Top 10 Most Successful Photographers in the World

Woman in tiny house
Emily Salomon

What really makes a photographer successful? Is it their unique style, technique or creativity that makes up a powerful image? Well, I would have to say that photography success requires a bit of everything.

No one can argue that a photographer’s job is easy. The ability to perfectly capture every moment and still manage to preserve some elements of reality is challenging to say the least. In essence, photographers practice visual thinking to create images out of their heads and capture life through the lens and reproduce it in a way that it projects a series of emotions and stimulations.

There are several types of photography and this is one of the reasons why it’s extremely difficult to identify and compare the work of the world’s most talented photographers around the world. Also, since everyone experiences things differently, one’s definition of beauty can be subjective.

To help you become more familiar with the world of photography and to be able to better understand the photographers’ work, here are some of the most popular types of photography that you might be interested in looking at more closely:

  • Fashion Photography – pictures models in high end fashion in order to promote various clothing lines
  • Portrait Photography – the oldest type of photography, which shows portraits and images of people
  • Nature/Wildlife Photography – documents nature, sceneries and landscapes as well as animals
  • Motion Photography - involves shooting a specific subject at different time intervals
  • Macro Photography – presents details of things that are not normally visible to the human eye
  • B&W Photography – black and white photographs which use shadows and contrast to make an impact
  • Panoramic Photography – allows you to get wide angle shots of a scenery or place
  • Aerial Photography – shooting an image from high above in an airplane, helicopter, or anything else that flies
  • Underwater Photography – involves taking pictures of objects, fish or people under water

Depending on their own style, every photographer focuses on capturing a picture that will ultimately be different from the rest. Looking into the photograph’s composition and color coordination, as well as documenting the image at the right time and place, is the most challenging part of the work. However, at the same time, that’s also the most fascinating. Every photograph offers a different view on the world, one that encourages you to look at the purest form of life from someone else’s perspective.

See also: How to Become a Photographer

Now let’s go over the list of some of the most successful photographers in the world whose work has been an excellent source of inspiration for us common folks:

1. Annie Leibovitz


Annie Leibovitz kick-started her photography career while working for the Rolling Stone magazine. With a personal interest in taking portrait pictures, she managed to produce many intimate photographs of various celebrities which helped the magazine establish a certain image around her work. One of her most famous pictures was of John Lennon and Yoko Ono; it was taken on the same day he was murdered and was featured on the magazine’s cover in 1981. Leibovitz says that she wants to create an intimate moment in every photograph where people could “open their hearts and lives to you.”

2. Timothy Hogan


Timothy Hogan does a bit of everything. As a cinematographer, director, surfer, and still life photographer, Hogan uses lifeless items to create powerful masterpieces of art. He says his creations are intended to give out “the shape of the wave,” incorporating his passion for surfing into his work. Through his photographs, Hogan effectively demonstrates the simplicity of ordinary objects using both light and motion.

3. Mario Testino


Mario Testino is the famous Peruvian fashion photographer who captured the late Princess of Wales, Diana for Vanity Fair back in 1997 and American singer/actress Madonna for Versace. Testino’s ability to produce images with the prospect of selling the clothes its subjects are wearing has been widely recognized in the fashion industry and he is highly sought after by many designers the world over.

4. Justin Mott


As a documentary photographer who worked for The New York Times, Forbes, and the National Geographic Traveler, Justin Mott believes strongly in the power of emotions. Mott explains that “the most important element of a photo to me is its ability to evoke emotion” and that, when looking at an image, the viewer needs to be able to feel something, whether that is curiosity, anger, sadness, or happiness.

5. Larissa Olenicoff


Using a rather different and modern approach to photography, Larissa Olenicoff experiments with mobile photography. Most of the times, her iPhone is the primary tool she used to capture the breathtaking sceneries that she chooses to document. Olenicoff says that a great photograph should be able to put you in a particular moment in time, tell a story, and speak to the viewer’s emotions.

6. Mark Timothy


In his work, photographer Mark Timothy documents movement and makes use of a series of colors that perfectly mix with each other. Timothy is not afraid to use the B&W filtering either, which we uses to capture the energy of the sceneries and patterns he photographs. For this talented artist, the ultimate goal is “to capture the energy of the subject”.

7. Michael Kenna


An expert in B&W photography, award-winning Michael Kenna doesn’t need colors to convey his own powerful messages through art. Following a rather simplistic and minimalistic approach to taking pictures of the world, he provides a unique take on every aspect of life.

8. Nicholas Samaras


One of the most important figures in the field of underwater photography is Nicholas Samaras who effectively demonstrates his love and passion for the marine world better than many other prominent professional. After having participated in several competitions and festivals, he began gaining recognition for his work as one of the most influential underwater photographers.

9. Christian Åslund


Åslund’s excellent skills in aerial photography are evident in his tribute to the 2D video game Donkey Kong as part of an advertising campaign for sneakers brand Jim Rickey. Using a telephoto lens, Åslund took images from skyscrapers in an attempt to create photographs that looked as flat as possible as to convey images that reminded viewers of the hit platform game.

10. Steve McCurry


Portrait photographer Steve McCurry has become one of the most highly recognizable photographers in the world, with his “Afghan Girl’ photograph being featured on the cover of National Geographic. As a freelancer in India, he was able to experiment with his technique in photography after he learned that “if you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.”

Successful photographers take pictures of the things they like and find inspiration in. These talented people know how to forever capture a memory, a moment in time. By seeing the beauty others can’t see, they record a range of beautiful emotions in a single shot which tells a different story every time. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words if you know how to do it right.

If you are interested in becoming a photographer, take some time to explore what inspires you. Equip yourself with a camera – it doesn’t have to be too expensive – and take pictures of everything you find unique or special in any way.

So, are you into photography? Who’s your favorite photographer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!