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.


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)


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.



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Previous comments
Sebastian Mas's picture

Kai Wong??? you cannot be serious!!!

Joe L has really inspired me to look into photography more. Its not like he should b on this list but should have been number 1(go watch his portfolio if u disagree)

In my opinion Joey L should be number 1 on this list, but he isn't even there was the biggest surprise.

Yes, these are all great photographers. I've been inspired by the last three. However, I just wish you would also include the great and inspiring female photographers out there. Including, Jasmine Star, Bambi Cantrell, Sue Bryce, Star Rush, just to name a few. I'm not being a feminist, I just know that I've been inspired by both male and female photographers.
Zach Sutton, I'm sorry you didn't make the list either, your work has also been an inspiration.

What's wrong with being a feminist? If you're a humanist, you're a feminist. At it's most basic level it's striving for gender equality, on both sides of the fence.

I can appreciate that, nothing wrong with being a feminist. I'm a feminist. It's just sad to see a list of 10 inspiring photographers and no women where included. I also recognize that it's all objective.

Zach Sutton's picture

Aw, thank you Alejandra

I'm just excited that you're familiar with my work....or atleast lie well enough for me to believe you :-)

Your list just made my eye twitch with rage. Jasmine Star? Sue Bryce???? Could you at least pretend to know a photographer and not a marketing machine?

Why not try to study actual photographers like Cindy Sherman,Dorothea Lange, Vivian Maier, Imogen Cunningham, Julia Margaret Cameron, Uta Barth, Ursula Richter, Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Eudora Welty, and on and on and on...

Someone didn't take their happy pill this morning. Really lololalallll? Did the list above not make your eye twitch with rage as well... marketing machine. Ha!

Hmmmm... I don't see W. Eugene Smith, Ansel Adams or Irving Penn listed above, since on your list only 3 of the 10 women are still alive. You don't know me. I've studied and have been inspired by 8 of the 10 great female photographers you've listed above and then some... thank you! Jasmine Star (featured in Chase Jarvis web show) and Sue Bryce are great photographers in their own right and have inspired me to become the best wedding photographer I can be. They are an inspiration and that's what this article is about.

And Jeremy Cowart is the reason why I donate my time and talent to Help-Portrait every year!

Jason Gaskins's picture

Joey L, should've def been on the list. Especially if you are talking about someone who is inspiring. Also Eolo Perfido's work is amazing and inspiring. http://www.eoloperfido.com/

Scott Cushman's picture

These are certainly inspiring photographers, but it seems strange that such a list would only include men.

For sure interesting not staying at bed, instead shooting outside everywhere you imagine!

Where are all the inspirational women photographers?!?
You know, I used share the fstoppers articles with my students but I think I am going to stop.
I'm tired of the blatant sexism. I can think of 14 inspirational commercial and fine art women photographers off the top of my head.
Get it together.

James Robertson's picture

I'm sorry you feel this way, however this list is purely generated from my own opinions of the photographers who inspired me and created content that helped me coming up in my own career. I never once set out to exclude any group of people nor did it cross my mind until you mentioned it.

Sounds like you need tor broaden your photographic horizons. Both your "list" and comments bare this out.

But you titled the Post
"10 Photographers to Look to for Inspiration"
What do you expect. Next time title it truthfully as:
10 Photographers I Look to for Inspiration, or "10 Photographers who are all over Facebook that I think are Gods".

Misleading title, (many) misleading photographers.


Every one of these women have produced more inspiring (and more valuable) work than the 10 guys above.

This article reads more like X photographers that are popular on social media.

Aaron Grubb's picture

gosh, I'd add Karl Taylor, Zack Arias, Joel Grimes, Mark Wallace, Jared Polin, Matt Granger, and Michael the Mentor over Kai and Eric.

Well, I'd add Karl Taylor and Zack Arias to this list for sure, but I'd rather leave Jared out of this. He's a good photographer and teacher but....not THAT good. But he definitely wins Kai, hands down.

Aaron Grubb's picture

I agree - I'd leave him out, but there are just so many better people I could add than a couple that WERE in there :( .....well, Apollo, perhaps Starbuck could back us up on this one ;)

10th post by some twenty year old kid. What do you expect?

Zach Sutton's picture

Instead of all these people fighting over who should be on this list in the comments, perhaps they should focus on how they themselves can make these lists in the future :-)

Quit wasting your energy arguing, and focus your attention on being inspired and inspiring others.

Thanks for the article, I already knew most of them but didn't check all their work out.

Why are there no women on this list?

To be honest i don't think that Kai Wong should be on the list, he just fools around on youtube advertising the shop, not much to do with proper photography, i'd rather see someone like Joey L, Zack Arrias, Peter Hurley, Gregory Heiser or Simeon Quarie, they provide much more inspiration for me personally.
Check simeon out, what he dose for me is simply mind blowing:

I couldn't agree with you more. DigitalRevCams produce mostly disturbing videos(except cheap camera challenge). I emphatically hate Kai dropped his cameras for so many times. Their reviews are so superficial that I don't even know what the Heck they are doing.

I don't get this list... Kai isn't even a photographer, the rest are ok... but people should take this with a grain of salt, it's one person's opinion.

What's sad is that some of the photographers on this list might consider this to be a prestigious thing.. lol.

lol i think people forget this is a personal list. Also Kai-man Wong and the DRTV crew have done some great work introducing photography in a light hearted manner and done it well (most of the time) to a wider audience. The double exposure video and the light painting videos are great examples...no need to be so serious.

One person i would love to recommend is Benjamin Von Wong.

I'd put McNally over Jarvis.

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