MALT author has improved skills of countless students

by Len Lear
Posted 8/6/21

Since 2006 many area photo buffs have taken classes at Mt. Airy Learning Tree with instructor and author Nicki Toizer. Many have also refined their skills thanks to Toizer's book, “Digital Photography Basics.”

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MALT author has improved skills of countless students


Since 2006 many area photo buffs have taken classes at Mt. Airy Learning Tree with instructor and author Nicki Toizer, 50, who grew up in West Mt. Airy but has lived in Glenside for the past 13 years. Many have also refined their skills thanks to Toizer's book, “Digital Photography Basics,” a paperback available through

If you enjoy photography, want to take better pictures and know that your camera has many more options than just Auto, this book might be your best friend. Toizer goes over everything you expect like image size and quality, file formats such as jpg and RAW, focal length, shutter speed, aperture and metering. You will get some composition tips that can quickly improve your images.

“I’ve had an interest in photography for a long time,” explained Toizer. “My dad and grandfather (my mother’s father) both had cameras. I never considered myself good at drawing, so photography seemed like a better artistic choice for me. I got my first camera before a class trip to Mexico in 5th grade. The pictures weren’t very good, but I was hooked. In high school, my dad taught me how to use an SLR (single-lens reflex camera), and I started to get much better results. I’ve been shooting fairly regularly ever since.”

Toizer attended Abington Friends School for high school and then went to the University of Delaware (1993, B.S. in Civil Engineering), Beaver College (now Arcadia University; 1996, M.A. in Environmental Education) and Moore College of Art & Design (2004, Certificate in Digital Media for Print & Web). Still learning, she is now at Montgomery County Community College, working towards a Certificate in Accounting with QuickBooks.

Toizer's book, “Digital Photography Basics,” was published in 2017. “It took me about two years to write and design it and was inspired by my MALT students. I’d watch them all take notes and thought it might be easier if they had something clear and illustrated to read and look at in between class sessions.

“I wanted to write something easy to understand, that had examples of what I cover in class and more that my students could refer to long after class had ended. You don’t have to be one of my students, though, to learn about shutter speed, aperture, composition and more.”

Toizer's first job after college was at Awbury Arboretum in Germantown as an environmental educator. After she earned her M.A., she was leading the education department. Then she moved on to a photo lab as a printer and in customer service before also managing the store. She jumped at the opportunity to work at MALT and stayed there for 10 years.

How has the pandemic affected her life? “Instead of traveling to take pictures of horses, flowers and mountains, I’ve been photographing a vast array of LEGO in my dining room throughout the pandemic. I took the opportunity to practice and experiment with a lens I really hadn’t used much until that point. It’s been fun. I miss teaching; Zoom is a terrible platform for the way I teach because I can’t hold someone else’s camera and show them what to do through the webcam. When MALT chose to take a break, I decided to go back to school.”

What is the best advice Toizer ever received? “Nothing really stands out for me. However, I would tell others that change can be scary, but it isn’t bad.”

What is the hardest thing she ever had to do? “The hardest things have been recognizing when it’s time to make a change and having the courage to do it.”

If Toizer could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, living or dead, who would it be and why? “It’s silly, but I would gather a bunch of actors from 'Doctor Who,' both classic and current, to say 'Thank you' for getting me through the pandemic. There wasn’t much to watch on TV when production shut down, and I found myself watching 'Doctor Who' on DVD and various streaming services almost daily. It kept me going during a difficult time and inspired some LEGO creations, keeping me sane.”

For more information, visit Len Lear can be reached at