Top photography tips: Henry Carroll

Planning to enter our Museum of the Year photography contest? Get a head start with these top tips from competition judge Henry Carroll.

Henry Carroll is a photographer and writer whose work has been featured in Time Out, Creative Review, Next Level, the Royal Society of Photography Magazine, The London Paper, City AM and A-N Magazine. We asked him for his top photography tips, from taking super snaps with a smartphone to picking the perfect subject.

How important is the equipment a photographer uses?

A lot of people think that a better camera will lead to better photos, but this isn't true. The secret to taking great photographs is learning how to use your eyes. Of course, better cameras and lenses mean better image quality, but that counts for nothing if you're not making interesting observations. That said, it is worth investing more in your lenses. A good lens can last you a lifetime.

How can you take good photos with a smartphone?

Smartphones are limited in terms of functionality so focus on composition and light. These two things are always the key to any great shot and all the same rules apply, regardless of what camera you’re using. Apps like Instagram are great for sharing photos and finding inspiration, just be careful of using too many different filters, as this can mean your pictures don’t have a consistent look or identity. Stick to one filter or, better still, don't use any. If your picture is good, it won't need a filter to jazz it up!

What can you learn from other photographers?

Looking at other people's photographs is a massive part of developing your photography skills. By looking at the work of great photographers you start to get a feel for how they give their work a distinctive look and how you can do the same. There are some photographers who everyone needs to study. Elliott Erwitt is one. He manages to find humour and beauty in the most everyday things. Then there’s Garry Winogrand. His passion and enthusiasm comes through in every shot.

What should you look for when choosing a subject to photograph?

You need to 'feel' something about what you're photographing, whether it's positive or negative. This will then guide your creative choices in terms of how you photograph it. Often people struggle the most when they are photographing something they feel indifferent about. That’s because they don’t know what they want to say about the subject.

How do you select the best shot from a batch?

William Eggleston is renowned for only taking one photograph of each subject, as he doesn't like having to choose between them! Really, if you’re taking a hundred shots of the same thing it’s because you don’t know what you’re looking for. And those hundred shots will probably all look the same anyway. Instead of taking a machine-gun approach try to study your subject before reaching for your camera. This will mean you take fewer photos before getting 'the shot'. If you are faced with having to choose between several photos, always ask yourself what you were trying to capture in the first place and let that guide your choice.

Finally, if you could go back to the beginning of your career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would definitely tell myself to invest my precious pocket money in photography books rather than equipment I didn’t need.

Henry Carroll is judging the entries for this year's Museum of the Year photography competition. For more top photography tips, read his bestselling book Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs (save 35% using the offer code 'READTHIS').

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