Explore the corners and cornerstones of NYC as these pros share how they capture unique and intimate portraits of the City that Never Sleeps.

By the time Walker Evans photographed the Brooklyn Bridge in 1929, the New York landmark had already been around for more than forty-five years, and while it had been a wonder when it first opened, public enthusiasm had waned a bit. Evans’s challenge, then, was to make the Brooklyn Bridge seem new again. He knew he had to capture it in a way that was completely different from all the other photographers who came before him.

How did he do it? Simple. Instead of shooting laterally to show the bridge’s entire span, he chose to shoot the details at odd angles. He created up-close pictures of steel cables, mind-bending compositions from below, and surprising geometric works of art. He rented rooms in Brooklyn Heights so he could watch his subject and consider different perspectives, and in the end, his photographs helped reignite interest in the bridge and establish it as the historic site it is today.

New York City is one of the most photographed places in the world, but with a little luck and a lot of ingenuity, it is possible to capture something original and unexpected in its streets. Almost ninety years after Evans walked the Brooklyn Bridge, we asked six photographers to tell us how they create unique photographs of the city today. Read on to learn some of their best tips.

1. “Plan by researching what you want to photograph ahead of time. “

Stuart Monk

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Research Before You Shoot

Image by Stuart Monk. Gear: Canon EOS 5DS camera; EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens; Manfrotto 190CXPro4 Tripod. Settings: Focal length 24mm; Exposure 1/200 sec; f5.0; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Undoubtedly, New York is one of the most interesting and colorful cities in the world to photograph, which is why I have spent so much time treading the streets looking for inspiration for my art, stock portfolios, and my book on the city.

This is one of my favorite pictures of 42nd Street. There is so much to see as you walk this busy street that traverses Manhattan, but this time, I wanted to take a step back and look down into the city. I took this picture in late spring when the trees were in full foliage; I feel they lead the eye to the horizon.

I added warming filters in Photoshop and added the setting sun effect to mimic the annual Manhattanhenge event where the sun aligns with the main street grid of the city. Waiting for a few of the distinctive yellow cabs to drive up the street added to the New York vibe of the image.

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Make Changes in Post

Image by Stuart Monk.

Pro Tip

It doesn’t take much effort to uncover, experience, and capture the real New York. Plan by researching what you want to photograph ahead of time. Because New York has so much to offer, you will be limited by time constraints; there is so only much that you can fit in.

I often create small projects by picking a few locations for one day’s shooting. I look at what other photographers have done and think about how I can create something better or different, giving a familiar site my own creative edge. Also, look at what events are scheduled to occur when you plan to visit. Go into Little Italy for the Feast of San Gennaro; experience the New York Chinese New Year; join the fun at the St. Patrick’s parade.

It’s easy to get drawn into taking very similar shots of famous landmarks and scenes, so take a step back and figure out how you can achieve something a little more unique. Often, I walk around a location trying to find a different angle, or I pick a time of day when the lighting is different.

If you are staying in a hotel, I would suggest spending a bit extra and finding a hotel that offers a stunning view. Some of my favorite street scenes have been taken from above. If you are staying in New York, get up before dawn and explore. See the city wake up, and stand in Times Square without the usual tens of thousands of people.

My best tip is to slip on a very comfortable pair of shoes. Walk a lot, and then walk some more. Often, I have turned a corner walking between locations and found something unique to photograph. Take your time, and enjoy the experience.

InstagramFacebookWebsite

2. “Every spot has a different perspective, and not seeing every perspective will only limit you.”

NewYorkVisionary (Michael L)

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Look for New Perspectives

Image by NewYorkVisionary (Michael L). Gear: Sony a7RII camera, Sony 50mm 1.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/15 sec; f1.8; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo on one of my friend’s rooftops in Midtown Manhattan, one of my favorite parts of the city. It’s a spot that I like to come back to from time to time, and since I am familiar with the views, I try to do something different and unique each time. I really enjoy bringing other photographers here to enjoy the experience as well, seeing our different perspectives in each shot taken.

Pictured: [1] NewYorkVisionary (Michael L) [2] NewYorkVisionary (Michael L)

Pro Tip

Just explore the city! No agenda, no plan. Take the subway to a stop you’ve never been to. If a photographer has a specific spot in mind and sees other photos of that spot, it will narrow their perception. Creativity is not planned; it is spontaneous. The shot should be seen from your own perspective without any preconceived notions.

Use different lenses with different focal lengths. This will completely change your photos and can provide unique perspectives. Many photographers will get comfortable with the same lenses, which will lead to similar looking shots. Inspiration for photos should come from within. Photographers should try to go to places that inspire them the most, whether it’s a place they’ve always wanted to go or a place they’ve been to a hundred times.

Shooting at different times of the day is also great. See the city in the morning, at midday, during the evening, and then at night. Timing is everything. The city is much quieter from midnight to 6:00 AM. This is one of my favorite times to shoot. People can be great to add to photos, but it is much less common to see photos of New York without people in them. It gives the photo a completely different, unique feel.

Check out rooftop bars! They can provide amazing views, but some are easier to take photos at than others. Feel free to rooftop bar-hop to find that perfect roof to shoot from, and feel free to enjoy a drink on the way. Always move around. Every spot has a different perspective, and not seeing every perspective will only limit you.

Instagram

3. “Imagery taken from a height different from the standard eye-level brings a freshness to subject matter that is overly photographed.”

Heather Shimmin

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Try New Angles

Image by Heather Shimmin. Gear: iPhone SE. Estimated settings: Exposure 1/120 sec; f2.2; ISO 320.

What’s the story behind this photo?

A friend was in town, and I was to meet him at his hotel in Midtown after work. Much to my surprise, his room had a large balcony facing a delightful nine-story Beaux Arts building with a mansard roof. I only had my smartphone with me, but I started taking photos from the balcony.

When I looked down, I saw a large and very ugly UPS truck parked below. I waited for it to leave before I started to take a few bird’s eye view shots of the street. I wanted a yellow taxi in the shot, and after about nine or ten light changes, I lucked out and got not one but three yellow cabs. I remembered Henri Cartier-Bresson and “the decisive moment,” timing the shot for when the middle cab was in front of the building.

I wrote my master’s thesis on the role green roofs play in the health of cities. I spent months photographing London from this vertical perspective, and it felt as if I were seeing London for the first time, even though I lived there. I love rooftops. I always have. There is something magical and unforgettable to me about them. The experience one has high above the ground is inspiring.

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Look for Rooftop Access

Image by Heather Shimmin.

Pro Tip

I am always on the lookout for rooftop access. Imagery taken from a height different from the standard eye-level brings a freshness to subject matter that is overly photographed. Photographing 5th Avenue from street-level is like being in a crowded beehive that is buzzing with activity. Photographing 5th Avenue from a rooftop is like looking down on an ant colony that is scurrying about trying to make their way back to the anthill.

InstagramTwitterWebsite

4. “Be sure to revisit your favorite spots in different conditions to discover something new.”

Ryan DeBerardinis

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Revisit Your Favorite Spots

Image by Ryan DeBerardinis. Gear: Canon EOS 80D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 67.0mm; exposure 1/100 sec; f11; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I recently spent some time exploring the streets of SoHo. After a long day navigating the crowded sidewalks, I started walking home towards the subway under gray, overcast skies. As I crossed the intersection, the afternoon sun broke through the clouds for a brief moment and cast a warm glow on the buildings down Broadway. I managed to capture this shot before the clouds rolled in again.

Pro Tip

Plan to hit the popular sites, but don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path. Once you’ve photographed the big tourist spots, give yourself plenty of time to explore the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods.

New York’s assorted patchwork of communities and villages make up the true fabric of the city, and each neighborhood offers something unique to photograph. Many of my favorite places to shoot were discovered by wandering the streets without a specific destination in mind. You never know what you’ll find around the next corner.

Pictured: [1] Ryan DeBerardinis [2] Ryan DeBerardinis [3] Ryan DeBerardinis

The city is constantly changing. Be sure to revisit your favorite spots in different conditions to discover something new. Quiet street scenes by day can come alive with bustling crowds of people at night. A stark winter landscape in Central Park can transform into a rainbow of colors in the fall or spring. Environmental variables like sun and rain can bring amazing variety to your photographs.

Travel light. New York is a walking city, so keeping your camera kit lightweight and compact can make for a much more enjoyable experience. I usually prefer to carry only one lens and one body per day. Anything more becomes a burden and often never gets used. While I love the sharpness of a prime lens, I prefer the flexibility of a quality zoom lens to handle the diverse environments of the city.

InstagramWebsite

5. “To get stunning sunsets and sunrises in NYC, one has to be patient and find a good vantage point.”

Zina Seletskaya

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Be Patient

Image by Zina Seletskaya. Gear: Nikon D700 camera, 24-120/f3.5-5.6 lens. Settings: Focal length 85mm; exposure 1 sec; f10; ISO 640.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The ever-changing New York skyline is one of my favorite subjects. I always wanted to take a picture of Manhattan with the natural reflection of the city lights in the Hudson River. One of the challenges was to wait for weather conditions with no wind and a calm river.

I had the advantage of living near the spot where I took this picture from, so I was able to observe the river and its behavior and plan accordingly. That night, I knew the weather would be calm and cold, so I ventured out with my camera and tripod to take this shot.

Pictured: [1] Zina Seletskaya [2] Zina Seletskaya

Pro Tip

New York is a beautiful and crowded city. To avoid getting people in my frame, I love to wander the streets of New York at sunrise, or even just before the sunrise, while they are still empty. Another solution is to look for spots that are high above the ground, like windows of multi-floor shops or offices and rooftops.

For skyline shots, cross the river and take note of the time of day and the weather. To get stunning sunsets and sunrises in NYC, one has to be patient and find a good vantage point.

InstagramWebsite

6. “Explore places from more than one path; a little wandering can go a long way.”

DeShaun Craddock

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Go Exploring

Image by DeShaun Craddock. Gear: Nikon D600 camera, Nikkor 105mm f/2 DC lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f5.6; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this image from South Street Seaport near Pier 17. Rather than focusing on the water and bridge views, I turned around and focused on the buildings that make up the financial district. The sun was beginning to set, and light was being reflected off of one of the buildings. I loved how there wasn’t a bit of sky visible, so I took this to show how overwhelming it can feel in the city.

6 Pros on How to Take Amazing Photos of New York City — Document Changes

Image by DeShaun Craddock.

Pro Tip

Making a unique image of New York can be so challenging, but something that helps is remembering that it’s a city that’s always changing. Even commonly visited locations can be unique depending on the time of day or year.

Using an unorthodox focal length can also add a new element to an otherwise familiar subject. Explore places from more than one path; a little wandering can go a long way. Focus on different elements of the city’s character. Try to convey how busy it is, or give life to the scale of your surroundings by accentuating or exaggerating them.

InstagramTwitterWebsite

Top Image by Ryan DeBerardinis.