and costly, an incorrect exposure or uneven coating on the plate can completely ruin the image; when done right, however, the results are amazing.

Website

4. Ryan Brenizer - Wedding/Lifestyle

Best known for inventing the "Brenizer method", Ryan Brenizer displays an impressive and timeless portfolio of wedding and lifestyle portrait photography that pushes the limits of creativity in an industry that many consider to be plagued by mediocrity. If you're struggling to find originality in the environment around you, his work is a must-see.

rb_ryanbrenizer
ryanbrenizer_storyboard002

Website

3. Jeremy Cowart - Commercial/Fine Art

From working with some of the biggest Hollywood celebrities to pioneering a global movement called Help-Portrait to provide family portraits for those who otherwise wouldn't have one, Jeremy Cowart is the definition of creativity and inspiration. I was first introduced to his behind the scenes videos on Kelbytraining.com a couple years ago and have been following his work closely ever since. On top of all of this, he's somehow found time to not only travel the world with his LifeFinder workshops brining motivation to the masses, but also create intricate pieces of abstract art by merging graphics and photo skills with hours of hard work. You can see his work in this video demonstrating his print portfolio, as well as his insightful TedxNashville talk below for more info about Help-Portrait.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfNQRKbjCqA

Website

2. Joe McNally - Photojournalism/Commercial 

One of my favorite photographers of all time, Joe McNally not only has one of the most impressive client lists ever including National Geographic, Life, and the New York Times, he's still creating new content constantly to inspire the new generation of photographers, with helpful behind the scenes videos, three educational books, international workshops, and regular blog posts with fascinating stories behind his most intriguing portfolio work. It's easy to spend days if not weeks listening to all of his stories from his early career in journalism, and a good place to start is with his Authors@Google talk.

joe-mcnally-6

Website

1. Chase Jarvis - Commercial

Lets be honest, who didn't see this coming? Chase Jarvis is pretty much a younger Joe McNally having worked with a huge list of big name clients that many dream of having in their portfolio, constantly updating his site blog with incredibly helpful content, and creating both CreativeLIVE, and my favorite photo information series ever Chase Jarvis LIVE which is now in it's fourth season and continues to bring the most inspirational guests you can imagine from around the world to his Seattle studio to cover everything from marketing your business creatively, to understanding media manipulation, and everything in between. He's also the creative mind behind the "Best Camera" concept which promotes the mentality of the best camera being the one you have with you.

If you have a couple hours, check out this episode of Chase Jarvis LIVE with Ian Ruhter (#5 on this list) in which they take a wet plate shot with the camera truck in his studio.

802_1deserted_9_chasejarvis

Website

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100 Comments

Zach Sutton's picture

Hm... I must be number 11...

I swear, I miss all these lists by just one. I can't believe I was the 51st sexiest man alive in the People Weekly's 50 sexiest men alive contest for 8 years straight.

:-p

apollo's picture

God, your Ego is massive...and how conceitedness you are...jeez...

Zach Sutton's picture

Either you completely missed the joke, or your trolling techniques are really slipping, apollo...

IAM_THE_KGB's picture

Ouch, direct hit... ;)

Ryan Brenizer's picture

This one goes to 11.

Dan Howard's picture

You work for FS and you're number 4? go figure

Ryan Brenizer's picture

I don't work for FS. I couldn't even name anyone that works here. That is the icon that comes up when your Disqus icon settings are "use the site's default avatar"

Anonymous's picture

Hate to be grammar police here, but in the body of the paragraph on Jeremy Cowart, you spelled his last name "Coward"

James Robertson's picture

Can't even blame autocorrect, but fixed. Thanks!

Anonymous's picture

NO problem man....

CurrentCo's picture

Thank you so much for putting this together! I'll be referencing this for a while!

Bert McLendon's picture

I think Joey L. should have been on the list for sure. Along with creating some mind blowing images he shares his techniques with anyone which has to be bonus points.

Adil Boukind's picture

Yeah I was surprised that Kai was in the list but not Joey ...

Allen Mowery's picture

I was surprised Kai made it anywhere close...no offense. :-/

Adil Boukind's picture

Kai is not a decent photographer, he's just a funny guy who knows how to use a little bit a camera. But I admit that sometimes, he can produce a decent picture.

S Wade's picture

That studio... holy crap.

apollo's picture

Kai? Really? Where's Vincent Laforett (Although, he's more to cinema industry but my god his pictures, he really knows what he does when he photographs).

Tobias Solem's picture

Vincent is a videographer tho'.

apollo's picture

He is nowadays but he was also a news photographer before he became videographer.

Aaron Grubb's picture

time-lapse counts as photography

apollo's picture

Yep and so does photojournalism :) Vincent's pictures are stunning, he's a amazing videographer but also amazing photographer :)

Kyle Sanders's picture

How about both at once? Vincent's episod on DRTV's "Pro photographer, cheap camera" was top rate - possibly the most informative and inspiration of all of DRTV's episodes.

Josh Raymond's picture

Could possibly be a list of the top 8 wan*ers working today. Mostly vapid work and not a single woman.

Ruben Hamelink's picture

a list without a lot of depth...

Stef IP's picture

Kai ? and not Joey L ? ... really ?

Tobias Solem's picture

Replace Kai, with VonWong, and add Joey.L and I'll play. But having Kai there and not VonWong is just stupid.

IAM_THE_KGB's picture

Remember, this is a Fstoppers list. Enough said...

Filip Kowalkowski's picture

well as subjective as this list is, I'm missing at least two amazing photographers - Zack Arias and Joey L - instead we have Kai Wong?

Drew's picture

Yea I would agree. Not to nitpick, but some of the guys on this list could have been substituted for @joeyl, @matthewpriestley and many others. But I understand also that this is @fstoppers list of inspirational photographers. It's all good.

James Robertson's picture

Just a reminder, this is not "top 10 photographers list" nor is it personally tailored to every reader. I wanted to cover a broad range of industries and include lesser known photographers who I find to be actively engaged in creating content to help others improve. DigitalRev is on this list because they consistently produce new and original content for a broad range of interest and skill levels, and by no means am I forcing you to watch them if you don't agree.

Martin's picture

I joined just to agree with this comment. Kai isn't the Ansel Adams of 2013, but he is animated and engaging. I was in a slump and watched his Digital Rev channel for something different and I found it interesting and gave me a boost to try different things.

Elijah Alcantara's picture

Sorry to disagree but this is more like a random list of photographers, I can't believe you mixed in Kai and included McNally whose obviously not a lesser known photographer.

IAM_THE_KGB's picture

This is a random list of photographers in your "Like" list. Nothing more. Facebook does not make anyone an "inspirational" photographer...

Jurriaan Hodzelmans's picture

Knew most of them, great photographers!

Ian's picture

If you want a ton of inspiration in one place.... The Mammoth Men are hard to beat (Newsom especially). Besides that solid list.

oblon cardinal's picture

Kai Wong?!? Hes funny but thats all...replace him with von Wong, Joey L. or someone else that is less funny and more a photographer =P

Tobias Solem's picture

Definitely agree.

GokhanCukurova's picture

agreed!

IAM_THE_KGB's picture

Eric Kim is a glaring stand out on this list for his inclusion. The guy hypes himself as a famous street photographer who's work is no different than the thousands of other street photographers out there. He video's his outings? And? He's stolen from the likes of Gilden and Cartier-Bresson, and tries to pretend he just came up with their style. He buys an $8000 digital Leica, then tells everyone if you want to be a serious street photographer, sell your digital cameras, since only serious street photographers shoot on film, black and white film, never digital.

Seriously, if you're going to include a street photographer, you actually choose Kim over Bruce Gilden?
Inspiration is not Eric Kim.

arocchi's picture

Definitely agree.

Abraham Pak's picture

Agree 100%. Plus, if you see some of his videos, he blatantly directs and poses his subjects to get the type of shot he wants... which goes against all grain for what street photography really is.

Keegan Evans's picture

Is there going to be a list of female photographers as well? Because I would say there are some female photographers that are incredible and worthy of inspiration.

Caryn Hill's picture

Thank you Keegan! I was wondering the very same thing!

lololalallll's picture

Uhhh.... It's like photography didn't exist until the digital age with your list here.

If you want inspiration, you should try looking farther back in history to actual masters of the craft and not just modern celebri-tographers.

Try these instead:

Edward Weston
Richard Avedon
Irving Penn
Vivian Maier
Jerry Uelsman
Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Capa
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Herb Ritz
Alfred Steiglitz
Edward Steichen
Ansel Adams

Gary Winogrand

Yousef Karsh

Joel Meyerowitz

Alexander Rodchenko

GokhanCukurova's picture

amen

Christopher Hoffmann's picture

Denis Reggie, Neil Van Niekerk, David E Jackson, Jerry Ghionis, Douglas Sonders, John Keatley, & Jeff Ascough are a few that have not yet been mentioned. Most of which are in the wedding genre.

Salib Kareem's picture

Great list ...I would also add Joey L, Karl Taylor, Zack Arias, Joel Grimes, Mark Wallace & Von Wong to my own list since they all have tons of youtube vids, they all have their own style, they share great hints/tips and always try to help other photographers improve.

Aaron Grubb's picture

and here it is - these photographers are who I was just going to add to the list...or replace Kai, Eric Kim, etc. Thanks.

J Shanko's picture

Eric Kim??! I've watched Eric's videos and his technique is horribly intrusive and invasive It's embarrassing to watch. I'm surprised he's not been punched in the face for the way he goes about.

Deleted Account's picture

Very True..He's crap

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