Noise, noise, noise! Photography isn’t unique. It’s just an ever growing amphitheater filled with more and more voices from around the world screaming for attention. From magazines to blogs, workshops to YouTube sensations, we hear a constant influx of photography related noise. From soapbox to soapbox, megaphones pressed to their lips, photographers and faux-tographers preach their particular message for the world to hear and it is up to you and me to determine which is worth listening to and which isn’t.

With that in mind, how do we determine who is worth listening to and who isn’t? Unfortunately, there’s not a cut and dried answer to this question and, ultimately, it’s a decision you have to make yourself. However, there are some principles to keep in mind when deciding who you will allow to impact you. Here are the things I ponder:


Is their work good? Is there a factor there that I would like to learn or replicate in my work? I’ll look at their newer work and some of their archived photos and piece together their evolution. I’ll study the lighting, posing, and perspective used. If what I’m looking at isn’t great and isn’t going to help me grow as a photographer, I’m not going to waste my time studying it. There are countless photographers that make more money than I can imagine that fall into this category. Sure, their work is great, but it isn’t in alignment with my preferences, style, or goals.


This goes hand in hand with the first point. I want to see a consistent level of excellence across every image they share. If one photo is great and the next is just decent, it’s a turn off and tends to divert my attention away to either a photographer I know I’ll love or to the search for new inspiration.


When I study a favorite photographer, I don’t just study their photos. I’ll study their website, their communication style, their marketing and social media strategy, their pricing structure (if available), and everything I can get my hands on regarding that photographer and the way they work. In doing so, there’s something encouraging and incredibly exciting about a photographer that excels, not just behind the camera, but in business as well.

These aspects are the primary sources of inspiration and study for me when determining who I’m going to devote my precious time to. I don’t want to waste time and end up disappointed. If I’m going to read, browse a site, or study a photo or video, I need it to be beneficial and worth my time. That’s why the photographers below are my go to sources of inspiration. Do yourself a favor and check them out!

Art Streiber


Art Streiber is a Los Angeles-based freelance photographer specializing in reportage, travel, portrait and entertainment photography.

Erik Almas


Based in San Francisco, California, he originally hails from Norway and credits his upbringing for influencing his romantic, surrealistic style.

Erik Johansson


Erik Johansson is a professional photographer and retoucher from Sweden based in Berlin, Germany.

Kalle Gustafsson


Kalle Gustafsson is a swedish photographer. His images are extremely cinematic. When I look at them, I feel like I am looking at a story. Many of his photographs have the distinct feel of a French or Italian movie from the 1960′s.

Akos Major


Akos Major is a Hungarian photographer, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. His work is beautifully minimalistic.

Dave Hill


Dave Hill is a commercial photographer living in Los Angeles.



Andric produces some of the cleanest images in the industry. His refined aesthetic plays on subtle hues and subdued shadows.


Ben Von Wong 

vonwong_portraitPhoto Credit: Benjamin Von Wong

No stranger to SLR Lounge, he travels the globe creating amazing images pretty much wherever he has the time. I love the creativity he demonstrates and his constant drive to push himself is inspiring in its own right. Combine that drive with the fact that he’s an accomplished teacher and all around great guy, and you’ve got the recipe for a role model.

deadpool_vonwongPhoto Credit: Benjamin Von Wong

Another inspiring aspect of his approach to photography is his use of social media to build and interact with a community of fans. Whether he’s giving away chances to join him for a workshop or going out of his way to visit an ill fan in Australia, he’s approachable, friendly, and always willing to share his knowledge. If you haven’t already, follow him on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, YouTube, or Twitter. Also, take some time to visit his blog and read some of the amazing behind-the-scenes info about his most popular photo shoots.

deliverance_ben_vonwongPhoto Credit: Benjamin Von Wong

Gear-wise, Ben’s tastes run the gamut from mirrorless Sony or Fuji cameras to his medium format Mamiya Leaf Credo. The workhorse of his collection is his Nikon D800E, but as he looks around at the ever increasing hunt for high definition images, he finds that his Mamiya is a bit more inspiring. The bulk of his lighting gear comes from Broncolor.

Joey L. 

joeyl_portraitPhoto Credit: Joey L.

Jealousy isn’t a requirement for this list, but it was bound to happen! Joey has been turning heads in the photography community since he was a teenager and his client list, portfolio, and style has been growing ever since. His lighting style is unmistakable and is a favorite of mine.

Not only does it produce phenomenal photos, but the consistency across his photos is something to aspire to. He uses cinematic lighting to great effect and, in doing so, creates a dramatic mood whether he finds himself wandering the streets of Brooklyn or the plains of Ethiopia. Another trait that is inspiring is his constant drive to grow his portfolio.

002_joey_l_photographer_robert_de_niro_002Photo Credit: Joey L.

He firmly believes in the value of examining weaknesses and working to improve those by spending his personal time and money to work through various shoots and concepts and, invariably, his efforts to improve his portfolio lead to more jobs doing the types of things he just perfected. That’s a lesson all photographers can stand to be reminded of. Just because you’re an excellent wedding photographer, don’t forget to work on your headshots or conceptual work. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to step into a role and show what you know. Something else that’s inspired me is his ability to leverage his commissioned work to provide portfolio pieces for different genres. For example, an early band shoot he did provided the chance to create images that showcased his ability to create commercially viable images.

008_joey_l_photographer_killing_lincoln_national_geographic_008Photo Credit: Joey L.

For gear, Joey tends to lean toward his Phase One camera setup with a Canon 5D Mark III as his faster paced backup workhorse. For lighting needs, he prefers Profoto gear and offers a really cool breakdown of various levels of lighting kits containing Paul C Buff, Profoto, Broncolor, and Elinchrom gear. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google + and definitely check out his tutorials as soon as you get the chance!

Ming Thein

ming thein_portraitPhoto Credit: Ming Thein

He was the very first photographer that I started following when I began my photographic journey and is one of the benchmarks that I still compare my work to – and will be for a long time. His ability to consistently produce incredibly sharp images is impressive and his eye for interesting street scenes is phenomenal. Another interesting tidbit, he graduated from Oxford at the age of 16 as a physicist and went on to a successful career as an executive which he eventually left to pursue his passion as a photographer. Since then, he’s taken on commercial clients like Nissan and The City of London among many others. If you ever have a few hours to kill, check out his site for gear reviews, photoessays, and incredibly inspiring blog posts spanning countless topics relating to photography.

ming thein_skyscraperPhoto Credit: Ming Thein

If you’re looking for great architecture photography, look no further. Ming has traveled the world to some of the most photogenic cities and documented his travels with beautiful images. He is able to capture buildings and their surroundings in such a way that, many times, I think actually seeing the structure itself would be less interesting and moving.

When it comes to street photography, he captures the “decisive moment” routinely and masterfully, creating images that “pop” while also showing the life of the city he finds himself in.

ming thein_eyesPhoto Credit: Ming Thein

He creates his art primarily with his trusty Nikon D810 typically paired with Zeiss Otus lenses (the 55, 85, and 2/135 APO) and a Voightlander 4/180 APO Lanthar. He swears by a quality tripod and trimmings to give him a solid base to achieve the sharpness he consistently demonstrates. Trust me, do yourself a favor and take some time to check out this master of the craft on Facebook, Flickr, Getty Images, or Instagram. You’ll be happy you did!

What About You?

After learning a little bit about these inspirational photographers, think about what you look for in a role model or virtual “mentor.” Consider, are you allowing yourself to spend time looking at photographers or resources that don’t benefit you? What do you look for in a photographer you look up to? Who are your current favorites?