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. “
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.
Image by Stuart Monk.
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.
2. “Every spot has a different perspective, and not seeing every perspective will only limit you.”
NewYorkVisionary (Michael L)
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.