Quotes on photography and art to change the way you shoot

Man on a beach at sunset
(Image credit: Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay)

Inspirational quotes can be somewhat of a divider among people – not just photographers. Some of us love plastering little sayings and reminders on the walls of our houses, instagram and social media feeds, so that we can refer to them for inspiration and motivation. 

However, there are plenty of other people who find quotes cheesy, overused and a bit, well, cliché. Like sunset photos – see above – many photography quotes (live, laugh, love, anyone?) can either come across as creative or corny.

Of course, photography quotes are also popular for good reason. Often, when we can resonate with what someone else has said, we have that lightbulb moment of "aha! someone else has felt like this too". Quotes can inspire us, make us think in new ways or just sum up an artistic idea in a nice, neat way.

We've already put together 100 quotes about photography by famous photographers but we wanted to make things more personal and find out what quotes the Digital Camera World team enjoy most.

Love 'em or loathe them, we'll round up some favorite quotes from the team and our sister photography titles – hopefully avoiding the biggest clichés. 

There's bound to be some food for thought amongst these sayings, and if your favorite quote doesn't appear here, we'd love to hear what it is – and why.

Alistair Campbell

(Image credit: Future)

Alistair Campbell
Technique Editor
, Digital Camera magazine

I remember having a cassette (yes that's how old I am) by the Manic Street Preachers when I was about 13. On the back it just said "Art is a lie that helps us realize truth" (or something like that). 

I think it's by Picasso so maybe not photography based. But reading that I think just made me feel for the first time that whatever I was into was fine, I didn't have to like things just because other people did, and we all see/receive the world differently."

peter travers headshot

(Image credit: PhotoPlus Magazine)

Peter Travers
PhotoPlus magazine

I've always liked Robert Capa's famous quote: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough." 

Although I don't share the great photojournalist's bravery in getting dangerously close to the action during a war, I like the advice that sometimes you just need to get closer to your subjects or surroundings to fill the frame for a better shot.

Dan Mold with Canon DSLr

(Image credit: Future)

Dan Mold
Technique Editor,
PhotoPlus magazine

I remember watching a TV documentary on street art years ago and one of the graffiti artists was asked about how his street art was a bit ‘Marmite’, as some people love it while others inevitably hate it.

He replied "You can’t please everyone. It’s like if you tried to make a pizza with all of the toppings on - it would taste horrible!

This quote has stuck with me over the years. Don’t create art expecting others to like it, do it for yourself because you enjoy it.

Sebastian Oakley

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley)

Sebastian Oakley
E-commerce Editor,
Digital Camera World

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst,said Henri Cartier-Bresson. 

I love this quote from Bresson, as it tells you to practice the craft, don't worry about the start, it's the journey that matters. With practice, you will get better results and produce better work, but you have to put in the hours. –which is true with a lot of things in life.

Jeremy Flint

(Image credit: Jeremy Flint)

Lauren Scott
Managing Editor,
Digital Camera World

Given that I've just been to the Van Gogh experience, my quote has to be this: "The great artist is the simplifier."

I could start by asking, is photography art? but I'd have to say definitely yes – in our modern time of life, what else could it be? I think that the simplest approach is often the best one when it comes to digital photography. Even with the number of bells, whistles and features that the latest cameras have, if a camera can't do the basics well, then it fails in its function. 

Likewise, the greatest photographer (the artist) should act as a simplifier too – either visually, or in the way that they get the message of their work across.

Mike Harris headshot

(Image credit: Future)

Mike Harris
Deputy Editor,
N-Photo magazine

Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do... Make – good – art.” – Neil Gaiman

I could have transcribed the entirety of Neil Gaiman’s much-loved commencement speech, which he delivered to graduates at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts in 2012. But this is arguably its most poignant excerpt. The sentiment is simple: If you have an innate need to create, don’t let anything stand in your way. Even if, as the legendary author puts it, your cat just exploded...

Fujifilm X-Pro3

(Image credit: James Artaius)

James Artaius
Digital Camera World

“f/8 and be there” Attributed to spot photography legend Arthur “Weegee” Fellig (even if he didn’t actually say it), I love the simplicity of this quote. Proper technique is all well and good, but photography is more art than science. If you miss the moment, it doesn’t matter how accurate your exposure is – getting the perfect moment is more important than the perfect settings!

Chris George

Chris George
Content Director, Photography Group

I don't think you can have a list of photographic quotes without one from Ansel Adams - who was not just the master of black and white landscape photography and co-inventor of the Zone System, but also a forward-thinking educator that wrote some great articles and books on the art and process of photography (full of pithy and memorable aphorisms).

One of my favorites  is "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."

On the face of this seems some philosophical comment on how we interpret the scene in front of us - but it is actually simply an answer to the criticism he often faced as to why there are no people in his picture. His full quotation is 

Peter Fenech headshot

(Image credit: Peter Fenech)

Peter Fenech
Digital Photographer magazine

"Once you learn to care you can record images with your mind or on film. There is no difference between the two" – Anonymous.

This is actually from an anonymous source, which has always intrigued me, because I find it incredibly relevant in the digital age. We can record as many images as we want today, but I sometimes find myself missing the moment when trying to capture a photograph. I love that it reminds us to spend time looking at the world, because ultimately an experienced photographer makes a shot in their mind before ever pressing the shutter button.

Hannah Rooke

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer, Digital Camera World

I really like, "Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field" - Peter Adams. 

I often think photographers (me included especially when I first started) think it's all about shooting as wide open as you can, when actually there are so many more important things that come into making a good photo such as capturing the personality in your subject, making them feel comfortable and finding common ground so you can both work together to create something beautiful. 

adam waring

(Image credit: N-Photo magazine)

Adam Waring
N-Photo magazine

All the good ones have already been taken, so how about: "Every picture tells a story".

It wasn't Ansel Adams who came up with these words of wisdom, nor Henri Cartier-Bresson, or even Robert Capa, but advertisements for Doan's Backache Kidney Pills circa 1900 – in which the slogan appeared alongside a person clutching the small of their back. Nevertheless, it neatly encapsulates that great photography says far more than showing a mere snapshot of the scene in front of you. 

Kim Bünermann headshot

(Image credit: Kim Bünermann)

Kim Bünermann
Staff Writer,
Digital Photographer magazine

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter” – Alfred Eisenstaedt

In our fast-paced digital world, the focus often tends to be on visual factors. What sometimes is forgotten is the need to build a connection with the person behind the lens in order to create an intimate and honest photograph. This is how you recognize a photographer's talent. Technical skills can be studied, but to make people feel comfortable and flourish around you is a given skill.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Lauren Scott
Managing Editor

Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.