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Photographer Ellen Fisch Offers Tips and Insights About Photography

Ellen Fisch has been a professional Photographer for 50+ years.  In the following Insights, Ellen shares her valuable knowledge of Photography to help Photographers of all skill levels to improve and master their craft.  For more Insights go to Ellen’s Blog

The Art of Photography: How to Take Great Photos with Photographer Ellen Fisch

Brooklyn College IRPE Lecture 
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

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The Art of Photography: How to Take Great Photos by Photographer Ellen Fisch

Great photos are frequently captured by chance. However, photographers who consistently take inspiring shots have a backlog of information that they intuitively call upon when they are behind the camera lens. This knowledge provides the foundation of elevating a snapshot to a work of art. Here are some photography tips to help you get that great photo.

From the outset:

Whether you are photographing in your home or local park or on safari in Africa, make sure that you are wearing comfortable clothing and shoes. When photographing, your mind should be focused on your subject 100%. If other concerns are pulling your attention, you will not be able to give the shoot the adequate attention required for great shots.

Light is an extremely important consideration. An overcast day is optimum for outdoor shooting. Brilliant sunlight may blow out areas of your photos and rain/ snow may damage your camera or blur the subject. When shooting indoors, make sure that, if possible, there is one light source that can illuminate your subject. One source, whether natural (window, door, skylight) or artificial light, will give the subject the shadow and highlights that are most desirable in creating great photographs.



Any camera can be the tool for capturing a truly great photograph. Point-and-shoot; iphone; high-end SLR are all capable of turning out artworks. The key is the knowledge of the photographer on how to handle the camera. Before going out to take pictures, LEARN about your equipment. Read the booklet that comes with the camera. There are numerous free videos on the Internet that will give you “quick bytes” of information about your camera. Additionally, camera store employees thoroughly enjoy talking cameras. When you buy your camera

DISCUSS with the salesperson. Frequently the camera store offers classes that you can attend with other photography enthusiasts.

Point and shoot cameras offer a relatively inexpensive way to get into photography. Many of these compact cameras come with a built in flash. Digital cameras also do not require film, so a small point and shoot and a camera card may be all you need for a productive day of photographing.

On the other hand, you can amass an extensive array of photographic paraphernalia: SLR, flash attachment, tripod, filters, lenses, etc. Most important is to learn to use your equipment as easily and comfortably as you use any familiar tool. The more instinctive you are when photographing, the more effortlessly and expertly you will progress towards taking great photographs.


With the advent of digital photography, a computer is often necessary. Of course there were joys in shooting film and watching breathlessly as images emerged from the developing trays. Today, most photographers watch their images come alive on a computer screen. The platform may be different, but the excitement of seeing a WOW shot emerge from camera card or directly from the camera onto your monitor is no less of an experience. Computers range in cost, as do monitors. The digital photographer should go to a reputable web site or physical computer store and explore computer requirements.

Various platforms for viewing and/or enhancing your shots may also be critical to you as a photographer. Lightroom, Photoshop, and many other applications are available at varying costs and necessitating different levels of expertise. The internet has numerous free videos and web sites to inform you of the best software for your photography needs. Explore different FREE demos from various software companies before choosing the software that will help you to perfect/manipulate your images.

The Shoot:

I always have a camera with me. I usually refrain from taking my full spectrum of equipment with me for a “planned” shoot. In other words, if I am specifically photographing Park Slope/ Prospect Park as I did in early October, I pack up different lenses I think I’ll need, a couple of cameras (including a point and shoot for back-up), filters, camera cards, extra batteries and other photography tools. I rarely take my laptop on a shoot, but occasionally, if I plan to take a great number of shots, I will include the computer with my other equipment. More likely, I’ll take a storage unit that I can download into for later transferal into my home computer. Today’s camera cards have such large capacity (32G!) that even the storage unit is not usually necessary. I also make sure to have pockets in what I’m wearing. Just a simple thing like where to put the lens cap or full camera card is a consideration when you are trying to get the shots before the light goes.


For an optimum day of photography, I frequently have a destination in mind. It does not have to be exact buildings or particular streets, but, for example, when I was photographing Harlem, I knew I wanted shots of West Harlem. Therefore, I parked my car in the West 130’s and covered a half-mile radius each time I went there. Coming across unusual or expected “finds” is the true joy of photography.


On the other hand, wandering around in Manhattan, Brooklyn or for that matter anywhere in the world, you may come across the “perfect image” so it is wise to always have a small camera device (iphone, point and shoot or any easily potable camera) with you. Early one morning in Vienna, I was waiting for a train in a beautiful Otto Wagner station. The distant train approaching, the patiently waiting figure and the magnificent architecture made me grab my point and shoot to take 3 fast shots before the figure rose and the train arrived.


Post Production:

Downloading digital images into the computer is easily accomplished. I prefer to remove my camera card from the camera and use a card reader. This prevents awkward positioning of the camera next to the computer (Believe me, you don’t want to knock your camera over while transferring the information!). Furthermore, there is no drain on the camera battery if a card reader is used. I set up file folders with the date and place of the shoot for easy reference: Prospect_Park_2012. This labeling saves time later when I am trying to find my images.


Once the images are downloaded, I begin to crop, alter, tone and manipulate them into my architectural art photography. I, personally, use Photoshop, but as previously mentioned, there are many options. Of course, your shots may be the way you want them right off the bat.

Final Word:

Photography is an immediate reaction to an experience. Even if shots are staged, once behind the lens the magic appears in your viewfinder. There is nothing more fun, artistic, spontaneous and memorable than a photograph. I hope you enjoy each and every experience with your camera!

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