• Ellen Fisch

Photography: Begin With An Idea


Today, taking a photograph is as natural as walking down street. If you have a phone, a tablet or any device, just point and shoot! People accumulate thousands of pictures in their devices or in the cloud and enjoy scrolling through them and sharing these images with friends. But what if you want to take a photograph to hang on your wall or to exhibit in a gallery or to include in your portfolio?

Here are some considerations:

  1. Beginning with an idea does not always mean that your photograph must be preconceived. The beauty of photography is that it can be a spontaneous capture. Therefore, you have a few options: either plan to take a photograph of a specific subject (nude, portrait, celebrity, still life.....the list is long) or find your subject by chance. The latter means coming across a subject that appeals to your "photographic sensibilities.

  2. Once you light/position or chance upon your subject: have a clear idea of what you want to tell the viewer. Photography, like almost all visual arts, tries to impart the creator's message to the viewer.

  3. Consider the very best way you can present your subject: angle, lighting, form, line and composition, among other critical components of your image.

  4. Think in color, sepia or black and white. This will give your idea credibility. For example: If you are photographing an especially vibrant floral bouquet, you may want to think about how the colorful flowers complement each other. On the other hand, an old farmhouse may be appealing in sepia and/or black and white. Of course, you may reverse these concepts. Flowers photograph well in monochrome and houses look fine in color

  5. Most important of all: Is your idea what you want to convey to the viewer or to yourself!


I shot this photograph of the Empire State Building as it is reflected in a new-construction, glass-and-steel midtown Manhattan skyscraper. I have taken hundreds if not thousands of "Empire Building" photos and although the lighting changes, the grand old building (completed in 1931) is imprinted indelibly in my mind. Suddenly, seeing its reflections shimmering in the well-lit glass grid fascinated me. Immediately seeing this old friend, I stopped to see it take on a completely new look, which was also enhanced by foliage and an antique street light. It was at that moment that the idea of a black and white city-scape/architectural came to me.


Take-away: The Idea will direct your lens, outcome and ultimate story you tell.

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