LAST UPDATED: March 4, 2012
WARNING: Some portfolios will contain shots not suitable for work environments or children. Use caution when viewing.
To me a favorite photographer is someone who has a collection of work that I look at with awe and say "I'll never be that good" or "I would have never thought of that". The photographers in the list below represent that ideal to me as they have pictures that exceed my picky bar of what is good and nothing that I would look at and say "that's crap". I aspire to be this good, so the highest complement I could get is to say I have a shot that looks like it could have been in the portfolio of one of these great photographers.
As of the date shown above, my top 20 favorite photographers are (don’t get hung up on the numbers, it’s not a true stack ranking):
- Tim Wallace* (Automotive) - This guy is simply amazing. His Automotive Photography work is what I dream I could do, so simply put I aspire to be this amazing one day. Read my interview for more about Tim as a paragraph simply isn’t enough.
- Douglas Dubler* (Fashion & Print) – Douglas is not only an amazing photographer, but in my opinion one of the top print masters in the world. His 60” tall fashion prints can stand up to the scrutiny of examination from inches away under a light box where I dare you to find a flaw. His work is simply breath taking and for Douglas, it’s go large or go home so his bigger than life prints will wow you time and time again. His attention to detail is second to none.
- Michel Tcherevkoff* (Digital Art) - A creative master who goes beyond just taking photos, but using those images to create digital art like you’ve never seen. His work is not a drawing, and it’s not painted. Instead, it’s composite of real photos processed brilliantly to create an exciting new style of work that is all his own. Michel is simply the most creative human being I’ve ever met, and given my day job that’s saying a lot!
- Gary Parker (You Name It!) – His Genius Series alone is enough to blow away the best portrait photographers on the planet away, but that’s just the beginning. From his Cat & Dog Photography work to his Little People of America recognized dwarf photography work, a quick glance through his portfolio and you’ll quickly see that there’s nothing that Gary can’t shoot. He has an amazing portfolio of images that are so sharp with such perfect color that you'll dream of having a portfolio like this one day (I know I do). I follow his new work and time and time again I’m just floored with what he comes out. He truly is a Photography Magician!
- Tyler Stableford* (Adventure Photographer) - There's a good reason why he's won 6 picture of the year awards - he'll go anywhere to get the great shot! Tyler’s also great instructor who’s on the top of my list of people I’d like to go shoot with.
- Clint Clemens* (Commercial) - You've seen this guy's work in car brochures, magazines, and more. Simply amazing stuff and a lot of it!
- Nick Brandt (Black & White / Safari) - I hate black and white photography, but this guy's safari work is so amazing that you can't help but be in awe.
- George Fulton – George’s composition is amazing. I can look at a picture of his for hours as my eye wanders around the scene seeing how all the parts connect. A true composition master! He also has some pretty amazing medical photography too!
- Greg Gorman* (Celebrity) - You name the celebrity and this guy has photographed them – flawlessly! He’s also an amazing print master in my printing series!
- Jill Greenberg (Celebrity) - While I hate her on a personal level for some of the stunts she has pulled, her post-processing and award winning shots are indeed noteworthy.
- Stephen Eastwood* (Fashion) - His site is slow to load, but worth the wait as his work is pure perfection hundreds of times over.
- Trey Ratcliff* (Travel & HDR) – Mr. HDR who is doing great work with both texture overlays and colors that makes you rethink how you process even your most boring photos to make them exciting!
- Ryszard Horowitz (Digital Art) - You can't do these shots in camera, but they are amazing indeed.
- Steve Liss (Journalism) - Ever heard of Time Magazine? If so, then you've seen this guy's work many times. Amazing stuff.
- Gerald Pope (Wedding) - Want to be a great wedding photographer? Then study this guy's work - it simply redefines what great wedding photography should be.
- Jim DiVitale (Commercial) - His golf club photos are a perfection in color, composition and sharpness. WOW!
- Nick Vedros (Lifestyle) - His work will make you laugh at life, but as a photographer the quality of the work will make you say there's more here than just great composition
- Joe McNally (Journalism) - Joe is one National Geographic photographer who has kept up with the times and continues to crank out masterpieces in this day and age. His book is an inspiration for what can be done, and his teachings on flash photography show us all what is possible with those damn things!
- Scott Kelby* (General) - Not only is he a good author who has taken the time to read all of the great Photoshop and Photography books and turn them into something you can just pickup and put into practice, he's a pretty darn good photographer in my book. Fantastic color and composition are his trademarks.
- Bryan F. Peterson* (Portraits and Industrial) – If this list was written last year, Bryan would have been in the top 5. Compositionally speaking, Bryan is also one of the best in the business. His books are a fantastic must read and his enthusiasm is infectious.
* = Link takes you to the interview on this blog which has photos and a portfolio link
I admire the sharpness, color (including B&W), clarity, composition, and content of their photos as a collective. While they may have isolated shots that I do not care for, a majority of their online portfolio demonstrates what I consider to be the highest quality photography.
This list isn't about famous names, what magazine covers they've done, their reputation, or popularity. Some of these people are ordinarily people like you and me and others are very famous.
But what about ...
I know that there are some great photographers that I'm probably missing from this list, but I went through some of the best of Nikon and Canon photographers as well as many links I've accumulated over the past couple years and these were the ones that impressed me the most.
I know some people will expect Ansel Adams, William Albert Allard, Sam Abell, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and other legends of photography to be in this list. However, while I appreciate their contribution to Photography, I feel that these modern day photographers are carrying in their footsteps to create works that surpass these masters. Technology and time have given the photographers an advantage to create works that I think these forefathers would be proud of.
I also am primarily sticking to photographers who use Photoshop and shoot digitally, as that is what I do. However, greats like Adams and Jerry N. Uelsmann have been doing great post-processing long before our high tech gadgetry of today existed!
I also know there are great photographers works who I've seen and forgot to create links for, so feel free to add your favorites that are missing from this list in the comments section of this blog article.
The following photographers have some outstanding shots, but their portfolio is lacking something to be compared with the top photographers above. However, each of them have select shots are so good that I can't help but mention them:
- Kim and Adam Bamberg (Wedding) - Based on composition alone they are probably one of the top photographers in the wedding category, but then you add the color and sharpness each and every photo offers and you end up with something truly special. Kim and Adam were on my Top Photographers list for years, but only until mid-2010 did I have to bump them to make room for others. If I had a 21st spot, it would be theirs. For many they’d be in the top 10.
- Rarindra Prakarsa (People / Landscapes) - An up and comer who is a post-processing guru. The colors and images he produces simply draw you into the photo and keep you locked there.
- Zhang Jingna (a.k.a., zenmotion) (Fashion) - Her self-portraits are simply amazing, but it is her fashion work that really sets her apart from the average photographer.
- Marco Grob - (Portraits) – Fantastic stuff and a favorite photographer of my #1, Tim Wallace. I had a hard time not putting him in the top 20, but he’s current my #21 by a mile.
- Bambi Cantrell* (Portraits) - There are a lot of great portrait photographers, so Bambi's impressive collection just missed the cut.
- Ari Bixhorn (Landscape) - I'm pleased to say I work at the same company with Ari in my day job (although I've never met him), but his landscapes are some of the best I've seen. Ari was a top 20 member until 3/30/09.
- John Shaw (Nature) - This one was tough to not put on the list because he's a photography icon without question.
- Floris van Breugel (Nature) - There's moments of brilliance and others that make me shake my head
- David Hobby - Mr. Strobist.com is a great photographer and a master of the flash for sure. Keeping him out of my top 20 was difficult, but, I felt there shots in his portfolio that I'd probably mark as rejected so that kept him out of the top 20.
- Art Wolfe (Landscape / Wildlife) - A great photographer from my current hometown (Seattle).
- Denis Reggie (Weddings) - At one point in time Denis was high on my list, but others have been bumped up on my list.
- James Neeley (Rural Life / Landscape) - Great stuff for sure but I thought Ari Bixhorn was better.
- Mary Duprie (Fashion) - Lots of high quality fashion work by someone who shares her knowledge with aspiring photographers.
- Bob Davis (Wedding / Magazine) - Very good wedding photographer who knows how to put photos together in a fun story.
- Jairo Marcos (Formula 1 Racing) - The best F1 photographer you've never heard of.
- Zack Arias (Studio) - Another master of light who has a blog with lots of great stuff for any photographer wishing to master the art of studio photography.
Keep in mind, I'm not worthy of any of these photographers either, so at this point I aspire to be on this list!