Top Modern Photographers You Should Know About | A Source of Inspiration

The heights of human motivation spring from the beauty and goodness that precede us and awaken us to better possibilities, according to the studies by psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot. This is precisely why inspiration matters. It can make us better photographers and creative thinkers.

Why Inspiration Matters and How it Can Transform You

Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by transforming the way we perceive our capabilities. It gives us clarity through which the brave can form a grander vision. What do I mean by brave? There is a dark side to inspiration. Being exposed to great work paralyzes some artists and photographers. It makes them think they’ll never amount to such greatness. But this is an illusion, as inspiration can be manipulated, and fear can be dropped. But that’s something we must discover ourselves.

In ancient Greece, the Muses were the source of inspiration, who spoke directly to the creators of great literature and art. But in our world, the top modern photographers, many of them with humble beginnings, are a better source of inspiration. By studying the work of top modern photographers we are motivated to take action. After all, inspiration causes motivation. So before you continue reading, ask yourself the following, “Who and what inspires me?”

Top Modern Photographers You Should Know About

Below is my list of top modern photographers you should know about. I intentionally avoided old masters from the past, because their style differs from digital work photographers process today. Let’s start with top modern portrait photographers you should know, then we’ll continue with sports, wedding, and landscape photographers.

1. Joe McNally: Portrait Photography

Joe McNally has been photographing around the world for over 30 years. He worked for Time, Fortune, Newsweek, and the list goes on. American Photo listed Joe MacNally one of the 100 most important people in photography. As stated on his website, McNally has an ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of color and light.

McNally started as a newspaper wire service photographer. In his interview with Berman Graphics, he claims he had the benefit of coming along at a time when the field of photography was wide open. In New York, he came under the guidance of established shooters and editors who have helped shape his vision.

McNally’s camera system is Nikon and he’s shooting D3’s. He uses Lexar cards and all his images are organized in Aperture libraries. To view McNally’s colorful and entertaining pictures, check out his website here.

Joe McNally

2. Martin Vrabko: Portrait Photography

Born in Bratislava in 1971, Martin Vrabko runs a portrait and commercial photography studio in Slovakia. He received a prestigious award from the Federation of European Photographers and the International Photography Council. Before becoming a photographer, Vrabko was a 3D computer designer working with lights, objects and cameras in the virtual space.

Before turning 24 Vrabko didn’t know anything about photography. Now he says that the most important inspiration for him has been the power and magic of light. He learned that the true meaning of the word photography is literally ‘the drawing of light’, according to the statement made on his website.

In the beginning Vrabko could not afford professional lighting equipment, so he created his own, which shaped the vision of the world around him. Before digital he used a Linhof Karden E 4×5 large format camera and Pentax ASAHI II. Then he turned to Hasselblad H1D. You can view his diverse and highly creative  portfolio here here.

Top Modern Photographers Martin Vrabko

3. Joey Lawrence: Portrait Photography

Born in 1989, Joey Lawrence is one of the best and youngest photographers. His technical skills are impeccable. Lawrence is a Canadian commercial photographer, director, and a published author. He worked for Coca-Cola, National Geographic, Forbes, Verizon, and yep, the list goes on. His work is work is well executed technically, and he really is one of the top modern photographers who is only going to get better. Hard to believe, right?

Lawrence likes to shoot with Phase One, and claims that the only Phase One lens worth paying attention to is 80mm 2.8 LS lens. To view Lawrence’s portfolio and find out what equipment he uses, visit his website here.

Joey Lawrence Photography

4: Michael Muller: Portrait Photography

Born in 1970, American photographer Michael Muller spent most of his childhood in Saudi Arabia where his father worked. While he traveled to many countries with his family, Muller became drawn to photography. Back in California, his first published photos were of snowboarding.

Muller experimented with portrait photography in Los Angeles, ultimately reaching success. Visit his website here.

Michael Muller

5. Jeremy Cowart: Portrait Photography

A self taught American photographer, Jeremy Cowart, studied graphic design and started a design company in 2001. Cowart only took pictures to bring texture into his design work. Shortly he realized that photography was his true calling, switching careers in 2005.

Soon after, his unique work earned him respect from notable figures and companies. Cowart photographed such individuals as Tim Tebow,  Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting. Among many companies, he photographed for Time, ESPN, FOX, ABC. You can visit his website here. To watch Cowart’s TED talk, click here.

Jeremy Cowart

6. Blair Bunting: Sports Photography

Only in his early 30s, American photographer Blair Bunting worked for Adidas, GM, ESPN, Pepsi, and more. He is known for shooting celebrities and sports figures. Bunting says that patience and creativity are among the two most important traits in photography. Lenses he cannot live without are prime lenses. View his website here.

To learn about Blair Bunting’s photography equipment and techniques, watch his Adorama interview here.

Blair Bunting

7. Adam Pretty: Sports Photography

In 1997 Adam Pretty began working as a news photographer. Since joining Getty images in 1998, Pretty has been stationed in Tokyo, Beijing, Sydney, and Los Angeles. He covered assignments for  magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and more.

In 2007 he shifted from sports photography to advertising. Some of his clients include Adidas and Nike. Visit Pretty’s website here.

Adam Pretty \

8. Marc Aspland: Sports Photography

According to Keith Blackmore, Deputy Editor The Times, Marc Aspland exhibits a rare gift for his craft. According to Aspland’s website, in 2009 he was awarded the highest honor by becoming a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. Visit his website here.

Marc Aspland

9. Jerry Ghionis: Wedding Photography

Based in Beverly Hills, Sydney, Melbourne, Ghionis is regarded as one of the top wedding photographers. As described on his website, his style can be described where vintage glamour meets contemporary fashion. Lucky is the bride who gets to flip through the album from Jerry Ghionis.

Ghionis currently shoots with Nikon D4 and Nikon D3SV. His favorite lens is a 70-200mm with which he photographs 90% of his weddings. He works on a Mac and does his RAW processing in Lightroom. All editing is done in Photomechanic. Ghionis truly belongs on the list of top modern photographers. Visit his vibrant portfolio here.

Jerry Ghionis

10. Yvonne Zemke: Wedding Photography

Zemke has received recognition and awards from such organizations as the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (ISPWP). She’s a founder of Bildpoeten, an exclusive association for wedding photographers in Germany and Austria. After finishing her business administration studies, Zemke decided that an office job was not for her. Now a full time photographer, she lives in a small town near Dusseldorf. To learn how she made it as a photographer, read her interview at Seamless Photo.

Zemke currently shoots with a Canon 5D Mark III. Some of her favorite photographers are Elliot Erwitt and Robert Doisneau. Anyone familiar with these two photographers will notice how they have inspired Zemke’s charming work. You can visit her website here.

Yvonne Zemke

11. Livio Lacurre: Wedding Photography

Born in 1974, Livio Lacurre is an Italian photographer who currently lives in Arezzo, Tuscany. He strives to capture emotions in his subjects and in those standing by, which is apparent in his work. He’s a member of the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers who has been featured in the Brides Magazine UK.

“My style is usually reportage and I don’t really execute many posed shots in the services I offer unless I am specifically asked by the client,” claims Lacurre. You can visit his website here.

Livio Lacurre

12. Davina & Daniel: Wedding Photography

Award winning members of Brides Magazine and WPJA, Davina and Daniel have photographed all over North America and abroad. Their work has been published in numerous Canadian and American photography magazines.

Daniel always loved photography, and became a photographer after high school. Davina studied journalism where she met Daniel. Daniel taught her about photography. She shot her first wedding with him in Jamaica, and never looked back. For both of them, lighting and environment are the main source of inspiration. A few photographers who inspire them are Ben Chrisman, Erin Reed, Dave & Quin.

Their suggestion to photographers is to get to know their equipment well and to learn the techniques properly either by taking a class or attending a workshop. Becoming a professional photographer isn’t as easy as it seems. Davina and Daniel are a married couple currently living in Montreal, Canada. You can visit their website here. 

Davina and Daniel

13. Alex Noriega: Landscape Photography

Alex Noriega is a Portland, Oregon based landscape photographer. He uses Photoshop Camera Raw and actions to achieve his style. Noriega says that he doesn’t use any other software or plugins. According to his Behance page, Noriega shoots with Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 10-24mm lens

Noriega strives for atmosphere, cohesive composition, interesting light, intrinsic beauty, and technical excellence in every photograph he makes. Visit his site here.

Alex Noriega

14. Francesco Gola: Landscape Photography

Born in Italy in 1981, Francesco Gola is an engineer whose hobby is photography. For him photography is a source of inspiration that allows him to reveal the relationship between the outside world of nature and the inside world of thoughts and emotions. At his website, Gola says that photography allows him to express mental and emotional stimulation.

Gola shoots with Canon 5D Mark III. Some of his lenses include F-S 16-35mm f/2.8 II, EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS, Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8.  His favorite lens is  Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/21, and for long exposures he uses Lee Filters. You can see his beautiful pictures here.

Francesco Gola

15. Krzysztof Browko: Landscape Photography

Krzystof Browko, from Opole, Poland, is an IT specialist who started photographing landscapes in 2005. Photography is a passion that helps him break from his daily routine, which helps him notice things we sometimes miss in everyday life. What motivated him were photographs with perfect compositions from places he never had the chance to visit.

Photographers who have inspired him are Piotr Czechowski, Marcin Sacha, Chip Philips,  Marc Adamus. According to Browko’s Behance page, he shoots with a Canon 5D Mark II. His lenses are Canon 17-40 f4,0L USM and Canon 100-400 f4,5-5,6L Is USM. You can visit his site here.

Krzysztof Browko

16. Jim Richardson: Landscape Photography

Jim Richardson is a photographer for National Geographic Magazine and a contributing editor to Traveler magazine. While working for Denver Post in 1983, Richardson got noticed by National Geographic when he covered the flooding of the Great Salt Lake.

When he travels, Richardson only carries equipment that he needs. He stuffs a tripod in his checked luggage, and when he brings a case of equipment, it’s packed with camera bodies, specialty lenses, and whatever is necessary to get the job done. His lighting kit is full of Nikon SB-800s, umbrellas, stands, Pocket Wizards, Radio Poppers, filters, and clamps.

Richardson claims that National Geographic does not allow him to enhance his images beyond the basic curves and level adjustments. No HDR, no removing telephone poles, no adding pretty clouds, says Richardson. You can visit his website here. 

Jim Richardson

Who and What Inspires You? Want to Add Someone to My Top Modern Photographers List? Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Area Below

As we said earlier, inspiration motivates us. It can make us better and more disciplined photographers. We’re all inspired by someone. So who inspires you? What moves you? Who is that special photographer that made you look? Let us know in the comments area below. See you next week. Cheers.

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