What makes a photographer the best in the world?

Who deserves to be granted this grand title? “The best photographers in the world”.

Of course, it is completely subjective to grant this to any photographer. Some photographers have a certain style that appeals to the masses whereas other photographers have a unique style that not everyone will appreciate.

Let it be said that there are so many great photographers out there in the current modern time. All you have to do is have a look at 500px.com and filter by popularity or by editors choice. Most of these new photographers have not achieved the level of fame as the ones below because there is so much competition for your eyeballs out there in the digital space now. Instead of buying a copy of National Geographic so you can see the famous photo of the Afgan Girl by Steve McCurry people are simply logging onto Instagram and seeing thousands of photos from all across the globe.

The photographers that you may have heard of and discussed below may indeed owe some part of their fame and notoriety to the fact that they were the first pioneers to actually devote decades of their life to this relatively new art form.

In this article, we will discuss the more popular photographers still working at the time of writing this article.

Famous photographers in history

Ansel Adams

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Robert Capa

Robert Frank

The best photographers in the world

Steve McCurry


Steve McCurry’s photos are well known for being taken in war-torn countries. Steve has been shooting for decades and found his fame in the 1980’s with the famous photo “The Afghan Girl” above. Steve was well known for shooting with the Kodak film stock Kodachrome. Kodachrome film gave Steves images a certain soft, slightly grainy and heavy contrast look. This film stock combined with Steves technique of shooting in natural soft light always produces great looking portraits.

Steve McCurry's use of colour

Steve generally tries to shoot very colorful images. You can usually notice one color that is often a little more saturated in post production than what might have actually appeared on the day. This technique of isolating one color combined with heavy contrast and the subjects eyes staring straight down lens gives emotion to steves images.

All about the eyes

A common theme across all of Steves work in the portrait genre is that his subjects are almost always looking down the lens. This creates an emotional connection with the viewer. Steves subjects usually do not display emotion like smiling but instead have a sombre or sometimes a frightened look.

The photographs that Steve has taken of children are harder to reproduce these days with the common understanding in most cultures around that globe that taking photos of children without permission from the parents is generally not accepted.

An interview with Steve McCurry

Sebastião Salgado


Sebastião Salgado’s photos can be categorised in one word, “Epic”.

His photos are filled with content from corner to corner. All in black and white and with a grainy film look these photos can take your breath away. Sebastião is known for travelling the world for decades in pursuit of his work. He often travels to the most destructive and uncomfortable places on the planet in order to capture an image. His work leans towards highlighting man’s struggle with himself and with the earth. See in his images below he often shows desperation and struggle in each photograph.

Sebastião Salgado's commitment to his craft.

Initially working as an economist Sebastião Salgado decided to leave a safe and lucrative future in economics in 1973 so he could pursue photography full time. He devoted long periods of time away from his family for his work. When he first started his family with his wife he was soon leaving the country for extended periods in order to pursue his imges. His family soon became accustomed to the fact that he would be away for long periods at a time.

But Sebastião had faith in his skill and his ability to provide for his family through his photography.

The purity of black and white

Sebastião only shoots in black and white. This is his signature style. His theory is that black and white delivers a certain emotion that cannot be transmitted through colour. He says his composition and the way he sets his cameras for the light is influenced from when he was a young child in Brazil. His father would show him images through a slide projector. Often these slides would consist of a simple composition with the subject in the centre of the frame. Sebastião says that the way he perceived these slides as a child stayed with his subconscious and later appeared through his photography.

An interview with Sebastião Salgado

Joey L


Joey L’s photos can be categorised in one word, “Emotional”. His images have a color tone and mood that is consistent throughout his work.

From Joeys website Bio

Joey L. is a Canadian-born photographer and director based in Brooklyn, New York. Since the age of 18, Joey’s work has been consistently sought out by a number of prominent advertising clients, including Lavazza for their 2016 calendar, National Geographic Channel, U.S. Army, Canon, Jose Cuervo, Summit Entertainment, History Channel, The Government of Abu Dhabi, and many others. He has photographed a number of recognizable faces including Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, John Legend, Dylan McDermott, Karlie Kloss, Author John Green, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas to name a few. His work is regularly seen in magazines, subway advertisements, and billboards.

Taking time with his images

Joey has spoken in interviews about how long he takes to research and then finally photograph his subjects. He often spends years trying to achieve the perfect image. This alone surely must place him in the league of the best photographers in the world. He is operating well above the modern trend of instant phone camera photographers seeking likes every day on Instagram.

An expert use of flash

Joey has a deep understanding of flash and strobe photography techniques. He often blends natural light like golden light during sunset with strobes to create his signature style. He doesn’t just use speed lights though. For his commercial work Joey travels with a full support team and uses the best strobes and diffusers money can buy. See the video below for an example.

Joey L' putting himself in harms way for his craft.

Joey L started his own Kickstarter campaign to funds his project to Syria. He photographed the people of the Syrian resistance. Joey did this on his own and indeed placed himself in harm’s way for his work.

An interview with Joey L