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56 Songs About Photographs

FlourishAnyway believes there is a playlist for just about any situation and is on a mission to unite and entertain the world through song.

Photos help freeze time and provide a visual reminder of important memories. Celebrate the joy of photography and cameras with a playlist of pop, rock, country, hip-hop, and metal songs.

Photos help freeze time and provide a visual reminder of important memories. Celebrate the joy of photography and cameras with a playlist of pop, rock, country, hip-hop, and metal songs.

Freezing Time in a Snapshot

A photo captures a thin slice of time. Slice it right and a picture bears witness to the raw reality of who a person is, who they aspire to be, and what they're feeling at that moment. Are they irked, fragile, gratified? The more candid the photo, the more insight you have into their psyche.

Even in this made-for-Instragram world, photographers can capture people's raw, unguarded honesty. My daughter, a part-time portrait photographer, often shares accounts of her most memorable photo sessions. They include:

  • A dying grandmother who wanted her family to remember her the way she was before cancer claimed her life
  • A family with so many children that the photo had to be shot from above and
  • The family who met their father's out-of-wedlock adult child for the first time at the studio, five minutes before group photos.

Photos help freeze time and provide a visual reminder of important memories. Celebrate the joy of photography and cameras with a playlist of pop, rock, country, hip-hop, and metal songs.

1. "Photograph" by Ed Sheeran

When circumstances separate us from loved ones, photographs let us freeze time. Sometimes their physical picture serves as a daily reminder. At other times, we lean on emotionally significantly visual imagery, frozen in our mind's eye as we wait to be reunited, either in this life or the next. This 2014 love ballad was a global hit and was inspired by Ed Sheeran's one-year, long-distance relationship with Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt.

2. "Picture" by Kid Rock (featuring Sheryl Crow)

Sexual fireworks were cracking between bad boy rocker Kid Rock and pop singer Sheryl Crow in this 2002 country/pop crossover hit. Although many people speculated that they were a real-life item, the rumor was never confirmed. Crow's part in this song was originally performed by singer-songwriter Allison Moorer.

The tune highlights the anguish of a couple suffering a breakup. Both can't bear to look at their sweetheart's picture. The man has spent the last three days holed up in a hotel room with cocaine, whiskey, and a revolving door of other women. He has placed his sweetheart's photo out of sight because it hurts too much to look at it.

At the same time, the woman has been drinking cheap wine and bedding down with an old friend of her ex's. Her attempts to reconnect with him have been unanswered, and she heads to church to try to cope. Photos are constant visual reminders for both partners, and they eventually prompt promises of change and relationship reconciliation.

3. "I'll Wait" by Van Halen

This synth-heavy metal number was from Van Halen's 1984 album, a pinnacle of achievement for the hard rock band. The song was inspired by a print advertisement of a female model wearing men's Calvin Klein underwear. The tune's narrator is crushing hard on a gorgeous woman in a magazine advertisement. He imagines having a real relationship with the beauty in the photo and writes her a fan letter but never sends it. She must be perfect because Photoshopping wasn't invented yet.

4. "Paparazzi" by Lady Gaga

Celebrities enjoy a love/hate relationship with the paparazzi, professional photographers who intrusively shadow them to snap pictures for tabloid magazines and gossip internet sites. Here's the catch, however. Oftentimes, it's the stars' own public relations agencies who alert the cameramen to their whereabouts!

This 2009 techno dance song describes a cameraman's obsessive love for his celebrity subject as he pursues her for photos. Perceiving himself as her biggest fan, the stalker-azzi chases her down for the best picture until she's in the crosshairs of his camera lens.

5. "Centerfold" by The J. Geils Band

The crestfallen guy in this 1981 rock song has carried with him the sweet memory of his high school crush, a blue-eyed angel from his homeroom. Pure as snowflakes and clad in soft, fuzzy sweaters, the innocent teen grew up to take off her clothes for money, however. The narrator discovers this by surprise when leafing through a girly magazine (for the articles, I'm sure). There was his angel all splayed out in the centerfold.

Although his fond memories of her are destroyed, there is an equal part of the dirty boy that is eager to ask her out and rev up his high school fantasies:

A part of me has just been ripped
The pages from my mind are stripped
Oh, no, I can't deny it
Oh, yeah, I guess I gotta buy it.

6. "Take a Picture" by Filter

This alternative rock song from 1999 is about a man who gets drunk on a plane, disrobes entirely, then pleads with a friend to snap a photo of him as evidence because he won't remember the incident in the morning. The track is autobiographical in nature, describing a time when former Nine Inch Nails guitartist Richard Patrick became drunk on a plane, stripped naked, and fought with flight attendants who tried to keep him in check. He was arrested upon landing and taken to a psychiatric1 ward. Sounds like someone has a serious substance abuse problem.

7. "Photograph" by Def Leppard

This guy must not get out much because he's fallen in love with a magazine photograph. In this high energy glam metal hit from 1983, the beauty has a hold on the song narrator. He desperately wants to touch her, but he must settle for admiring her from afar. Sometimes love is just out of reach. Or maybe it's not actually "love" at all?

8. "A Picture of Me" by Lorrie Morgan

First recorded by George Jones, this 1991 country hit features a woman who relates to her better half how incomplete she would be without him in her life. She paints a visual of

  • a world without music
  • a church with no praying
  • a sky with no blue
  • Heaven with no angels and
  • a river that doesn't doesn't flow.

That describes her without her sweetheart.

9. "Picture to Burn" by Taylor Swift

Back in 2008 when Taylor Swift was a country star, she penned this uptempo ditty about getting revenge on an old flame who broke her heart. The song was inspired by high school classmate Jordan Alford whom she "almost dated." (That's called a crush, Taylor.) He later married a mutual friend.

With claws out, Swift maligns him as a liar and a pick-up driving redneck who loves himself "more than you could ever love me." She considers him "just another picture to burn" and considers how she can avenge the pain he has caused. Girl, you didn't even date him!

10. "Selfie" by The Chainsmokers

We've all met the narcissistic girl in this 2014 electronic dance song who stops what she's doing to say, "Let me take a selfie." (You're not her, are you?)

This fluff head is in a dance club prattling on at length about a guy named Jason, dissing other girls' looks and their fashion choices. She plans her social media posts, then her attention quickly switches to drinking and dancing—whatever looks good in front of the camera.

11. "Polaroid" by Keith Urban

A faded Polaroid photo brings the memories crashing through for the guy in this 2020 country tune. He's hanging onto the photo as a tender reminder of who he and his partner used to be. The picture shows them as strangers at a high school party when they first met. Back then, he was was fawning over her and awkwardly struggling to make conversation. Since then they've a long way.

The Polaroid instant camera was first brought to market in 1948, and it hit its stride in the 1980s. Although still available today, it has largely been replaced by digital alternatives.

"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them." - Diane Arbus, American photographer

"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them." - Diane Arbus, American photographer

12. "Heaven" by Warrant

The couple in this 1989 love ballad by hair metal band Warrant is made for one another. The male narrator carries a faded black and white photo to remind himself of the most important person in his life: his girlfriend. She makes him feel like a hero and remains his biggest fan in spite of what her friends say. What a keeper! It was Warrant's highest-charting song.

13. "Photograph" by Ringo Starr

It's been years since the narrator of this campy 1973 rocky tune was left by his lady love. An aging photograph is all he has to remind him of their life together and the places they used to go. He has come to realize that she is never coming back home. Sadly, he'll have to grow old and gray without her.

14. "Photograph" by Nickelback

How long has it been since you looked through an album of high school memories? In this 2005 rock song, a guy emotionally relives memories from adolescence as he looks at a photo album spread out on his bedroom floor. He hashes through memories of growing up with an old friend, and one photo in particular triggers recollections of the following:

  • sneaking out of the house
  • getting caught breaking into the school
  • hanging out at the arcade
  • skipping school and not graduating and
  • kissing his first girlfriend.

15. "Selfie #theinternetisforever" by Brad Paisley

No truer words were spoken: "The internet is forever." You can count on Brad Paisley for humor with this 2017 country number that offers up all-too-real situations of people posting social media pictures, including

  • grandma in her casket (#sadday)
  • a swimsuit selfie in a bathroom mirror with a toddler on the toilet in the background
  • wet t-shirt photos and
  • smoking in your third trimester.

There are some photos we just can't unsee, and now thanks to the internet we'll never forget them. Call the internet the gift that keeps on giving.

"Photography is the story I fail to put into words." - Destin Sparks, Australian landscape photographer

"Photography is the story I fail to put into words." - Destin Sparks, Australian landscape photographer

16. "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" by A Flock of Seagulls

This 1982 new wave song was based on a date that lead singer Mike Score had with a girl right before the band's first tour of the United States. He asked to take her photo so he could remember her while on tour, and she declined, reasoning that he would become famous and forget about her. He never saw the girl again. The song describes unfulfilled possibilities—spending your life wishing for just a photo of someone who meant something special to you.

17. "Hey Ya! (Shake It like a Polaroid Picture)" by Outkast

This high energy 2003 track by rap duo Outkast topped the charts, won a Grammy Award, and became one of Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song describes how hard it is to keep a love relationship together ("Are we still in denial when we know we're not happy here?").

It famously uses the term, "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" to describe dancing. This prompted the Polaroid company to issue a statement cautioning its customers not to shake their instant photos, as doing so could damage or distort the developing image. I bet you still do it though, out of habit, am I right?

18. "Pictures" by Lady Antebellum

Pictures can be deceptive, as the woman in this country ditty from 2019 notices when she looks back at snapshots of her and an old flame. The photos depict a happy couple kissing in the sunset, having fun fishing, and sharing dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant. Why aren't they still together? She points out, however, that behind the Instagram grins and fake poses hides distance, pain, and sorrow. Inside she was dying and crying, even though the couple looked happy together. It was all a glossy lie.

19. "Click, Click, Click, Click" by Bishop Allen & The Broken String

This 2007 alternative rock song prompts the listener to ponder when you are background context for other people's lives and vice versa. It features a guy who seeks convenient refuge from a pouring down rain in the wedding of two strangers. Although he had never met either the bride or groom, he stood next to the bride's brother in their pictures. Years later, he still decorates their mantels in the photos, and the family must surely wonder who this stranger is—must be from the other side of the aisle, maybe what's-her-name's-son.

"When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear." - Alfred Eisenstaedt, German-born American photojournalist

"When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear." - Alfred Eisenstaedt, German-born American photojournalist

20. "Mama Lost Her Smile" by Lee Ann Womack

As the woman in this poignant 2017 country song pours through a box of old family photos, she notices that they can be easily divided into "before" and "after" pictures based on her mother's expression. Her family experienced an upheaval one summer when her father took a job in town. The whole family had to move. Some unknown trauma caused her mother to lose her smile, and the impact is dramatically documented in those photos, mere flashes in time.

Even More Songs About Photographs

Know a song about photographs that should be on this playlist? Make a suggestion in the Comments Section below.

SongArtist(s)Year Released

21. Kodachrome

Paul Simon

1973

22. Itchin' On a Photograph

Grouplove

2011

23. Electric Eye

Judas Priest

1982

24. Freeze Frame

The J. Geils Band

1982

25. Camera Phone

The Game (featuring Ne-Yo)

2009

26. Snapshot

Slave

1981

27. Photograph

J. Cole

2018

28. Click Click Click

New Kids on the Block

2008

29. Sure Shot

Beastie Boys

1994

30. Picture This

Blondie

1978

31. Photographs

Rihanna and Will.i.am

2009

32. Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel

1968

33. I Turn My Camera On

Spoon

2005

34. Photographs and Memories

Jim Croche

1974

35. Johnny Guitar

Pearl Jam

2009

36. Photograph

The Verve Pipe

1996

37. Family Portrait

Pink

2002

38. Photograph

Weezer

2001

39. Photographic

Depeche Mode

1981

40. Inadible Melodies

Jack Johnson

2001

41. Fountain of Sorrow

Jackson Browne

1974

42. Old Photographs

Carlene Carter

1979

43. Peg

Steely Dan

1977

44. Photographs Can Lie

Elvis Costello & The Imposters

2018

45. Photo

Ryan Cabrera

2008

46. Into the Lens

Yes

1980

47. Send a Picture of Mother

Johnny Cash

1968

48. Cameras

Matt and Kim

2010

49. Girls on Film

Duran Duran

1981

50. Traces

Classics IV

1969

51. In Color

Jamey Johnson

2008

52. Need You Now

Lady Antebellum

2010

53. In Pictures

Alabama

1995

54. Photograph

R.E.M. (featuring Natalie Merchant)

1993

55. Was It a Dream?

30 Seconds to Mars

2005

56. Second Chance

Lucy Rose

2017

© 2020 FlourishAnyway

Comments

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on August 24, 2020:

Mona - I'm glad you enjoyed Ed Sheeran's music. Thanks for visiting.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 23, 2020:

This article introduced me to Ed Sheeran. Many of the songs are lovely and the idea of a photograph in a song is kinda retro in a very cool way. Thanks for this.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on July 22, 2020:

Audrey - Thank you for your poetic comment and well wishes. I just came out of lockdown. I hope you are also healthy and happy.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on July 21, 2020:

Photographs are jewels suspended in time. They capture moments that could otherwise be forgotten. I love your collection of videos and songs.

Thanks so much for this outstanding article.

Please be safe and stay healthy.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 22, 2020:

bhattuc - Thank you for stopping by.

bhattuc on June 22, 2020:

Excellent compilation. Very well presented.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 16, 2020:

Nithya - Thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed this playlist. Have a wonderful week and stay safe.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 15, 2020:

Photographs are frozen moments in time that come alive every time we open the photo album. You have put together great songs about photographs. I enjoyed reading about these songs.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 14, 2020:

Bob - Thanks for stopping by!

Robert Sacchi on June 12, 2020:

Thanks for the memories and filling me in on contemporary songs.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 12, 2020:

Rajan - Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you are well.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 12, 2020:

I love clicking photos and watching them sometimes as a reminder of the good time as it used to be. Stories related to the songs are certainly interesting.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 10, 2020:

Peggy - I love old photos, too. Thanks for stopping by!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 10, 2020:

Reading the stories behind many of these songs is interesting. I love looking at old photos. It takes me back in time to many happy memories.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Dora - The Diane Arbus quote speaks so much to some of what is going on in the world right now. If that 17 year-old girl hadn't captured with a camera what happened to George Floyd we may have heard it explained away. There are some things that you have to see to believe. Cameras allow that.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Nella - So glad you enjoyed this list. Have a great day.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Mary - The times always seem better in retrospect. Have a wonderful week.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Devika - I'm glad you enjoyed this list! Have a lovely day!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Jason - I appreciate your kind comment. Thank you for the well wishes. You too!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

Linda - When my cousins and I were little and my great grandfather had died, we got bored at his family viewing/visitation and went "visiting" other grieving families in the funeral homes, including getting in line to view the bodies. No one took family photos of course but I bet we could have slipped in. It's interesting to consider how we are the background in other people's vacation and other photos and vice versa.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 09, 2020:

MG - Yes, we sure do live in a world of selfies! Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 09, 2020:

The story lines give insight into situations some take for granted but are quite impactful to others. The Diane Arbus quote in so many situations.

Nella DiCarlo from Guelph, Ontario on June 08, 2020:

Great list! Some faves are Photograph by Def Leppard, Take A Picture, Filter and many more on the list.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 08, 2020:

Songs on photographs always make me cry. I can spend hours looking at photos and always think of the stories they tell. I just love it.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 08, 2020:

Shannon - Thank you for these additions! I hope you are doing well. I appreciate you.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 08, 2020:

Hi isn't that interesting of these songs that I know of but did not put it together as in which has photograph. Your ideas are interesting and reminds me of such songs.

Jason Behm from Cebu, Philippines on June 07, 2020:

You are brilliant in coming up with this list. Looking at the title, I was amazed by how you come up with all these. Great. Keep safe.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 07, 2020:

All of the songs were new to me. I couldn't help laughing about the man who joined the wedding photos after he got out of the rain. That's an interesting idea for song lyrics!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on June 07, 2020:

There was a time when photographers were professionals but now with the selfie everybody is a photographer. You have a nice selection here. Thank you.

Shannon Henry from Texas on June 07, 2020:

Good one. "In Color" by Jamey Johnson comes immediately to mind. So does "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum because the opening verse talks about pictures being scattered all around the floor. Lastly, "In Pictures" by Alabama. That one's kinda sad.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Liz - With all of these people taking selfies, I'm wondering about the people who claim to have never taken one. Is there such a person anymore? Thanks for stopping by. Have a good week!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Bill - Especially when people haven't had time to pose, you can catch their microexpressions and get a glimpse of what they're really thinking and feeling. It tells so much. You're a wonderful photographer yourself, Bill!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Genna - I appreciate your stopping by. Have a wonderful week and stay safe.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Clive - One idea just seems to lead to another. Thanks for stopping by.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Pamela - Glad you enjoyed some of these songs. Thanks for listening along.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Ann - Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed this list, especially in light of your hobby. Have a great week ahead.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Heidi - I struggled with Madonna's song while putting the list together and really wanted to include it but the lyrics seem to portray it as more about dancing. Such a shame! I have always loved that song and Madge in that era. Not so much now. Have a great week and stay safe!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Eric - Thank you for stopping by!

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Bill - I added your song suggestion. Have a wonderful week ahead and stay both safe and well.

FlourishAnyway (author) from USA on June 07, 2020:

Greg - I appreciate your kind words of support and am glad you found the favorite song you were looking for.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 07, 2020:

It's interesting to chart (if you'll excuse the pun) the changes in photography through the words used in these songs. Who would have known what a selfie was 20+ years ago? You have put together another fascinating collection of songs.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 07, 2020:

Hi Flourish. Definitely a topic after my own heart. I think my favorite tune here is “Photograph” by Ringo Starr, although the list includes many classic tunes. It is amazing what can be captured in an instant with a photo. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well done as always.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on June 07, 2020:

What a cool topic, Flourish, and what great music to listen to on a Sunday afternoon Thank you!

Clive Williams from Jamaica on June 07, 2020:

your lists are always outrageous. Where do you find these info...good one again.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 07, 2020:

I don't think I ever would have thought about getting songs about photographs but you found so many that I was surprised. I was not familiar with all these songs but I did know several. I liked most of the songs you put up and the information about the songs is always interesting, Flourish. This is another good article about specific song types.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 07, 2020:

It's amazing how many there are! You've done well with all these, as you always do. I don't know many except for Blondie and Simon & Garfunkel.

I take thousands of photos so this was right up my street. Thanks for the entertainment, Flourish!

Ann

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on June 07, 2020:

As soon as I saw the title, I thought of Nickelback, Steely Dan and Kodachrome right away.

I guess you could argue that Madonna's "Vogue" is a dance track, but there's a whole lotta striking a pose for the camera in that video. ;)

Speaking of 80s, yes, we could probably say that the gal in the Van Halen "I'll Wait" video is in pretty good shape without Photoshop. It was more the talent of the photographer to get the right angles. Imagine what her Instagram feed would be today!

Happy Sunday!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 07, 2020:

Cool, I will be coming back all day.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 07, 2020:

I came in at #21. Better than nothing, I guess. I had an old song by the Classic 1V stuck in my head, one of the lyrics mentions pictures, but the song is "Traces of Love" I think.

Oh well, better luck next time. :) Happy Sunday my friend.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 07, 2020:

Flourish - what a great collection! As soon as I saw the title I searched frantically for "Photograph" by Ringo. Happily, I found it right there in lucky spot #13. It reminds me of childhood days, some lingering sadness over Beatles breaking up, heartache, young puppy love and otherwise mostly carefree days. This is another great list you've accumulated here, Flourish.