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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

Photographing Grand Central Station and the NYPL at 42nd Street
with Photographer Ellen Fisch

Big City Photography:
Big city architectural photography poses stimulation and challenges for the photographer. For the architectural photographer, the excitement of being in a city, such as New York City that presents iconic and diverse landmarks is like being in Wonderland! Everywhere you look there are different subjects to photograph. The variety is incredible and the endless amount of material to shoot is exciting. However, there are numerous challenges as well. Photographing Grand Central Station and the NYPL at 42nd Street is a wonderful introduction or professional opportunity to shoot a wide variety of architectural subjects in NYC.


Hey! You’re in My Way:
There are usually lots of people in big cities. That is what big cities are about. People walk in front of your lens as you are capturing the shot of your life. People are sitting on the steps of the building you want to photograph. People are in the way. You can certainly incorporate these “street people” into your shots, but today there are strict laws concerning privacy. Frankly, it can be a strategic waiting game. However, waiting for people to move can eat up your time and frustrate you. It is, in this case, necessary to be creative in your shots. Take pix from angles that eliminate people. Incorporate the people so that distinct faces are not the central focus of your shots. Interesting photos can be had: use your imagination to visualize the final image. Will people enhance or distract from the photograph? Remember, too, that there are many ways to cut out the people in post production.

Many buildings have landmark status in NYC. This status involves designating a building to have special historical, aesthetic, and cultural value to NYC’s architectural and historical heritage. 99% of all buildings can be photographed from the street. Occasionally, the photographer may encounter privacy problems while attempting to photograph a building’s exterior. These situations are rare. However, interiors are a different story. In many cases, the inside of buildings is restricted from outsider photography. This does not apply to many public buildings. Most areas of Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library at 42nd Street are accessible to photographers. At the Library, certain rooms are off limits, but by and large, most of the building’s public areas are open to photography by the public. The same holds true for Grand Central Station. It is advisable to take photographs only where the public is permitted.


Indoor Shooting:
Lighting is the key positive/negative in indoor shooting. Interior lighting can be romantic/mysterious/intriguing. Both Grand Central Station and the NYPL have little natural lighting. Although the big, beautiful windows in both buildings do allow light to come in, both structures are so large that much of the interior lighting is artificial and in many areas dim. The best way to take photographs in such lighting is by using a lens (like a wide angle) that will allow as much light into the aperture as possible. However, bear in mind that opening the aperture and upping the ISO may significantly increase noise. Noise is the tiny (or not so tiny) specks that appear on the photograph as a result of not enough uniform light entering the aperture. One rule of thumb is: the lower the ISO, the less noise. 400 is an optimal indoor ISO, but the images may be too dark at that number. The best option is to repeatedly check the playback on the camera’s LCD screen to get an idea of your lighting/ISO values. Long shutter speeds, shadows and even movement can cause noise. Therefore, try to hold the camera steady, keep the ISO as low as possible while allowing the light in and take multiple exposures of each shot that is your favorite subject. Allowing the camera to choose the ISO and shutter speed on automatic setting is another way to go.

Grand Central Market
Elaborate Light Fixture
Mars Atop Grand Central Station

Multiple Shots:
Elaborate Light Fixture
You fall in love with a beautiful architectural
detail. You shoot the subject and when you
get home it looks flat and dead on the
computer screen. This happens often with
one shot photos. Digital photography allows
for many, many shots with camera cards that
are 16 or even 32G. Take your best shot of
the window/doorway/grill and then shoot it
from many different angles. Shoot up while
standing directly below the subject and then
take shots from the left or right side.

Change your perspective as well as your camera settings. When you look at the photos later, you may be surprised that the least likely angle you shoot from may be your favorite image.

Look at the Details:
Both Grand Central Station and the NYPL were built at a time when architectural ornamentation was lavished on buildings. Look at/above doorways, at metal grills, signage, stairways and railings, floors. All of the areas in the public places of both landmarks are full of interesting and beautiful architectural details. Always try to take shots that include more information than you want. Later on, you may find that the camera cut off a detail or that you would like to increase the size of your photograph. You can always crop in post-production.

NYPL Staircase Detail
Defining the Place: NYPL

Exterior Shooting:
Even though you may want to capture the entire building in a single shot, the NYPL at 42nd Street and Grand Central Station are very large structures. It is possible to get each building into a single frame, but you may lose a lot of detail by doing so. Take shots of the exteriors that capture details that describe each building: the title of the building which appears on both; the statuary associated with each; windows; doors and other unique aspects of the structures. When shooting exteriors (outdoor photography) your ISO is optimally100-200. An overcast day is far better than a sunny one because strong sunlight can blow out detail.

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NYPL at 42nd Street 

Iconic Lion

NYPL at 42nd Street


It is exciting to download your day of shooting and watch the images emerge on to your computer screen. Remember that there are multiple ways of processing the straight-from-the- camera-shots. Photoshop, Photo Elements, Lightroom, and many others have stepped in as the dark room of the film photography years. You may crop, straighten, correct values, denoise, sharpen in the computer. You may also create HDR, B&W or sepia images from your originals. Or you can go with what you have. The beauty of today’s technology is that it is all at your fingertips!
Last Word:
Photography is a creative way of expressing yourself. Have fun while capturing the interesting and beautiful subjects that are all around you!

Ellen Fisch is a NY based architectural
art photographer who creates stunning
photographs that are historically relevant
and timeless. She has taught workshops in
photography and art for many years.

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Lion Fountain: NYPL                           NYPL                            Grand Central Station

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