All about photo.com: photo contests, photography exhibitions, galleries, photographers, books, schools and venues.

Iconic Portrait Photographers

Portrait photography, or portraiture, is probably the most popular and one of the oldest forms of photography. Portraits are often about capturing the personality of the subject, using effective lighting, backdrops, and a variety of different candid and staged poses.

But more and more photographers take their portraits around the world without the help of a studio environment. Portrait photography, in this case, seems even more honest and candid, compared to staged pictures, as some of these people might be photographed for the first time in their life.

All About Photo has compiled the most interesting examples of such photography. Below is our list of famous portrait photographers who have been able to unveil the raw beauty of our fellow humans. In this list, you’ll find a mixture of famous portrait photographers from past and present to get you inspired.

Richard Avedon

© Richard Avedon, Self-portrait, Provo, Utah, August 20, 1980. Courtesy of The Richard Avedon Foundation

Richard Avedon (1923 - 2004) was an American fashion and portrait photographer. From the beginning of his career, he made formal portraits for publication in Theatre Arts, Life, Look, and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, among many others. He was fascinated by photography’s capacity for suggesting the personality and evoking the life of his subjects. He registered poses, attitudes, hairstyles, clothing and accessories as vital, revelatory elements of an image. He had complete confidence in the two-dimensional nature of photography, the rules of which he bent to his stylistic and narrative purposes.
  Read More
Yousuf Karsh

Claude Castonguay. Library and Archives Canada, e010683552_s1 / Claude Castonguay. Bibliothèque et Archives e010683552_s1

Yousuf Karsh is the most renowned portrait photographer of our time. He has perceptively photographed the statesmen, artists, and literary and scientific figures that have shaped our lives in the 20th century. Known for his ability to transform ''the human face into legend,'' many of the portraits that he created have become virtually the image of the great man or woman they portray, whether Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Georgia O'Keefe or Helen Keller.
  Read More
Annie Leibovitz

© Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA - Annie Leibovitz at her SF exhibition

Annie Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer best known for her engaging portraits, particularly of celebrities, which often feature subjects in intimate settings and poses. Leibovitz's Polaroid photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken five hours before Lennon's murder, is considered one of Rolling Stone magazine's most famous cover photographs. The Library of Congress declared her a Living Legend, and she is the first woman to have a feature exhibition at Washington's National Portrait Gallery.
  Read More
Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron, 1870

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 - 1879) was a British photographer. She became known for her portraits of celebrities of the time, and for photographs with Arthurian and other legendary themes. Cameron had left no mark on the aesthetic history of photography because her work was not appreciated by her contemporaries and thus not imitated. But this situation was evidently already changing by then thanks to his popularisation of her work, for instance in 1975, Imogen Cunningham had commented ''I'd like to see portrait photography go right back to Julia Margaret Cameron. I don't think there's anyone better.''
  Read More
August Sander

August Sander, 16 January 1940

August Sander was a German portrait and documentary photographer. As a practitioner of New Objectivity, an avant-garde art movement that sought to depart from abstraction and artifice and return to realism, Sander wanted his photographs to expose truths. ''Pure photography allows us to create portraits which render their subjects with absolute truth,'' he said. ''If we can create portraits of subjects that are true, we thereby in effect create a mirror of the times.'' Though his desire was to ''honestly tell the truth about our age and people,'' Sander’s depiction of German people is unavoidably subjective.
  Read More
Nadav Kander

David Lynch - Courtesy Trunk Archives / © Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander is a London-based photographer, artist, and director. His work forms part of the public collection at the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Kander's work is also exhibited in numerous international galleries and museums. Renowned for his portraiture, he has, throughout his illustrious career photographed some of the most prominent figures from across art, sport and politics, most famously Barack Obama, who he captured, after his inauguration, for the cover of the New York Times Magazine. Whoever his sitter may be and what stature they may hold, Kander’s aims in portraiture remain the same—to demonstrate the humanity within, rather than making a simple documentation: ''Revealed and concealed, beauty and destruction, ease and disease, shame and shameless.'' as the photographer puts it.
  Read More
Paul Strand

Paul Strand by Alfred Stieglitz, 1917

Paul Strand (1890 - 1976) was an American photographer and filmmaker who, along with fellow modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, helped establish photography as an art form in the 20th century. Although Strand is best known for his early abstractions, his return to still photography in this later period produced some of his most significant work in the form of six book 'portraits' of place.
  Read More
Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus, 1949

Diane Arbus (1923 - 1971) was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of ''deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal.'' Arbus believed that a camera could be ''a little bit cold, a little bit harsh but its scrutiny revealed the truth; the difference between what people wanted others to see and what they really did see – the flaws.''
  Read More
Martin Schoeller

Martin Schoeller at one of his ''Face'' exhibitions in New York.

Martin Schoeller is one of the world's preeminent contemporary portrait photographers. He is most known for his extreme-close up portraits, a series in which familiar faces are treated with the same scrutiny as the unfamous. The stylistic consistency of this work creates a democratic platform for comparison between his subjects, challenging a viewer's existing notions of celebrity, value and honesty. Schoeller's close-up portraits emphasize, in equal measure, facial features, of his subjects - world leaders and indigenous groups, movie stars and the homeless, athletes and artists - leveling them in an inherently democratic fashion.
  Read More
Philippe Halsman

© Philippe Halsman, Self-Portrait

Philippe Halsman was born in Riga, Latvia and began his photographic career in Paris. In 1934 he opened a portrait studio in Montparnasse, where he photographed many well-known artists and writers — including André Gide, Marc Chagall, Le Corbusier, and André Malraux, using an innovative twin-lens reflex camera that he designed himself. Over the course of his career, Halsman enjoyed comparing his work to that of a good psychologist who regards his subjects with special insight. With his courtly manners and European accent, Halsman also fit the popular stereotype at a time when Americans regarded psychology with fascinated skepticism. In fact, Halsman was proud of his ability to reveal the character of his sitters. As he explained, ''It can't be done by pushing the person into position or arranging his head at a certain angle. It must be accomplished by provoking the victim, amusing him with jokes, lulling him with silence, or asking impertinent questions which his best friend would be afraid to voice.''
  Read More
Gordon Parks

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 1963 - NARA - 542074

Gordon Parks, one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, was a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He left behind an exceptional body of work that documents American life and culture from the early 1940s into the 2000s, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. His extraordinary pictures allowed him to break the color line in professional photography while he created remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of poverty, racism, and other forms of discrimination.
  Read More
Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration photographer, sitting atop a Ford Model 40 in California. In her lap is a Graflex 4×5 Series D camera, Library of Congress

Dorothea Lange (1895 - 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange had little interest in classifying her photographs as art: she made them to effect social change. Although she had led a successful career as a portrait photographer in San Francisco throughout the 1920s, by 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, she began to photograph life outside her studio. Lange's photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanized the consequences of the Great Depression.
  Read More
Edward S. Curtis

Self-portrait, c. 1889

Born in 1868 near Whitewater, Wisconsin, Edward Sheriff Curtis became one of America's finest photographers and ethnologists. By age 17, he was an apprentice at a studio in St. Paul, Minnesota, and his life seemed to be taking a familiar course for a young man with a marketable trade, until the Curtis family packed up and moved west, eventually settling in Seattle. There, Curtis married 18-year-old Clara Phillips, purchased his own camera and a share in a local photography studio. The young family lived above the thriving Curtis Studio, which attracted society ladies who wanted their portraits taken by the handsome, athletic young man who made them look both glamorous and sophisticated. And it was in Seattle in 1895 where Curtis did his first portrait of a Native American. These portraits represent ideals and imagery designed to create a timeless vision of Native American culture at a time when modern amenities and American expansion had already irrevocably altered the Indian way of life.
  Read More
Herman Leonard

Portrait of Herman Leonard by his dear friend © Douglas Kirkland

Herman Leonard took intimate, decisive photographs of nearly every now-legendary jazz singer and musician, amassing a visual record of the genre’s heyday in New York and Paris from the 1940s to the ’60s. Throughout his long life, he traveled and lived around the world, capturing images with his distinctive style. Whether he was photographing Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong or a street musician in his home in New Orleans, Herman's smile, warmth and engaging personality continued to open doors for him and his camera.
  Read More
Lee Jeffries

Lee Jeffries © Photo Festival Photographique de Moncoutant

Lee Jeffries lives in Manchester in the United Kingdom. Close to the professional football circle, this artist starts to photograph sporting events. A chance meeting with a young homeless girl in the streets of London changes his artistic approach forever. Since that day Lee has been on a mission to raise awareness of – and funds for – the homeless. His work features street people from the UK, Europe, and the US whom he gets to know by living rough with them, the relationship between them enabling him to capture a searing intimacy and authenticity in his portraits.
  Read More
Cyndy Sherman

Cyndy Sherman,2016

Cyndy Sherman is an American artist whose work consists primarily of photographic self-portraits, depicting herself in many different contexts and as various imagined characters. Her breakthrough work is often considered to be the collected ''Untitled Film Stills'', a series of 70 black-and-white photographs of herself evoking typical women roles in performance media (especially arthouse films and popular B-movies). In the 1980s, she used color film and large prints, and focused more on costume, lighting and facial expression.
  Read More
John Rankin

© John Rankin

Synonymous with compelling portraiture, Rankin's lens captures, creates and unveils icons. Rankin has launched and published widely influential magazines like Dazed & Confused, Rank and AnOther Magazine. For seven weeks in 2009 with his Rankin Live project he photographed people straight off the street, completing one shoot every 15 minutes, with the portraits printed and hung within 30 minutes. He photographed over 1,000 people for the project, with each subject getting a print of their portrait to take away.
  Read More
Stéphan Gladieu

Stéphan Gladieu

Stéphan Gladieu main focus is on his personal and artistic work through series of portraits in which DNA is colour and the play of contrast between subject and background in natural settings. Stéphan Gladieu plays on the iconic character of the frontal image and on the frontier between the real and the unreal. His portraiture has included covering the Saudi Princes, Princesses in Nepal, actors & directors behind the scenes at Cannes Film Festival, politicians, intellectuals, but also everyday people the world over.
  Read More
Manfred Baumann

Manfred Baumann

Manfred Baumann was born in Vienna in 1968. The Leica photographer has since presented his works worldwide in the form of exhibitions, books, and calendars. His photographs are displayed in museums as well as in international galleries. Over the past years, Baumann has taken his place among the most influential photographers of our time.
  Read More
Stephan Vanfleteren

Stephan Vanfleteren

Stephan Vanfleteren is a Belgian photographer, best known for his portraits in black and white and his depictions of Belgium and abroad. Vanfleteren's portraits have been his best-known and most recognizable work. Always in black and white, he has photographed many people from the art world but also many who are unknown.
  Read More
Platon

Platon

Platon (born Platon Antoniou, born 20 April 1968) is a British portrait and documentary photographer. Platon has photographed many well known leaders. Bill Clinton was the first president that he worked with and photographed. Other photographs of well known leaders include Donald Trump, Muammar al Qaddafi, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Muhammad Ali. His photograph of Vladimir Putin was on the cover of Time in 2007.
  Read More
Nadar

Nadar, Self-Portrait, 1860. Archives Charmet, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France

Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820 - 1910), known by the pseudonym Nadar, was a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist, balloonist, and proponent of heavier-than-air flight. In 1858, he became the first person to take aerial photographs. Photographic portraits by Nadar are held by many of the great national collections of photographs. His son, Paul Nadar (1856–1939), continued the studio after his death.
  Read More
Advertisement
AAP Magazine #38: Women
PhMuseum Photography Grant
March 2024 Online Solo Exhibition
Stay up-to-date  with call for entries, deadlines and other news about exhibitions, galleries, publications, & special events.
Call for Entries
Solo Exhibition March 2024
Win an Online Solo Exhibition in March 2024

Latest Interviews

Orchestrating Light: Seth Dickerman Talks About his Passion for Photographic Printmaking
Seth Dickerman is a master manipulator of the wide spectrum of light densities that reflect off the surface of a photographic print and enter into our field of vision. His singular intent in making prints is to bring out the best an image has to offer, which means giving an image the ability to hold our attention, to engage us, and to allow us to discover something about an image that is meaningful and significant.
Exclusive Interview with Michel Haddi
Photographer and film director, Michel Haddi has photographed many high-profile celebrities while living in the USA including, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Uma Thurman, Francis Ford Coppola, Cameron Diaz, Faye Dunaway, Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Angelina Jolie, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. He also manages a publishing house, MHS publishing, which publishes his own books. Currently based in London we have asked him a few questions about his life and work
Exclusive Interview with Sebastien Sardi
In 2008, Swedish photographer Sebastian Sardi, inspired by an article exposing hidden mining-related incidents, embarked on a photography journey. Without formal training, he explored mines and ventured to India's Jharkhand state to document coal miners in Dhanbad, known as the "coal capital." His project, "Black Diamond," captured the lives of people, including men, women, and children, dedicated to coal extraction in grueling conditions.
Exclusive Interview with Debra Achen
Monterey-based photographer Debra Achen was born and raised near Pittsburgh, PA, where she developed a passion for both nature and art. She studied a variety of studio arts, including drawing, painting, and printmaking in addition to her training in traditional film and darkroom photography. Her project 'Folding and Mending' won the September 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked here a few questions about her life and work.
Exclusive Interview with Steve Hoffman
Steve Hoffman is a documentary photographer who has who spent the last dozen years working with and photographing the people that live the housing projects in Coney Island. He was the winner of the July and August 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked him a few questions about his life and work.
Exclusive Interview with Aya Okawa
Aya is passionate about exploring the natural world and protecting ecosystems and wild landsAll about Photo: Tell us about your first introduction to photography. What drew you into this world? Her project The Systems That Shape Us'won the February 2022 Solo Exhibition. We asked her a few questions about her life and her work.
Exclusive Interview with Réhahn
Réhahn discusses his groundbreaking new photographic series ''Memories of Impressionism,'' his artistic journey during and after Covid, and how modernity can draw inspiration from the past. French photographer Réhahn's career started with a face. More specifically, the face of Madame Xong, an octogenarian with an ''ageless beauty'' and ''hidden smile'' that inspired the world. From there, his portraits and lifestyle photos were published all over the world, in pretty much every major magazine and media out there, including The New York Times, BBC, National Geographic and more. His work centered on people living ''outside of time'' with traditional jobs and skills that had been passed down through generations. This focus led to his Precious Heritage Project, the photographer's decade-long research project to document the more than 54 ethnicities currently living in Vietnam, along with their textile and craft traditions. The final collection is housed in The Precious Heritage Museum in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Exclusive Interview with Patrick Cariou
For more than 25 years, French photographer Patrick Cariou has traveled to places around the globe, documenting people living on the fringes of society. Whether photographing surfers, gypsies, Rastafarians or the rude boys of Kingston, Cariou celebrates those who meet the struggles of life with honor, dignity and joy. Bringing together works from his groundbreaking monographs including Surfers, Yes Rasta, Trenchtown Love and Gypsies, Patrick Cariou: Works 1985–2005 (published by Damiani) takes us on a scenic journey around the world, offering an intimate and captivating look at cultures that distance themselves from the blessings and curses of modernity.
Exclusive Interview with Niko J. Kallianiotis
Niko J. Kallianiotis' Athênai in Search of Home (published by Damiani) presents photos taken in and around Athens, the city in which he grew up. The images reflect the artist's eagerness to assimilate back into a home that feels at once foreign and familiar. Throughout the years the city and the surrounding territories have experienced their share of socio-economic struggles and topographic transformations that have altered its identity. The city of Athens in Kallianiotis' photographs is elliptically delineated as a vibrant environment that binds together luxury and social inequality. The photographer depicts a city in which the temporal and the spatial elements often clash with each other while conducting his research for a home that has changed over the years as much as he did.

Inspiring Portfolios