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11 Best Portrait Photographers to Inspire You

The 11 Best Portrait Photographers to Inspire You.

One of the more common types of photography, especially in the digital age of the “selfie“, is portrait photography. Also known as portraiture, portrait photography is the art of taking a photo of a single person or group of people, capturing their most real mood and emotion.

Portrait photography is a constant challenge and requires the photographers creativity in order to really achieve beautiful portraits.

Some of the best portraits involve the most authentic capture of human emotion and expression. Learn more about photography from the best portrait photographers below.

1. Annie Leibovitz

best portrait photographers

Arguably one of the most famous American portrait photographers, Annie Leibovitz is known for her exceptional work photographing the portraits of celebrities. She has worked for Rolling Stone Magazine, Vanity Fair, and a few other fashion and pop-culture publications.

Her use of bold colors, intriguing light, and unique poses is what ultimately helped her work gain exposure.

(© Annie Leibovitz)

Annie Leibovitz Portrait Photography

Annie Leibovitz Portraits for Vanity Fair

Annie Leibovitz Portrait Photography Work

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2. Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry Portrait Photographer and Photojournalist

Steve McCurry is an American Photojournalist who has done work for National Geographic and has won countless awards for his photojournalism and coverage of various wars throughout history.

One of the most famous portraits of all time comes from Steve McCurry. Known as “Afghan Girl“, it is commonly compared to the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art.

(© Steve McCurry)

Afghan Girl Portrait

steve mccurry portrait photography

steve mccurry portrait photography

3. Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange Portrait Photographer

An influential documentary photographer and American photojournalist, Dorothea Lange was fundamental in documenting the Depression Era.

She is known for her work photographing victims of the Great Depression and was very important in the development of documentary photography.

She truly can be considered one of the best portrait photographers of all time as her work during the Depression showed the faces and emotions of so many affected.

(© Dorothea Lange)

Great Depression Portrait Photography, Dorothea Lange

Portrait Photography by Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange Photojournalism



4. Angus McBean

Angus McBean Portrait Photographer

A portrait photographer from South Wales, Angus McBean is remembered for his portrait photography of celebrities in the early 1900s.

He was very famous in the era of vintage film and the rise of the cinema. His most famous subjects included Audrey Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, and the Beatles.

(© Angus McBean)

Best portrait photographers, Angus McBean

Beatles Photography by Angus McBean

Angus Bean Portrait of Vivien Leigh

5. Diane Arbus

Portrait Photographer Diane Arbus

Known for her black and white portrait photography of seemingly ugly or surreal people, Diane Arbus is one of the more unique portrait photographers out there.

Her philosophy involved taking real photos. Photos that involved flaws and shortcomings, not beautified perfection.

Her portrait photography is consistent with this as she primarily photographed marginal people such as dwarfs, giants, nudists, performers, and other deviants.

(© Diane Arbus)

Diane Arbus Portrait Photography

Diane Arbus Portrait Photography

Portrait Photography of Diane Arbus

6. Yousuf Karsh

Portrait Photographer Yousuf Karsh

Yousuf Karsh was an Armenian-Canadian portrait photographer most widely recognized for his clientele. When it came to portrait photography, he photographed all the top people in the world.

From celebrities to politicians to world leaders and thought provokers, Yousuf Karsh photographed the best of the best.

Some of Yousuf’s subjects included Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Helen Keller, Grace Kelly, and so many others.

(© Yousuf Karsh)

Albert Einstein Portrait by Yousuf Karsh

Grace Kelly Portrait by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill Portrait by Yousuf Karsh

7. Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon Portrait Photographer

Known for pushing the bar and heavily influencing American style, Richard Avedon is one of the most prominent fashion and portrait photographers of all time.

He photographed many famous icons in American pop-culture and beyond and was very good at switching up the usual style of fashion and portrait photography with his unique photos. Find a more complete bio of him on Artsy.

(© Richard Avedon)

andy warhol portrait by Richard Avedon

Björk Portrait by Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon Portraits of Igor Stravinsky

8. Edward S. Curtis

Portrait Photographer Edward S. Curtis

A photographer of the American West and Native American peoples, Edward S. Curtis was one of the earliest portrait photographers, being born in 1868.

He took stunning portraits for various Native American’s and each photo tells a story. Effectively he is prominent in visualizing American history, and that is why he is one of the best portrait photographers.

(© Edward S. Curtis)

Three Horses Portrait by Edward S. Curtis

Wyemah Taos Indian Portrait by Edward S. Curtis

Lucille Dakota Sioux Portrait by Edward S. Curtis

9. Philippe Halsman

Portrait Photographer Philippe Halsman

Philippe is the photographer responsible for some of the 20th century’s most recognizable portraits. He was an American portrait photographer who had some eccentric photography.

His best work includes portraits of Marlon Brando, Salvador Dali, Marilyn Monroe, and more.

(© Philippe Halsman)

Marilyn Monroe Portrait by Philippe Halsman

Marlon Brando Portrait by Philippe Halsman

Salvador Dali Portrait by Philippe Halsman



10. Antonin Kratochvil

Portrait Photographer Antonin Kratochvil

Antonin Kratochvil is a photojournalist and portrait photographer from Czechoslovakia. His work unique in that he has photographed everything from celebrities to war victims.

He has a unique style and leans toward black and white for most of hist work.

(© Antonin Kratochvil)

Broken Dreams by Antonin Kratochvil

George Clooney Portrait by Antonin Kratochvil

Portrait Photography by Antonin Kratochvil

11. Herb Ritts

Herb Ritts Portrait Photographer

Herb Ritts was an American Fashion and Portrait photographer who took most of his photos in black and white, with a unique touch. He positioned his models in the style of classical Greek sculpture.

Hist work was intriguing and prominent in the fields of fashion and style.

(© Herb Ritts)

Photography by Herb Ritts

Richard Gere Portriat by Herb Ritts

Madonna Portrait by Herb Ritts

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