The Movies About Photography for Every Type of Photographer
Whether it’s winter or lockdowns, sometimes you can’t be outside shooting as much as you want to be. Thankfully, you can still get your photography fix at home. This list of movies about photography is bound to scratch the photography itch. Or maybe even inspire you to get back out there.
Much like a photographer captures their best still image, cinematographers capture moving images. And there are many examples of the relationship between cinematography and photography in these films. Most of these movies about photography are not only great films. But have stunning cinematography as well.
There are so many incredible movies and documentaries about photography it was hard to narrow this list down. But we hope that this delivers. Happy watching!
Fictional Movies About Photography
Whether it’s based on a true story or a marvelous feat of fiction, the photography aspect in these films is what makes them great. If you are looking for an escape, these fictional photography movies are geared to inspire you.
1. One Hour Photo (2002)
The beloved Robin Williams stars in this slightly spooky film. One Hour Photo is about a twisted photo lab technician with a dangerous obsession.
In this tense movie, Williams plays a lonely Walmart one-hour photo lab clerk. His character begins to stalk a family after developing their film and taking an unhealthy interest in their life.
Although we hope this doesn’t inspire you. It’s a great horror movie around photography. It also gives a nostalgic nod to the old days of everyday film development.
2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
This beautifully shot film is an all-time favorite of this photographer and writer. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty follows a shy and dreamy negative asset manager working at Life Magazine. When a prize negative for the front cover goes missing, Walter sets out on the adventure of a lifetime to track down photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) & find the missing negative.
Not only is the movie filled with beautiful cinematography and scenery. But the soundtrack is epic to boot. This is one of the best photography movies and in my opinion one of the best movies in general. And widely underrated feel-good watch.
3. Rear Window (1954)
This classic Alfred Hitchock film is a photography movie that should not be missed. The suspenseful movie focuses on a photographer who uses a wheelchair LB James & the events that unfold in front of his camera.
Usually, a mobile photojournalist, James (played by James Steward) is stuck at home after breaking his leg. Unwilling to put down his camera. The wheelchair-bound photographer spies a possible murder in the opposite building. The movie goes on to investigate… did he? Or was it just his imagination? It’s considered to be one of Hitchcock’s best films. Therefore, this is is a must-watch for those who love suspense.
4. Proof (1991)
You may think that a movie about a blind photographer sounds rather strange. And to be honest, Proof is a little strange. But in the best possible way.
Staring a very young Russel Crowe & Hugo Weaving. A blind photographer uses photography to help him piece together his days in this dry and witty Australian dramedy.
This film is all about piecing clues together through the medium of photography. It also explores the concept of photography acting as “proof” of our surroundings and our history.
5. Double Exposure: The Story of Margaret Bourke-White (1989)
This fascinating film interprets the life of Margaret Bourke-White. America’s first female war photojournalist. Bourke-White was the first foreign photographer to take pictures of the Soviet five-year plan. And one of very few photojournalists permitted to photograph the area. Her career later focused on the oddballs and outcasts of society.
In this photography movie, Bourke-White is played by Nicole Kidman. A great watch for a bit of escapism and an insight into one of the best documentary photographers of the 20th century.
6. The Killing Fields (1991)
This biographical drama based on a true story is not a feel-good film. But the Oscar-winning movie is a fantastic insight into the realities of civil war photographers.
In this movie about photography, New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and Cambodian guide Dith Pran are trapped in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Shot in a documentary style, the movie portrays the tense and emotional feelings of working in such an environment.
With the wartime photojournalist played by the fantastic Sam Waterson, you know this film will strike all the right chords.
In addition, there’s a particular scene about film development that any photography lover is bound to appreciate. You can add The Killing Fields to the list of most highly rated photography movies.
7. Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)
In this film, Nicole Kidman plays a photographer again (perhaps she has a backup career?) as Diane Arbus.
A lonely and shy housewife in New York, Diane Arbus falls in love with an enigmatic mentor. The mentor (played by a young Robert Downy Jr.) introduces her to a new community and later helps her become one of the most revered photographers.
Based on a true story. The film shows Arbus’s journey into the world of photography. And how she started shooting images of people that stand outside the confines of society. The life of the legendary American photographer Diane Arbus is one worth exploring if you haven’t already.
8. Untitled (2009)
Although this satirical film has more to do with the modern art world than the fine art photography scene, the underlying theme relating to photography will likely have you giggling.
This film is all about pushing the boundaries of what counts as “art” in the art world. If you’ve ever seen a photograph you’re just “not quite sure about”, this might be the movie for you.
9. Life (2015)
This biopic of Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock focuses on his friendship with the actor James Dean.
The technically sound cinematic characterization provides fascinating behind-the-scenes context for some of the most famous images of the beloved movie star.
It also takes a deep look into the lines of professionalism when photographing subjects. And what happens when those lines are crossed.
If you love old-fashioned Hollywood glamour, this is a great watch for an escape to the past.
10. High Art (1998)
A beautiful but melancholy independent art-house film. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.
High Art follows Sydney, a young female intern at a small high art magazine. Sydney falls in love with a drug-addicted lesbian photographer and upstairs neighbor, Lucy. It then follows the relationship as the two exploit each other in love, work, and art.
A photography movie all about ambition, seduction & sacrifice. It’s certainly worth the watch!
11. Gentlemen’s Relish (2001)
Any Billy Connolly lover is bound to enjoy this hilarious movie about photography.
In this comedy, frustrated artist Kingdom Swann (Connolly), accepts a life-changing gift of a camera. When he begins to photograph classical nude images, he is unsure of the reason for his booming success. Little does he know, his assistant has been selling his nude photos on the black market.
A film that is bound to give you a laugh or two as you watch a photographer at work!
12. We’ll Take Manhattan (2012)
This photography movie is about the affair between photographer David Bailey and model Jean Shrimpton. Based on a true story. Set in the 1960s between London and New York. The British film focuses on the talented young photographer and his developing relationship with the glamourous fashion model as they bloom in their careers.
The story of the fashion photographer (played by Aneurin Barnard) is definitely one for the list.
13. Everlasting Moments (2008)
Everlasting Moments is a Swedish drama based on the true story of professional photographer Maria Larsson. An uneducated, working-class woman who won a camera in a lottery.
Set in the early 1900s, the movie portrays how the gift of a camera can be a life-changing experience. And how the “gift of sight” can affect almost anyone.
The highly-rated photography movie is a great watch for a bit of inspiration.
14. Kodachrome (2017)
Based on a true story Kodachrome is a witty, funny & heartfelt watch, available on Netflix. Set during the last days of a photo development system known as Kodachrome. A son and his dying photographer father set out on a journey to reach Kansas photo lab before it shuts down.
The film touches on themes of family, nostalgia, and changing times. While paying tribute to some fantastic analog photography memories.
15. Harrison’s Flowers (2000)
In this film, Andie MacDowell stars as the wife of a missing photojournalist reported lost. She follows him into the Yugoslavian civil war of 1991 and bears witness to the atrocities of the time. This film provides a great insight into the danger and realities of being a war photographer in the early 90s.
16. Photograph (2019)
In this light romantic film, a struggling street photographer in Mumbai fakes a fiance to please his grandmother. Although this film is not strictly about photography, it’s a nice change to see a photographer as a protagonist in a rom-com.
17. Pecker (1998)
A small-town photographer finds overnight fame after being approached by a big city art dealer in this hilarious film.
The story follows sandwich shop employee and budding young photographer Pecker. Pecker is introduced to a new world of fine art photography after a chance encounter. On the way, he discovers the true meaning of art and happiness. And that sometimes the glamour of the art world isn’t always what it’s made out to be.
A film about getting your big break in the most unlikely situation. And showing how hard work and dedication will always pay off. Though not always in the way that you might expect.
If you’re looking for something a little more educational. A documentary about photography might be more your thing. Similarly, these films also provoke inspiration through artful storytelling.
Enjoy these documentaries about inspirational photographers!
18. Tales By Light (Series)
Though this is actually a Netflix series and not a movie. It’s a documentary that absolutely should not be left off the list. This beautifully shot series takes a deeper look into the photography process of some of the greatest modern documentary photographers of our time.
Each episode follows a different documentary photographer as they photograph their own project, whether endangered sharks in the Pacific or vulnerable communities in developing countries. Every episode features stunning cinematography and awe-inspiring photography.
19. Salt Of The Earth (2014)
This moving biographical documentary focuses on the work of photojournalist Sebastião Salgado. Salgado is a social documentary photographer who has worked with some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
From the depths of the gold mines in Brazil to famines in Africa, Salgado’s work is able to cross-cultural boundaries in the most moving ways. All of which is on display in this documentary film.
Salt of The Earth will have you gripped in every minute of this documentary, from its moving stories to its breathtaking cinematography.
20. Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)
This documentary about veteran street fashion and portrait photographer Bill Cunningham is both feel-good and inspirational.
Take a peek into the life of a beloved New York City fashion photographer in this intimate photography movie. Bill became infamous in street photography after many years of capturing fashion on the streets of New York. This documentary takes a closer look into the life of New York’s most beloved fashion icons and the work he produced.
With guest appearances from some of the biggest names in fashion and media. You will be instantly awed by the talent, stories, and life of this humble man.
21. Finding Vivian Maier (2013)
This multi-award-winning documentary film investigates one of the greatest photography stories of our time.
Finding Vivian Maier tracks down the secretive in an introverted street photographer who had been harboring a substantial hidden talent.
After her death, thousands of negatives by Vivian Maier were discovered in an auction. The previously unseen photographs became a huge hit. With exhibitions and media attention showcasing the work of the talented photographer.
This documentary film puts together pieces of her life for a deeper look at the unseen photographs and the woman behind them.
22. Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (2012)
The eery images of photographer Gregory Crewdson are instantly recognizable to most photographers. This film, with unprecedented access into the artist’s work, is an exceptionally good look at the process that happens behind the scenes.
The amount of work that goes into crafting each image will give you a newfound appreciation for the photographer and the art that he creates. This fascinating documentary, shot over a decade, is a must-watch for any photography lover.
23. War Photographer (2001)
Described as a shy man who is quite possibly the greatest war photographer of our time. This riveting documentary about war photographer James Nachtwey can definitely be filed under “inspirational”.
Filmed over two years. The photography documentary follows the war photographer to places like Kosovo and Indonesia. And shows the bravery and courage the photographer displays while he works.
It is particularly interesting, as part of it is filmed by mounting cameras on Nachtwey’s cameras. This gives the viewer an extra insight into the danger he faces. As it shows exactly how he works in these extreme environments. And provides a first-hand feel of the brutality and bravery of war.
The film provides an insight into combat photographers capturing images with their life on the line. And highlights the importance of their work in sharing messages for the world to see.
24. Annie Leibowitz: Life Through a Lens (2008)
“What is a photographer’s life?”
“It’s just a life, looking through a lens.”
Take a closer look at the career of celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz in this documentary.
Directed by her sister Barbara Leibovitz Life Through A Lens follows the life of the world-renowned photographer. From childhood to shooting covers for Rolling Stone.
The documentary gives us a deeper look at the influences that shaped the talent of Annie. It also features an array of elite celebrities, like Whoopie Goldberg, Mc Jagger, and Babara Streisand, all sharing their stories of working with the star photographer.
If you are looking at getting into fashion photography, this movie is a must-watch.
25. Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989)
Frames From The Edge delves into the life and works of controversial fashion and ad photographer, Helmut Newton.
The fashion photographer has produced some memorable images over the years, often blurring the lines between pornography and photography. Pushing the boundaries and limits which each shot, but always creating something powerful.
Filmed while the photographer was in his 60s. This documentary focuses on images from some of his favorite shooting locations. Including Paris, Monte Carlo, Los Angeles, and Berlin. A fantastic film for a bit of provocative glamour.
26. William Eggleston: In Real World (2005)
A documentary about William Eggleston, who is known as one of the greats in American photography.
Eggleston is widely credited with increasing recognition for color photography. Later being hailed as the ‘father of color photography. His work was a massive contribution to the way we look at and analyze photography.
Real World gives us a rare insight into the work and world of this man of few worlds. A truly inspirational watch!
27. Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008)
Infamous photographer Cindy Sherman discusses being the ‘master of disguise’ in a movie that explores her adaptive and reactive work. Sherman made waves in the modern art world with her self-portraits in the early 80s and has been an influential force in feminism & the art world since.
This film explores Cindy Sherman’s rise to fame & her infamous photography role-playing. It also dissects her relationship with her partner. Who later struggled with Cindy’s success. Called a compelling critique of the art world, this is an excellent watch if you’re looking to see photography from a different perspective.
28. The Way I See It (2020)
This new documentary follows the career of Pete Souza, the former Chief Official White House Photographer. After working for former presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. You can bet that Souza has some stories to tell.
Souza talks about his job to accurately document the presidencies and capture the images’ mood, emotion, and context, along with the occasional intimate, fleeting moment.
This fascinating photography movie provides an intimate look at the workings of the American government. And more importantly, what it is like to be on the inside with a camera in hand. It appears that a “fly on the wall” approach may not always be possible when politics are involved.
Other Free Photography Documentaries Available on YouTube
Conclusion: There Are So Many Photography Movies to Be Inspired By!
Film-making and photography go hand in hand. So it makes sense that there are a wide variety of excellent photography movies. Whether you are interested in the glamorous fashion photographer or a gritty war documentary, there is a movie here to suit any taste.
With so many celebrated photographers on this list of best movies about photography, we hope it inspires you to get out there and get snapping.
It may even encourage you to improve upon your photography skills. If you’re looking to upskill, we can help with that! Take a look at a range of our photography training videos.
If you have any further suggestions for great movies about photography, please add them in the comments!