The 5 Most Inspiring People on Flickr

The two most inspiring people on Flickr are really Matt Smillie and Cherry Vega. During a trip to Japan in 2004, Matt shot this picture of a tattooed woman taking a picture of some dancers and uploaded it to Flickr. A friend of the woman in the photo, Cherry Vega, recognized the tattoo and told her about the photo. Cherry left a comment on the image, the photographer got in touch, traveled the length of Britain to meet and — as far as we know – they’ve been together ever since.

They’re unusual. Flickr doesn’t usually inspire people to go out and fall in love — although it would be nice if it did. It’s much better at inspiring us to go out and become better photographers.

Or rather, the people on Flickr inspire us to become better photographers because that’s what Flickr’s really all about: looking at great images, chatting to fantastic photographers and using their examples and their advice to get better and better every day.

Here are five of the most inspiring people on Flickr.

Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir


Photography: Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Icelandic photographer Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir is, of course, a Flickr icon. Her self-portraits have won her stacks of fans who follow her website and her blog. Her photos have grabbed the attention of picture thieves who swiped her images and sold them for profit. But most inspiringly, her images have also landed her a prestigious shoot for Toyota (who thought her “multiplicity” series matched the twin power sources of the Hybrid) and the chance of a whole new career as a professional photographer.

Not bad for someone who is still an art student and originally used Flickr as a place to show her sketches.

Rebekka’s pictures are an inspiration for anyone who wants to take beautiful, unique and creative images, but also for anyone who hopes to find success through Flickr.

So who inspires Rebekka?

“Three people come to mind right away,” Rebekka told us. “Dr Joanne was the first self-portrait artist that seriously inspired me to work harder and put more effort and thought into my self-portraiture… I had of course previously been inspired by a number of well-known artists, Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman for instance,  but I remember seeing Joanne’s work inspired me all over again.

Notraces’ long exposure photography inspired me to try my hand at that,
and continue to work on it until I started getting more than just
mediocre results.


And last but not least, Antimethod (Cole Rise) was probably the first person on Flickr whose work left me speechless. Opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I admire him greatly.”

David Hobby


Photography: David Hobby

David Hobby is better known by his online moniker, Strobist. His blog is one of the most popular — and for anyone using artificial lighting, one of the most useful — photography sites on the Web. His Flickr group though, has almost 20,000 members, helping both pros and amateurs get to grips with innovative lighting techniques.

As for the people David has inspired, here are the words of just one photographer who responded to a researcher’s question about the effect of Strobist:

“I never used a flash until January of this year (2007) when I discovered Strobist. In march I quit my job as a car designer and went freelance. I just did a job yesterday for $2,500 with only two SB600’s. That’s more than my monthly living expenses. In a day!”

David Bean


Photography: David Bean

David Hobby is an inspiration because he is able to take the advice he turns out on his blog and turn it into the sort of collaborative affair that can only happen on a Flickr group. David Bean, the founder of Pro Corner, runs a Flickr group that’s a lot smaller but just as important at handing out advice, helping amateurs step up and professionals stride ahead.

“Pro Corner takes up a few hours a month,” David told us. “I would dedicate more but as a full-time photographer who shoots and travels all the time, it’s hard to keep up. I made two people moderators so they could help police the group. They’ve done a great job with it.”

John Watson


Photography: John Watson

All of the people we’ve mentioned so far are known for their photography or for the advice they give about photography — or both. John Watson, who uses the name FD on Flickr, is famous for his huge range of Flickr tools. From magazine covers and galleries to jigsaws and a Warholizer, John has almost 40 ways to help people enhance their photos… and according to his site, they can be used on almost 1.5 million photos a month.

“It started out very small,” John explained. “Folks wanted to create badges but most of them didn’t have Photoshop or know how to use it well enough to make one. So I created the Badge maker toy. It turned out to be a huge success and the rest is history.
The bottom line is that it’s a project that is a great deal of fun to work on and I’m immensely grateful that I can make something that brings a little happiness to so many people.”

Julie Kertesz


Photography: Julie Kertesz

French photographer Julie Kertesz might not be as well known as Rebekka or Strobist, but it’s her attitude that we like. Julie was already over 70 when she discovered blogging and Flickr which was then still in Beta. In addition to her blog called  “Il ya de la vie après 70 ans” (“There is life after 70”), she also created groups called
“Never too old (to enjoy life),” “Strangers no more” and “People Reading.” It’s her Afterclass learning group though that takes up most of her time.

“[W]e learn every month another theme about photography, created [and] organized by me,” Julie said. “[It’s] now in its nineteenth month and [has] about 2,100 members… some contributing to the discussions, every month [with] another leader.”

Who inspired your photography? Tell us here.

29 comments for this post.

  1. Ted Thompson Said:

    The Strobist Flickr group actually has over 50,000 members.

  2. Abe Said:

    I disagree with your decision to use the title: The 5 Most Inspiring People on Flickr

    Flickr has soo many amazing artists on there so I was really ready to be wowed. I understand what you were trying to convey, but I dont think these 5 are the most inspiring people on Flickr.

    I could start naming some, but it would be hard to stop at 5.


  3. John Said:

    Very flattering. Thanks for the mention!

  4. Gloson Said:

    They are inspiring people who take splendid photos! Thanks for sharing them. 🙂

    Oh, by the way, you didn't link to David Bean's flickr page.

  5. Houser Said:

    Yeah, I think you have to be careful with your title as well. Hell, back in 2006 I posted a photo (, to which someone named Tess J. commented on. She ended up driving across country in four days to meet me, and we've been together ever since. We even produced a little project of our own (

    The people you point out are certainly some of the most well known or most noted people in Flickr. Calling David Hobby influential is almost redundant. But there are _SO_ many amazing photographers - not people who take a good shot, but people who produce images with amazing stories and emotion.

    To single out just five that everyone has heard of seems lazy. Pick 10 we probably _haven't_ heard of.... but should!

  6. Daniel Said:

    I know this is just one list, but really. Can you limit it to such a short list? There are way more inspiring people than what's here. Most of them are unknowns!

  7. Julie Kertesz Said:

    Thanks for writing about me, in the Afterclass group at Flickr, we are now at the 36th month of MasterClasses about photography: everyone is welcome to join, one can learn a lot: I know, I did, trying out through the weeks, days, the different proposed methods by photographers all over the world, from Japan, to California, Leeds UK or Paris, India and South Africa.

    My example proves also: one can begin photography at any age: I was almost 70 when I begun.

  8. Ines Said:

    Very interesting article & great artists! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  9. Mandy Said:

    It's great to be inspired, and it's great to meet or follow inspiring people, they add depth to my experience as a photographer.

    I'd only heard of Strobist before so I look forward to finding out more about the other 4.

    Thanks for the list

  10. Carly Said:

    Joao Carlos. Everyday. Not on flickr unfortunately- but you can find him here:


  11. mutuelle Said:

    Many time I turn back to filckr to get inspiration of my blog ideas,there is a nice photographers who share good creation,thank you for the article

  12. Dave Brown Said:

    That is a pretty touching story. I've been on flickr for a while now, and I can't imagine meeting someone like that through my photography, although I'm sure that would be awsome. I always wanted to meet another photographer to see if they would inspire me or not. I wonder what it would be like to be in a relationship with another photographer.

  13. Bim Said:

    Thomas Hawk is pretty good.

    James D Photography

    They're both on flickr

  14. mutuelle Said:

    I love Julie Kertesz! of course it's never too late and we're never too old to do what we wanna do in life! good job

  15. Craig Cleaver Said:

    You guys should really check out this guy from the UK - Max Black

    Awesome photography and he really gives something back to all those budding photographers wanting to do more with their compositions.


  16. Nat Said:

    How about Paul Bence - his photographs are awesome. Especially the street portraits. Check them out here

  17. George Said:

    love being an insipired member of the great work posted by some of the most talented photographers in the world!

  18. Madhu Gopalan Said:

    My husband and I met on Flickr too 🙂 We got married last month 🙂

  19. G Dan Mitchell Said:

    I think I'm with those who wondered about the title of your interesting piece. Perhaps something like "Five Inspiring People on Flickr" or "Five Flickr People Who Inspire" might have been a bit more on track.

    The thing about Flickr and similar community sites is not that they give us the (1, or) 5 (or 10, or some other number of) overall best of anything. Rather, they put together such diverse resources that almost anyone can find something that is powerful and inspiring for them - and others may find completely different sources of inspiration there at the same time.

    Take care,


  20. Kresta Said:

    hi james taylor,

    ]guitar plays...]

    i happened upon a comment you'd left in response to a young man who was interested in becoming a wedding photographer. other readers slammed his slim list of equipment. you did not. way to go you! your writing/insight is dead-on and totally usable.

    on a flickr love story note: october 12, 2005, i received a message in my flickr mailbox. this was just two weeks after i opened my account. i replied. he replied. i replied, he replied. two weeks later he booked a ticket to come see me. our first date was three weeks long. by the end of it we knew. within a few months i'd taken leave from my job, moved to england from tucson. less than two years later, we married, and our toddler is just over 21 months old.

    the first flickr baby? i'd love to know...

    keep up the fab work. 'good on you' for encuraging, encouraging, encouraging...


  21. mutuelle Said:

    How about Paul Bence - his photographs are awesome. Especially the street portraits. Check them out here

  22. Barry Fisher Said:

    The images from these people are truly awful and ordinary.
    The last image is out of focus. I feel sad that these photographers are regarded as some thing to aspire to. There are much better and more talented photographers around than this bunch.
    If you seek inspiration from these photographers then your own photography will never improve.

  23. Sheppard_Photography Said:

    Thank you for your continued advice and guidance. I am trying to come back to an arena I left before digital became the ruling class. I appreciate and admire the inspirational articles you produce.

    It just goes to show, flies like honey more than vinegar.

  24. Denver Photographer Said:

    David Hobby has always been one of my personal favorites. His teachings have really led me to be a much better photographer no longer scared to use interesting lighting schemes on my photography shoots.

  25. jesse Said:

    good list. but where is admed zahid? and where is your link to david bean's photostream?

  26. mutuelle santé Said:

    I love the photo with the macbook, geeeeek!!!!

  27. work from home Said:

    I have been reading your articles during my lunch break, and I have to admit the whole article has been very valuable and very well written. I thought I would let you know that for some reason this blog does not view well in Internet Explorer 8. I wish Microsoft would stop changing their software.

  28. Arran Moffat Edinburgh Photography Said:

    I love Flickr for inspiration and Rebekka's work is particularly fantastic. I'll make sure to check out the other guys too.

  29. Mutuelle santé Said:

    I know this is just one list, but really.

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