Skip to content

10 Lessons from Elliott Erwitt: What Every Photographer Can Learn

By  | 

Elliott Erwitt is a name that resonates with anyone passionate about photography. Known for his candid black-and-white shots and a delightful sense of humor, Erwitt’s work continues to inspire photographers around the world. Let’s dive into ten invaluable lessons from this legendary photographer that can elevate your craft—and maybe even bring a smile to your face.

Elliott Erwitt inspired photo in Paris
Elliott Erwitt inspired photo of the unexpected in Paris

1. Embrace the Unexpected

Erwitt’s photography often captures spontaneous moments that are both poignant and humorous. He once said, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.” So, keep your camera ready and your eyes open. The best shots often come when you least expect them.

2. Humor is a Powerful Tool

One of Erwitt’s trademarks is his ability to find humour in everyday situations. From dogs with hilarious expressions to people in quirky scenarios, he shows us that humour can add a unique dimension to photography. Don’t be afraid to capture and share the funny side of life.

3. Black and White Magic

Erwitt’s love for black-and-white photography highlights the power of contrast and composition. Stripping away colour forces you to focus on the essence of the subject. Try experimenting with monochrome to see how it can transform your images.

4. Patience Pays Off

Patience is key in capturing the perfect candid moment. Erwitt’s photos often depict the culmination of waiting for the right instant. Whether you’re photographing wildlife or street scenes, give yourself the time to observe and wait for the magic to happen.

Watching her husband leave for work in Paris
Watching her husband leave for work in Paris

5. Tell a Story

Each of Erwitt’s photographs tells a compelling story. Aim to create images that convey a narrative or evoke emotions. Think about what your audience wants to feel or understand when they view your work.

6. Be Playful with Perspective

Erwitt often uses unconventional angles and perspectives to add depth and interest to his photos. Don’t hesitate to lie on the ground, climb a tree, or shoot from a weird angle. It might just give your photo that extra oomph.

7. Capture the Human Condition

From joy to sorrow, Erwitt’s work is a testament to the range of human emotions. Focus on capturing genuine expressions and moments that reflect the human experience. It’s these authentic moments that resonate most with viewers.

8. Stay Curious and Keep Learning

Erwitt’s curiosity about the world around him is evident in his diverse body of work. Keep pushing yourself to learn new techniques, explore different genres, and stay curious about your surroundings. Photography is a journey, not a destination.

9. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Despite being a master photographer, Erwitt’s work often reflects a lighthearted and whimsical approach. Remember to have fun with your photography. Not every shot has to be perfect or profound—sometimes, it’s just about capturing the joy in a moment.

10. Develop Your Unique Voice

Erwitt’s distinct style is instantly recognizable. Strive to develop your own voice and style in photography. This unique perspective will set your work apart and make it memorable.

Dancers at the Eiffel Tower
A couple dances in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Final Thoughts

Elliott Erwitt’s photography teaches us that there’s beauty in the mundane, humour in the everyday, and stories waiting to be told all around us. By embracing his lessons, we can not only improve our craft but also find more joy and meaning in the art of photography. So, grab your camera, stay curious, and don’t forget to smile—your next great shot could be just around the corner!

We run a workshop where Elliott Erwitt’s style influences the photos we take. It’s our Paris Photo Workshop. See that workshop here.

Related Articles

Sign up for our newsletter.

Photography tips and resources, plus our latest trip announcements. Subcribers receive a free copy of our wildlife photography eBook.