Forget unstable ladders, questionable tactics like your child's lacrosse stick (I've seen my neighbor try this method, only to send lemons off into other yards), or waiting for fruit to drop with a bruising thud. Extend your reach with a long handled fruit picker:
Above: Made of willow wicker with a gray wash, the Betty Twyford Willow Apple Picker fruit picking basket is an easy-to-handle three-feet long for a modest extended reach. Great for kids; £10 at Betty Twyford.
Above: The no-nonsense Pole Fruit Picker with an eight-foot, two-part wooden handle has a metal basket with fingers, which allow you to pick the fruit off its branch. The fruit then rolls into the bottom of the basket, where a cushion breaks its fall: $19.99 at Grow Organic. The Ames Fruit Harvester offers a similar head with a 10-foot true temper weatherproof aluminum telescoping handle; $39.99 at Amazon.
Above: For the serious fruit picker, the Clip N Pick Fruit Picker does not rely on hook sticks that might damage fruit, but was designed with "two replaceable razor blades affixed to the top of the boat shape net bag which are angled so when you pull back on the pole they catch and slice through the stem of the fruit. The fruit then gently falls into the mesh bag." Sold separately, the Clip N Pick Fruit Picker Head and the Clip N Pick Fruit Picker Handle (which extends up to 12 feet) are $29.99 each at Grow Organic. Note that the head can be attached to your own pole (instructions included).
N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published August 16, 2012.