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Design & Style

10 Annie Leibovitz Quotes on Photography

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 23, 2020 • 3 min read

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Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography

Great photography calls attention to the little things nobody sees in real life. A good photographer constantly observes ordinary places and people and uses their camera to share a unique point of view through a single frame. If you're looking for inspiration to become a better photographer, look no further than Annie Leibovitz.

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Annie Leibovitz Teaches PhotographyAnnie Leibovitz Teaches Photography

Annie brings you into her studio and onto her shoots to teach you everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images.

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A Brief Introduction to Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz is one of the world’s most esteemed photographers. Annie became Rolling Stone’s chief photographer in 1973, and ten years later, when she joined the staff of the revived Vanity Fair, she began developing a large body of work that expanded her collective portrait of contemporary life. Several collections of her work have been published and exhibitions of her photographs have appeared at museums and galleries all over the world.

Annie has spent her life honing the craft of photography—here are some photography quotes from her, all straight from her MasterClass.

Annie Leibovitz on Portrait Photography

“In portraiture, you have so much leeway, so much latitude. You can be conceptual. You can be abstract. You can tell a story. You can be journalistic if you want. You have so many options available in portraiture, and you're not confined to one idea.”

Annie Leibovitz on Working With Subjects

“There’s this idea that it’s the portrait photographer’s job to set the subject at ease. I don’t believe in setting people at ease.”

Annie Leibovitz on Photographing Friends and Family

“Photographing the people close to you, the people who will put up with you, is probably the most rewarding work you will do. It may never be published, but it is the work that you should care about most and embrace.”

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Annie Leibovitz on Simplicity

"I like going somewhere with one small battery-powered light source, and maybe some bounce boards and an umbrella in case you don't have a choice about how bright the sun is. When you start to build up too much equipment, you're just dead. You can't move. You can't pivot. You can't change your mind."

Annie Leibovitz on Location Shooting

“I’m an observer. I like to be somewhere. I like to see something unfold. I love the light changing. The studio doesn’t give me any of that. I don’t have enough to grab onto. I miss the storytelling aspect.”

Annie Leibovitz on Tradition and Change

“My experience of learning in the darkroom with black-and-white film had limitations that were helpful. There were fewer choices. When digital came along, I didn’t jump into it. But it was obvious that this is what was going to be. If you do this for a long time, everything changes.”

Annie Leibovitz on Learning to See

You can have what you think is the best equipment, and it doesn't help if you can't see. It takes years to understand how to see. It just takes doing it over and over and over. One of the reasons I'm still doing it is I love to do it. I love to look."

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Annie Leibovitz on Discovery

"Photography is actually a wonderful medium for a young person to just go out and discover themselves and discover the world around them. It gives them permission to go out and have a purpose and observe."

Annie Leibovitz on Nurturing Your Craft

"Some days will feel like magic, and some days will feel terrible. It's like life. It will have its ups and downs. It is a life, and it is a relationship. It needs to be nurtured and taken care of and fed. And the rewards can be wonderful."

Annie Leibovitz on Persistence

"You just have to work and not give up during the miserable times. It's actually rewarding to keep doing it when you think you can't do it anymore. It only gets more interesting. I can't tell you how important it is to express yourself and then take your own feelings and express what's going on in this world."

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Think Like a Pro

Annie brings you into her studio and onto her shoots to teach you everything she knows about portraiture and telling stories through images.

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Become a better photographer with the MasterClass All-Access Pass. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by photography masters, including Annie Leibovitz, Jimmy Chin, and more.

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