Photography Lessons From Ansell Adams

You can learn a great deal with photography lessons from Ansel Adams quotes. They may be just a short one line saying, yet those very words could help you discover your own hidden talents that lie within. Let’s go through a few of my favourite Ansell Adams quotes together and see the way I interpret his words.

1. “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

Ansel was not talking about photo editing when he quoted this phase. He meant you have to work at capturing great shots. Spend time learning the craft and learning your gear. Spend time watching your subject. Learn to see like an artist / photographer and use that knowledge to create the perfect photo that stands out from the rest.

2. “There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”

This is one of the most important photography lessons from Ansell Adams, don’t forget this one.

Not every image needs to be sharp! You can create a photo that’s technically perfect, but it still won’t have an impact if there’s no concept behind it. Some images are much better showing motion blur and movement. Imperfections can help portray confusion and loss of direction, depending on what story you are wanting to tell.

Photography lessons from Ansell Adams image 1

3. “Use a Notebook. No photographer should be without one.”

Think then shoot. When was the last time you wrote down any photography related ideas on paper?

Nowadays it need not be paper, you could also do this on your smartphone or tablet notes app. Or in the very least, think about your surroundings as you are setting up your next shot. Spend a few minutes now and then jotting down what is happening around you. Being more aware of your surroundings will no doubt help to improve your photography.

4. “I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.”

Ansel was looking forward to the digital age. He also understood that no matter how good your gear is, you still need to work on developing a creative eye. Creativity is what makes a great photo.

5. “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

Another important photography lesson from Ansell Adams. Ansel is saying here that it’s not your gear, but you as a photographer that makes the image. That 12 inches behind the camera that he is talking about, is your brain.

Images below by Ansel Adams

images by Ansell Adams


6. “Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.”

Ansel Adams believed that photography is not only a means of documenting life, it is also a creative outlet similar to art. Learning how to use your camera allows you to be as creative as you choose to be.

Image by Ansell Adams

7. “No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

Another thoughtful photography lesson from Ansell Adams. Be yourself. Shoot what you need to shoot. Don’t worry what anyone thinks of your art. Believe in yourself.

Image 4 Photography lessons from Ansell Adams

8. “Photography, as a powerful medium … offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”

Ansel is spot on with this one. I’ve photographed the same scene with a dozen different photographers. Each one of us coming away with a totally different set of images. It all depended on how we perceived what was in front of us and how we chose to execute the shot.

9. “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.”

Yes that’s right folks. Ansel believed in post processing. Not only did he believe in editing an image, he also considered it a necessity. Ansell is also known to have said that a photo is never finished until you darken the edges.

10. I’ll leave you with one more of my favourite quotes from Adam Ansel –

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs”. 

Use these photography lessons from Ansell Adams in your artistic journeys. They are wise words of wisdom from one of the best.


Images below by Ansel Adams

Images by Ansell Adams