Wouldn't it be great if you could spend every weekend browsing a famous photographer's work in a gallery, or by leafing through a beautifully printed retrospective of their best images?
Useful kit for getting started
Sadly, time, budget and distance are often against us. But we can still get oodles of insight and inspiration from some of our best living photographers by following their posts on Instagram.
In this article, we've brought together our favourite Insta feeds from some of the planet's greatest photographers. Covering a wide range of styles and disciplines, each of these accounts is regularly updated, creatively curated, and utterly addictive... in a good way, of course!
01. David Bailey
- Fashion and portrait photographer
- 46.8K followers
If you ask the average person to name a famous photographer, they’ll almost certainly say "David Bailey". You don't get much more famous than that.
Born and raised in East London, Bailey began photographing for Vogue in 1960, and his fashion work and celebrity portraiture quickly became known for its stark backgrounds and dramatic lighting effects, as well as breaking down antiquated and rigid class barriers. He was, in short, a huge influence on both the emerging discipline, and the Sixties counterculture in general.
Still working at the age of 81, Bailey's Instagram is a mixture of classic and new work, alongside behind-the-scenes studio shots, and images from his everyday life. With so many decades of iconic work under his belt, his feed has an immense amount to offer any photographer.
- 2.5M followers
Steve McCurry is a photojournalist from Philadelphia who’s probably best known for his National Geographic work, particularly his famous cover shot, ‘Afghan Girl’. A Magnum member since 1986, he's won numerous awards, including Magazine Photographer of the Year, the Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal, and two World Press Photo prizes.
His Instagram feed is filled with incredible examples of his photojournalism from around the world. From a study of weapon makers in Pakistan to shot of a Serbian couple making out on a park bench, each picture tells a story in its own right, while the accompanying text also fills you in with the salient details.
- Commercial and fine art photographer
- 278K followers
Dubbed the 'Fellini of photography', Connecticut-born commercial and fine art photographer David LaChapelle has a unique style that's been variously described as 'hyper-real', 'subversive', 'surreal' and 'kitsch'. A pioneering figure and a huge influence on modern photography, he’s won multiple awards and his work appears in public collections around the world.
Packed with ultra-colourful and gloriously OTT images that are sure to grab your attention - even within the noisy world of social media - his Instagram feed is one long visual buffet. Images are taken from both past and present, plus there's some nice videos to add further interest and context.
4. Bruce Gilden
- Street photographer
- 183K followers
Iconic street photographer Bruce Gilden assured his place in photographic history with his ground-breaking technique of shooting the faces of passers-by with a flashgun. A Magnum member since 1998, he's produced long and detailed photographic projects in Haiti, France , Ireland, India, Russia, Japan and England, as well as in his native New York.
Gilden's Instagram feed is practically an exhibition in its own right. A jaw-dropping feast of starkly shot, mainly monochrome street photography, taken from across the decades, the images he posts here are never less than compelling.
- Conceptual photographer and film director
- 234K followers
Born in New Jersey, Cindy Sherman is an American photographer who’s best known for her socially critical photography.
Initially painting in a super-realist style in art school, she turned to photography towards the end of the 1970s to question the seductive influence of mass media on our individual and collective identities. As such, she is often cited as a major influence on contemporary portrait photographers.
Sherman's feed is a heady mixture of her surreal digital manipulations and more straightforward landscape shots (and some videos), captured during the course of her work and travels. All, though, are infused with her unique and enticing perspective on the world and its inhabitants.
6. Pete Souza
- Photojournalist and White House photographer
- 2.1M followers
Born in Massachusetts, Pete Souza is a photojournalist who worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Washington, D.C. bureau from 1998 to 2007. He’s better known, though, for having been the chief official White House photographer for two Presidents, Reagan and Obama. In the last couple of years, he’s released two books based on his time with the latter.
While Souza’s Twitter account is politics all the way, his Instagram feed is more balanced, with his photographic subject matter ranging from pop stars to landscapes, proving that he's no one-trick pony.
The main pull here, though, is a succession of revealing shots of political heavyweights at work, as well as quieter background shots of the world surrounding them, such as that of a small child gazing up at Obama during a White House event.
Five quick questions with Pete Souza
7. Alec Soth
- Documentary photographer
- 162K followers
Minnesota photographer Alec Soth is known for his epic documentary projects exploring the midwestern USA. A Magnum member since 2008, his work has been compared to that of Walker Evans and Stephen Shore, and focuses on topics such as the banality of modern American life and outcasts from normal society.
Soth makes effective and inspired use of his Instagram account to service his fans and followers. See, for instance, the FAQ slideshow beneath his logo, which answers common queries on everything from what camera he uses, to how to hire him for commercial work. Next to it is another intriguing slideshow, answering other questions he's been asked, such as 'What's your favourite F-stop?'.
His feed itself, meanwhile, is an intriguing and enlightening combination of images from his in-depth, long-term projects, along with background shots that provide context. Each comes with an extensive and well-crafted caption, too, so you really feel you're getting an insight into the man and his creative process.
- Fashion, editorial and advertising photographer
- 482K followers
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, ex-model Ellen von Unwerth now works as a photographer and director. Specialising in erotic images of the female form that convey a feminist perspective, her work has been published in magazines including Vogue, Vanity Fair and Interview, and in several monographs.
Not surprisingly, Unwerth's Instagram feed is an intoxicating feed of glamorous fashion shots and eroticised imagery, featuring both burlesque stars and mainstream celebrities such as Miley Cyrus. Occasionally running foul of Instagram's decency rules, the pictures she posts here are colorful, unrepentantly sexual and always, always fabulous, darling.
- Art photographer
- 3.3M followers
Chris Burkard is a California-based art photographer known for his use of natural light and photojournalistic approach to shooting landscape, lifestyle, surf, outdoor and travel subjects. With commercial clients including Apple, Land Rover, Microsoft and Sony, his work has been published in magazines including GQ, National Geographic, New Yorker, Vogue and Wired.
An intoxicating mix of panoramic landscapes and watersports action shots, Burkard's feed is one long stream of expressive and breathtaking images. If you're the type of photographer who gets easily jealous of other practitioners' talents, it might be best to look away now...
10. Ami Vitale
- 968K followers
Ami Vitale is a highly influential photojournalist and documentary film-maker. Based in Montana, the National Geographic photographer, Nikon Ambassador, author, and five-times World Press Photo winner is also a founding member of Ripple Effect Images, a global organisation of female scientists and creatives.
Vitale is hugely motivated by conservation issues, and keen to use her Instagram feed to educate and motivate others. Consequently, it's filled with awe-inspiring photography of animals, landscapes and tribal life in the places she visits. She also occasionally uses her impressive reach to share the work of her favourite nature photographers.
11. Nick Knight
- Fashion photographer
- 560K followers
Nick Knight OBE is a British fashion photographer with a reputation for pushing both creative and technical boundaries.
Renowned for challenging conventional ideals of beauty, his work has addressed a range of issues over the decades including racism, disability, ageism, and sizeism. He is also the founder of the fashion website SHOWstudio.com and an honorary professor at University of the Arts London.
Knight's Instagram feed offers a great opportunity to enjoy his colourful, exotic and endlessly entrancing work, past and present, as well as selected work by SHOWstudio.com, and the occasional sharing of his political views.
- Art photographer
- 98.6K followers
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist from New Jersey who works primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. His work has won many prizes and is included in numerous public collections including MOMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
His Instagram feed is testimony to the passion he feels for both his photography and the issues that drive it, from 'Black Lives Matter' to national healthcare. He has an especially captivating line in shooting campaigning billboards, up and down the United States.
13. Jonathan Mannion
- Music photographer
- 112K followers
Raised in Ohio, Jonathan Mannion began his career as a studio assistant to the iconic photographer Richard Avedon, and has since become a photographic sensation within the world of hip-hop, having shot more than 300 album covers for artists ranging from Jay-Z to DJ Khaled.
Unlike many photographers’ Instagram accounts, which look more strictly "curated", Mannion’s feed feels more organic, and seems like a genuine invitation to take a peek into his day-to-day life.
A seemingly random series of images and videos offer behind-the-scenes glimpses of his work, collaborators, friends and family... with some polished and professional shots along the way, of course.
14. Lindsay Adler
- Beauty and fashion photographer
- 202K followers
Lindsay Adler is an American portrait and fashion photographer based in Manhattan whose editorials have appeared in Bullett Magazine, Zink Magazine and Fault. She's also published two books, speaks and teaches within the photographic community, and appears as co-host of the YouTube show ‘The Concept’ with fine art photographer Brooke Shaden.
Her Instagram feed, meanwhile, is quite enthralling. Consisting entirely of beautiful woman after beautiful woman, each sumptuously shot with dramatically colourful backgrounds and filters, Adler's posts are never short of breathtaking.
15. Mario Testino
- Fashion and portrait photographer
- 3.7M followers
Mario Testino is a Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer who's created images for brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Versace, Michael Kors, Chanel and Estée Lauder. Described last year in The Observer as “"the world's most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer", he's also worked as a creative director, guest editor, museum founder, art collector and entrepreneur.
Testino's Instagram feed is an eclectic mix of glamorous model shots, past and present; ethereal landscapes captured on his travels; and fun photos of himself, his employees and collaborators. Along the way, there's a ton of insight and inspiration to be had from this master photographer.
16. Anne Geddes
- Baby photographer
- 70.9K followers
Anne Geddes is an Australian photographer, currently based in New York, whose award-winning baby photography is founded on a belief that children should be loved, nurtured and protected. She's sold more than 18million books and 13million calendars worldwide, and 2017 saw her inducted into the International Photographic Hall of Fame.
Geddes’ Instagram feed offers an upbeat and friendly way to keep up with her activities, from the talks she gives to her support for campaigns such as World Prematurity Day. It includes plenty of great behind-the-scenes images and videos, plus of course, examples of her world-leading baby photography.
17. Nan Goldin
- Art photographer
- 88.8K followers
Born in Washington DC, Nancy 'Nan' Goldin is an art photographer known for exploring issues such as excluded communities, the HIV crisis and the opioid epidemic. Her work has won multiple prizes and appeared in numerous exhibitions around the world, and she currently lives between New York, Paris and London.
Lively, caustic and often politically charged, Goldin's Instagram presence is never, ever dull. From snipes at Trump and Big Pharma to shots of her travels, this is one Instagrammer who constantly delivers in terms of both insight and inspiration.
18. Barbara Davidson
- 59.5K followers
- Photojournalist and commercial photographer
Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Pulitzer- and Emmy-winning photojournalist Barbara Davidson has covered crisis in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel and Gaza, working for newspapers including the LA Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Washington Times.
Davdson's Instagram is full of beguilingly beautiful photographs from her travels; everything from the 'Migrant Caravan' in Mexico to workers at a jute mill in India. Accompanied by detailed and fascinating captions, they are continuously educational, enlightening, and visually irresistible.
19. Manfred Baumann
- Nude, portrait and landscape photographer
- 880K followers
Manfred Baumann is an Austrian photographer who's found success in several areas, including nude photography, portraiture, and landscapes. Considered one of the most influential living photographers, his celebrity subjects have included the likes of Sandra Bullock, William Shatner, Natalie Portman and Bruce Willis.
His Instagram feed is essentially a succession of such portraits, each showing a side of the A-lister that you probably haven't seen before. He might not update it as often as some of the photographers on this list, but when he does, it's a treat to treasure.
- National Geographic photographer
- 1.5M followers
Mike Yamashita has combined his dual passions of photography and travel for over 25 years as a shooter for National Geographic and, more recently, with his own film production company. Specialising in Asia, Yamashita is known for covering topics such as Marco Polo's journey to China, the Great Wall, and the border between North and South Korea.
His Instagram feed brings the colour and visual vibrancy of Asian culture to instant life, from the snow-clad volcanos of Hokkaido to the noisy Spring Festival stalls of Beijing. If you want a masterclass in how to craft a compelling image, this is one account you need to start following.
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