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How 10 Self Made Photographers Got their Start

If you’ve been bitten by the shutterbug, you know that a love of photography can hit the most unlikely of people. Heck, some of our favorite photographers are doctors, models and entrepreneurs by day! With that being the case, it should come as no surprise that some of the world’s top photographers started off in a totally different career direction.

That got us thinking… what were photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams, and even our favorite Wix photographers up to before they became known as the person behind the lens? We searched through our favorite photography portfolios and uncovered the untold story of 10 self made photographers.

1. Steve McCurry

Best known for capturing the stunning photo of the Afghan girl who famously graced the cover of National Geographic in 1984, Steve McCurry attributed his photographic success to learning patience. He was once quoted as saying “If you wait, people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.”

But photography wasn’t originally in the cards for Steve McCurry. Originally from Pennsylvania, he went to University for cinematography and film-making, and eventually got his degree in theatre arts before shifting gears to photography.

Steve McCurry

2. Guido Venitucci

Originally from Rome, Italy, Guido Venitucci moved to the United States at the age of 29 with very little money, no contacts and no knowledge of the language. Guido has a colorful past, having worked as an actor, director, acting coach, karate instructor, and sommelier.

Before moving stateside, Guido Venitucci had a leading role in an award-winning Italian TV series in 1990 – it was on set where he discovered his love for photography. In between scenes, the self-taught photographer studied faces, emotions and the mystery of lighting.

3. Annie Leibovitz

One of the most famous photographers in the world, Annie has shot everyone from Hollywood elite, to the British Royal family. But before she aimed her lens at Buckingham Palace, Annie was out capturing rock & roll royalty – in 1973 she was hired as the first staff photographer for a then little-known publication called Rolling Stone.

Annie Leibovitz

4. Joshua Thaisen

Originally from the far northern reaches of rural Australia, this Wix user’s love for photography was discovered by way of his philanthropic endeavors. Motivated by injustice, Joshua was first drawn to learn photography when he moved to Los Angeles and was struck by the duplicity of extreme poverty and urban decay alongside the backdrop of LA’s shiny exterior. Since then, he’s traveled the world, capturing his trips both on paper and with his lens as a photojournalist.

5. James Smart

Another Aussie on our list- who would believe that James Smart would go from self-taught photo-enthusiast to winning 2015’s National Geographic photo of the year! Way to go James!


Check out James’ Wix website:

James Smart

6. Ansel Adams

A name synonymous with professional photography, Ansel’s love of the still image originally stemmed from his interest in the environment and astronomy. Though his first passion was for playing piano, Ansel’s tune quickly changed at age 14, when he was gifted his first camera by his father on a trip to Yosemite Park. From that point on, he was hooked on capturing the beauty of nature.

Ansel Adams

7. Sam Joseph

Originally from DC, Sam moved to NYC soon after high school with dreams of making it big as an actor. In an effort to make some cash on the side, Sam opened up a modest photo studio in his apartment taking a small fee for head shots that his fellow actors could use. Having learned the basics of photography from his father, Sam eventually became more and more invested in his craft and turned his part-time hobby into a lucrative career.

Check out Sam’s Wix website:

8. Anne Geddes

Anne Geddes is best known for redefining the art of baby photography, so it should come as no surprise that she was bitten by the photography bug when taking pictures of her own kids. A self-taught photographer, over two years Anne built her photography portfolio from family photos before opening her studio to the public.

Anne Geddes

9. Derek Pfohl

Food photographer Derek Pfohl grew up in the kitchen of his parent’s restaurant. Once taken by the art of photography, it was only natural for Derek to mix his love of food and photos to create his own drool-worthy images.

Check out Derek’s Wix website:

Derek Pfohl

10. Mario Testino

One of the most famed fashion photographers in the world, the Lima-born artist had many previous career ambitions before finding his passion for photography. As a child, Mario had his sights set on being a priest but settled on studying economics. After completing his degree, he decided to leave those worlds behind and moved to London to study photography. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mario Testino

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