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Masters of Photography – Yousuf Karsh Portrait Photographer


Self portrait of Yousuf Karsh from his official website

This is the next instalment of my series on the masters of photography, last time we looked at The Decisive Moment with Henri Cartier-Bresson. Something that my photography instructors gave me was an appreciation and love for the history of photography. If you are not familiar with some of the masters I will be featuring one now and then to help you become acquainted with some of the best in history.

Today we’re going to look at a man that was considered to be the world’s premiere portrait photographer in his time, perhaps of all time, and his images still stand among the best today. The word “iconic” is often used when speaking of his images of people like:

  • Winston Churchill
  • Ernest Hemmingway
  • Princess Elizabeth (later Queen)
  • Elizabeth Tailor
  • Albert Einstein
  • Georgia O’Keefe
  • Mother Teresa

Just to name a few! If you haven’t already guessed, or read the title, yes I’m talking about the legend, Yousuf Karsh.

Yousuf Karsh 1908-2002

I’m not going to give you his bio or list his accomplishments here. I want you to do your own research. Google his name and find his famous portraits. Study them. Watch the interview below (ignore the age and quality of this video, instead really focus and listen to what he says). What can you learn from him?

As I ultimately found myself doing portraits and weddings early in my photography career Karsh was highly influential on my style. I wanted to created the dramatic lighting he used on his subjects, but more than that I wanted to strive to connect with the person in front of my lens the way he did. He was not only a master of lighting, he was a master of getting the expression and making his subject feel at ease.

Watch and learn from Mr. Karsh!

Keep in mind this is Part One of this interview. Make sure to view Part Two and Part Three as well.

Want to take better portraits? Well you are in luck! Starting tomorrow, over the next two weeks we will be doing a Portrait Photography Deep Dive. What that means is we’ll be publishing articles on all things portrait related by both regular and guest authors. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter so you don’t miss anything!

If you want to read some past articles on portrait photography you can try these:

Want to read more about Karsh and see his stunning portraits?

Here are a few books. I personally have the middle three in my library!


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Portrait Photography

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Darlene Hildebrandt
Darlene Hildebrandt

is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through free articles on her website Digital Photo Mentor and online photography classes. She also teaches all about photo editing using Lightroom, Photoshop, and Luminar Neo and has courses available on all three.

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