Photography documentaries give us a unique behind-the-scenes look and insight into the minds of other, often famous, photographers.
These character-driven documentaries focused on the stories of real people put a human face on the names and photos that might otherwise seem distant or unrelatable. I would even go as far as to say that nothing can top a good documentary, as they have the power to provide us with endless inspiration while shaking us to our core at the same time.
In this list, you’ll find just about every photography documentary available worth watching.
Some show us a glimpse into the work and life of a famous photographer, others tell a more general story or are just fun and inspirational.
If you’re hoping they might create a documentary about you someday, check out our Ultimate Guide on how to become a photographer and who knows!
Onwards to the videos. 👇
Bonus: No time to watch them now? Get an email with all the links to watch later or for future reference.
Photography Documentaries on Youtube (Watch Now!)
- Ansel Adams – A Documentary Film (1:22:33)
- Annie Leibovitz (50:23)
- Daido Moriyama – In Pictures (11:21)
- Dorothea Lange – An American Odyssey (37:46)
- Henri Cartier-Bresson – The Decisive Moment (18:39) Must Watch!
- Martin Parr – No Worries (15:39)
- Nadav Kander – Photographer Spotlight (17:37)
- Richard Avedon – Darkness and Light (1:25:58)
- Sam Abell – The Life of a Photographer (43:00)
- The Colourful Mr. Eggleston (47:44) Must Watch!
- The Many Lives of William Klein (58:53) Must Watch!
- Vivian Maier (1:09:41)
- 5 Broken Cameras
- Annie Leibovitz – Life Through a Lens
- Bill Cunningham New York
- Finding Vivian Maier
- Platon – Art Of Design
Photography Documentaries on Youtube (Watch Now!)
Youtube is a goldmine of interesting videos, so it’s no surprise that you can integrally watch many of these documentaries on the platform. Bookmark this page to watch one later, or grab some popcorn and start watching one of these photography documentaries online right now.
Ansel Adams – A Documentary Film (1:22:33)
Few are more famous or reach a wider audience than Ansel Adams, and this documentary is a true inspiration for everyone who enjoys his images. The film tells the story of Ansel’s life through his iconic photos and interviews, from how he came to love photography until his mastery.
Annie Leibovitz (50:23)
Daido Moriyama – In Pictures (11:21)
In this short documentary, created by Tate, we get a tour through Moriyama’s studio and we follow him on a walk around the atmospheric Shinjuku neighborhood, his home from home in Tokyo.
Daido Moriyama creates his images with a simple compact camera and never stops shooting. He is also one of the most celebrated photographers that came from the Japanese Provoke movement of the 1960s.
Dorothea Lange – An American Odyssey (37:46)
Just under 40 minutes long, this documentary gives an extensive view of the life and career of this great photographer. From her childhood struggles over motherhood to photographic success. And anyone who has ever seen her work will agree that few could frame their subjects with such respect and compassion.
Enjoy the steady stream of photos that include her famous photographic work, covering migrant camps and those marginalized in society.
Henri Cartier-Bresson – The Decisive Moment (18:39)
“The Decisive Moment” is probably street photography’s most well-known catchphrase and Henri Cartier-Bresson was one of the most talented and well-known 20th-century photographers.
This documentary is basically a slideshow of his photos with a voiceover from Cartier-Bresson himself.
Martin Parr – No Worries (15:39)
In this short documentary, we follow Martin Parr on his assignment of shooting for the Australian photography festival Fotofreo.
Intended as a photo essay, he set out to discover more about the people who work and live in Broome, Fremantle and Port Hedland along the coast of Western Australia. Using his characteristic satirical style full of colors and flash, Parr captured many Australian cliches.
Nadav Kander – Photographer Spotlight (17:37)
In this video, the famous portrait photographer Nadav Kander talks about his work but also broader topics as what art is about and the artistic process. His soothing voice guides us through his well-known portraits, the photographs he made in Cuba and China, and even recent work.
Richard Avedon – Darkness and Light (1:25:58)
This is a thorough documentation on the astonishing career of Richard Avedon. It goes in-depth about his own methods and reasoning as well as showing him at work.
It starts with his journey from his work for Paris fashion magazines from 1946 to around 1966 and then goes on to show his evolution as a portrait photographer. Also, his work created during his trip in the American West is discussed before going into more philosophical talks about Avedon’s relationships with his subjects and his legacy within the world of photography.
Sam Abell – The Life of a Photographer (43:00)
Less a documentary than a live recording of a talk by Sam Abell about his images, how to compose and what photography is to him. Regarded as one of the best National Geographic photographers ever, this work and insights are truly an inspiration.
The Colourful Mr. Eggleston (47:44)
Created for BBC’s Imagine series, this documentary gives us a small glimpse in the life of one of the first photographers to use color film, William Eggleston.
Bonus: No time to watch these photography documentaries now? Get an email with all the links to watch them later or for future reference.
The Many Lives of William Klein (58:53)
As one of the original pioneers of street photography, this photography documentary about William Klein is a must watch. He originally came to Manhatten to shoot fashion images for Vogue but found more fun (and fame) in capturing the lives of regular people.
He was always more in your face, harsher and personal than most other street photographers, but even in this documentary at the age of 84 he is still a rebel.
Enjoy the personal interviews, look into his studio and portrait of this famous photographer created in anticipation of his 2012 exhibition at Tate Modern
Vivian Maier (1:09:41)
Lomography – Shoot from the Hip (59:21)
This highly interesting BBC documentary tells the story of the Lomo factory and the Lomography movement that became a cult around the 90ies. So it’s a must see for any fan of the Lomo LC-A for the many interesting interviews and photos.
Did you know some even say the Lomo camera saved film photography and helped shape the Russian government of Putin.
National Geographic – The Photographers (53:35)
If you ever dreamt of being a National Geographic photographer this is for you. Various photographers talk about the work the created for the magazine and why this life suits them so well.
They went through a lot to get the photos that made the magazine, and this documentary shows this is nowhere near the glamorous life you might expect it to be. A real eye opener for sure, even if it’s a bit dated. The stories are still interesting from a photographer’s perspective, and the elements touched upon are timeless.
Photography Documentary Trailers
Unfortunately, not all of these photography documentaries are available for free on Youtube. For those that aren’t available on Youtube I’ve provided the trailer below and if possible the link to the full documentary (Netflix,…).
5 Broken Cameras
Annie Leibovitz – Life Through a Lens
Bill Cunningham New York
Finding Vivian Maier
One of the most interesting stories in photography, the Finding Vivian Maier documentary shows the whole journey from how her photographs were discovered to how they became famous.
Here images guide us through interviews with people who knew her to create an image of this introverted nanny, who turned out to be one of the best street photographers of her time and maybe ever.
(You can also watch this free Vivian Maier documentary created by the BBC on Youtube)
Platon – Abstract: Art Of Design
The British/Greek photographer Platon has created many portraits for magazine covers. From US Presidents, famous actors or sports figures to normal people, they all posed for his lens.
This documentary gives us a glimpse into his process of how he creates his images and interacts with his subjects to get the intimacy and poses he is so known for.
Not only do these documentaries provide an opportunity to understand and connect with famous photographers, they also provide a great opportunity to get together with some friends and watch them together. Whether you’ll see these documentaries alone or in a group, talking about the issues and subjects they touch on afterward is equally important.