Fine Print: Henry Carroll
Henry Carroll, author of the book Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs, approaches photography in a refreshingly simple way; his book isn't bogged down with impossible to understand jargon, and his photography mantra can boil down to "just get out there and do it!" Here, we ask Henry to fill-in-the-blanks with some of his favorite tips, tricks and photos, to inspire us all to start shooting like pros. Interview by Katie Gregory
I came up with the idea for this book when I set up my company, Frui, and started teaching digital photography. I realized that there was a real need for a new kind of introductory book. Existing "how to" books were way too techie, full of forgettable pictures and seemed to be geared towards men. People weren’t inspired by them. So I decided to write a book that made things super simple, referenced incredible images and emphasized creativity rather than science.
The people who will get the most from my book are novices. The book explains the fundamentals of photography in very simple terms, so anyone who is a novice or in need of a refresher will find it helpful. The book is also a great sourcebook of creative ideas, as it features loads of well-known photographers and different styles and approaches. That’s inspiring for everyone!
What I love the most about photography is photography gives everyone the freedom to present the world in their own unique way. And as an art form it can be applied to so many different areas, from fashion to journalism to art. The other thing I love about photography is the fact that you don’t need to know too much technical stuff to take great pictures. Once you’ve got to grips with a few essentials you’re on your way.
My number one photography tip is you could own every piece of kit and know all the jargon, but your pictures will always be a bit rubbish if you don’t train your eyes. So it’s sometimes good to head out without your camera and just spend the day "seeing". It sounds weird, but make time to wander the streets and notice things. Just enjoy the process of using your eyes without the pressure of having to "capture" anything.
My favorite photograph changes almost daily. At the moment it’s this cracker by Garry Winogrand titled New York. I love the interaction between the girls and the photographer, while the guy just keeps on smooching. It has to be one of the most unromantic kisses ever photographed.
My favorite photographer is Eliott Erwitt. He's my number one. His witty observations of everyday situations always make me smile. He’s a great example of someone who injects his personality into all his pictures, which is why they’re so distinctive. Actually, that’s another top tip.
I learned the most about photography by looking at other people’s pictures. Seeing what others are up to helps you to understand and develop your own style and voice. You obviously have to get out there and take pictures too!
My favorite photo subjects are little oddities in the everyday.
The best photograph I’ve taken was one I took on the 85th anniversary of Coney Island’s Cyclone Roller-coaster. I don’t know about "best," but I like this one. It was a hot and busy Saturday in June and I wasn’t getting anything. Just before calling it a day I walked into this bar and noticed these kids. One looked exhausted and the other was in a kind of trance while everything around them was going off. Without looking through the viewfinder I quickly snapped the picture. I got lucky.
My favorite camera to use is a Fuji X100 and an old Olympus MJU compact film camera, which are both perfect for shooting on the street.
The best camera for beginners is...well, there’s no simple answer to this. It depends on what you want to take pictures of. One thing’s for sure - don’t be sold on the fact that a camera offers you a million different modes and functions. Once you get going you’ll only need to use about 10% of what’s on your camera. Everything else is junk.
The hardest part about writing this book was it took a lot of work to make things clear and simple. Above my desk I have a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “I'm sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.” It reminds me that it’s easy to over complicate things, but it takes time to make things simple. That’s good advice for writers and photographers.
Anyone can take a good picture if they read my book, of course! That’s a no-brainer.