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

Photographing Brooklyn College’s Campus with Ellen Fisch

IRPE Workshop: April 25, May 2, 2013

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This map of Brooklyn Collegeʼs Campus will provide reference points for your photography tour. Before you set out, orientate yourself to specific buildings so that you can chart your photography course. Or you can simply take photographs of what appeals to you and refer to the map later! The great part about taking architectural photos is finding new and interesting parts of the architecture from which to create your images. Donʼt forget to consider the buildings that are outside of the campus. Some of them and/or the backs of buildings facing the quad are as interesting and beautiful as those that makes up the main campus.

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Angles & Curves :
All buildings have angles and/or curves. These add interest to the

architecture and to your images. Shoot from different angles and positions. If
you are used to holding your camera in a portrait orientation, try a landscape shot. Use the lines of the buildings for inspiration and the landscaping of the campus
as counterpoint. Remember, there are no rules about photographing architecture for your own walls and your own enjoyment.

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The angle of this photograph gives the building an interesting orientation. The triple window appears longer and more prominent than a straight-on shot at this angle and the bricks take on an irregular textural quality. The lamppost and the sphere window echo the angle appeal and accentuate curves. Notice the tree reflections that are also angled.

Balance:
Every photograph should have balance between darks and lights; shapes;

lines and other components of the image. Composition or balance is achieved in
a photograph by having all areas of the image relate to each other. The viewerʼs eye travels around the piece and is not pulled to one point to the exclusion of the rest of the photograph. In creating balance make sure that darks and lights are distributed throughout the image. Create relationships among shapes and lines. Compose your photograph with an eye to your viewer. Even if your viewer is YOU, there is nothing worse than a boring photograph. Just as in every artwork, you should be compelled to look at the image again and again, not just the first time.

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This misty image was taken early one
morning. Notice the lines the branches
create and the forms of negative space
between the branches. The darks and
lights balance the architectural feel of
the photograph that incorporates nature
into the image.

Texture :
By nature most architectural images appear textural. Stone can be smooth or

coarse; metal is fluid or bumpy; wood satiny or rough and so on through a host of building materials. When these are juxtaposed, interest and tension are created in the image. Architectural photographs are illustrations and interpretations of buildings that humans have created out of materials that become interesting when taken separately. But frequently it is the combinations of wood, stone, metal, and other substances that give the photograph its appeal.

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The “1936” building date is carved into a section of “light” rough stone that is then framed by the same substance. The outer brick framing is of a different texture. As is the irregular mortar between the bricks. The play of substances creates an engaging image. Notice, too, the interplay of lights and darks.
 
Details:
Frequently architectural details are fascinating in and of themselves. Details

may be simple or elaborate, but each adds to the structure it embellishes. Often I take photographs of details by themselves as complete photographs. It is not
necessary to display an entire building in an image when what appeals to you is a doorknocker or a sconce. The beauty of a finished piece is in the story it tells and the way it is told.

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The sconce that is framed in brick is shot up and head-on. This creates a certain stature to the architectural detail and gives its curves prominence. It is juxtaposed with straight-lined brick. The textures also offer contrast and eye appeal. Although at first glance this appears to be an image of a simple outdoor lamp, it is a complex composition.

Light :
Light is a primary concern when shooting any photograph. Lighting is

sometimes tricky with architectural photography because using artificial light is both an enormous undertaking and costly (flood lights, multiple flash systems, bounce devices, etc.). Therefore, it is best to shoot architectural images using natural light. For this campus shoot exterior architectural photographic lighting will be addressed. A cloudy day is truly best for taking photos of architecture outdoors. The more sun, the more glare. Glare causes images to have blown out sections where no detail (texture, form, line) appears. Glare can also result from shooting shiny surfaces like glass, metal or ceramic. The idea is to get light into the image, but not cause parts of the architecture to be missing because of overly bright areas. Angle the camera so that you shoot for maximum exposure
with minimum loss of detail. An underexposed image is equally unimpressive. Dim, dark patches in a photograph donʼt necessarily create mystery; they look dead. Use the light to get the beauty that a well-lit photograph provides.

The gates and concrete pillars give the
photograph a dark element that is
geometric. The light sky travels
throughout the image to give certain
areas a glow (tops of the pillars). The
lighted sidewalk and interior path bring
the light into the image so that it is not
divided in half by dark (bottom)
and light (top).

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Final Words:
I prefer black and white or sepia for my architectural photographs. Color is

also wonderful Take photos that appeal to the photographer: YOU!
Always remember that photography is story telling. Enjoy it! Have fun with

the camera! There are no mistakes, just creative self-expression.