Lotte Jacobi was the fourth generation of her family to become a commercial photographer; her great-grandfather Samuel had learned the process from Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre. Jacobi studied art history and literature in Posen, Germany, from 1912-1916. She married Fritz Honig, a lumber merchant, in 1916, but separated after four months and divorced in 1924.
Jacobi moved to Munich in 1925 to study photography and film for the next two years. She took over the studio of her father, Sigismund Jacobi, in Berlin, in 1927, and began to photograph artists, scientists, and politicians, often supplying portraits of important figures to magazines and newspapers. She moved to New York in 1935 and ran a photographic studio for the next twenty years. She photographed famous German emigrants, including Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. She also photographed artists and photographers (including Marc Chagall, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Steichen) and authors (including Theodore Dreiser and J.D. Salinger). From 1946 to 1969 she made photogenic drawings. Jacobi moved to Deering, New Hampshire, in 1955; she died in 1990.