As one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, New York City is one of the most photographed cities in the world. It is THE most photographed, actually, according to SightsMap, a website that pulls data from Google Maps to pinpoint what the world’s most photographed places are.
If you’re headed to the big apple for a photoshoot for a fashion brand, a musical artist’s visuals, or any other project, you’re by no means treading in uncharted waters - but that’s only because of the city’s timeless look and endless possibilities.
Decade after decades of movies and photos have been made in this sprawling city - but somehow, it just never gets old. Multiple photographers and videographers can shoot in the same areas of NYC and end up with completely different results. That’s because New York is a timeless, classic city that offers a diverse selection of atmospheres and scenes. There’s that edgy urban feel that works for so many different brands. It offers plenty of industrial settings and in contrast, also has a soft, more natural look in Central Park. And then there’s that fresh, well-lit studio look found in the modern photography studio in New York City. And with an astronomical population of 8.6 million, it’s an absolute medley of subjects - people, animals, cars, trains - the amount of activity and things to look at will make your head spin. But regardless of all the scenes and subjects the city offers, what is captured and the results of the photoshoot all depend on the eye and skill of the photographer. If you’re planning on doing a photoshoot in this giant city, here are some tips to help reign it in, have a focus and get the best photos possible out of it.
Start with the Basics
If you’re still getting your feet wet in the photography world, you’ll want to remember these basic things:
Bring back up batteries - this is something that will leave you high and dry on the shoot if you don’t remember to pack sufficient batteries.
Keep Unnecessary Clutter Out of Your Shots - One downside of the city is how much stuff there is everywhere. With all the things you have to remember already, make sure your eyes are catching aberrations or unsightly things that don’t contribute to the shot such as “slippery when wet” signs, light poles or stop signs that happen to be in the way or positioned awkwardly behind your subject(s) and interfering with a good composition.
Keep the Sharpness Crisp: If you’re focusing your photos on a person, be sure that your sharpness is crisp. It’s crucial to put the focus exactly on the eyes of the person you are taking photos of.
Eye on Composition: Composition is key; make sure you’re composing your shots and framing your subjects well every time you click.
Keep a Shallow Depth-of-Field: Keeping a shallow depth of field is what gives your photos that professional look, helping them stand out from amateur pictures. If you’re shooting human subjects, keep the subjects of your photos at the forefront with the backgrounds slightly blurred. Put on your longest lens, set the camera to aperture priority, set the aperture as low as possible, step as close to the subject as possible while allowing the lens to focus, place the subject far away from anything in the background and snap!
Visit the Locations Before the Shoot
For a little more insight and preparation, it’s a good idea to visit the location before the shoot. If it’s an outdoor location, go around the time of day when you’re planning on conducting your photoshoot to understand where shadows will fall, what sorts of things are going on in the area and what you’ll need to plan for. If you are bringing lighting, you’ll also need to identify where there are wall plugs, if any. The best case scenario is to visit with either the subjects of your shoot or stand ins who have a similar skin tone, hair color and body shape as your subjects so you can figure out your correct exposure, aperture, shutter speed and so on, as trying to figure that out the day of the shoot will take a good amount of time if you’re trying to figure it out in the moment. This is extra important for film directors prepping for a filming shoot. Basically, you don’t want to eat up your photoshoot or video shoot time figuring things out and having to troubleshoot if you come across any problems - which there usually almost are, no matter how experienced you are. Making your your team wait could also end up in an uninteresting, tired, annoyed or unenthused looking subject - nobody likes to be kept waiting for too long.
Plan Around Lighting
For good photography, lighting might be the single most important factor. If you have great lighting, it may even make up for lackluster equipment and make your iPhone shot look like a DSLR (or close to it.) Plan your shoot around the times of day that have the best lighting. These are typically either morning at sunrise, or at golden hour - the end of the day, when the sun is setting. Bringing lighting equipment along is another play, but if you’re shooting outside, make sure you know where you can access power sources. One trick for fashion or glamour photography is to have your subject either around reflective surfaces or have them wearing something reflective - the light that bounces off these surfaces does wonders for the look of skin, eyes and so on. If you go with a Manhattan photography studio, the perk is you have the home base of a controlled environment with the right amount of light, with the option to walk outside and take some candids or spontaneous shots around the city if you wish.
Stay Open to the Vibe of the City
New York has an electric energy. Don’t try to go against it, stop it or hide from it. Go with it. If you use the chaos to your advantage and utilize it in your shots, you can end up with some seriously unexpected, happy accidents. Get your subject(s) crossing a crosswalk in a crowd of people; if you happen upon street performers, vendors or a block party, get in there. You might end up with a serendipitous moment captured on film. Wherever you are, make sure you set the camera’s white balance and get your settings right before trying to jump into any action. Not having your settings right when you snap an otherwise epic moment will have you kicking yourself later if you end up with a grainy or blown out shot.
Location, Location, Location
While our last piece of advice was to stay open to being spontaneous, that doesn’t mean don’t plan at all. Know the areas in the city where you want to shoot so you have an itinerary for the day. A few good places to shoot outdoors include:
Soho: If you want a fashionable, chic surrounding, go for Soho. If you want interesting architecture, walking over by Greene Street will give you beautiful cast-iron buildings and structures.
East Village and the Lower East Side: Hipsters, funky vibes, art galleries, street art, old buildings, strange and interesting streets and alleys, and more. There’s plenty to use as a funky, vibrant backdrop here.
5th Avenue Below Central Park: You can’t go wrong with any of these street corners here. There’s a lot of quintessential city life and hubbub here to use as a backdrop or as a subject, depending on what kind of shoot you’re doing.
Central Park: A classic and self explanatory, you’ll find naturey vibes here, benches, lakes, ponds, trees, statues and wildlife.
Photography studio in New York City: Head indoors if you’re looking for a controlled environment with plenty of light. Modern, white canvas photography studios like Daylight Studios in Manhattan can give you a more controlled environment where you’re not dealing with unpredictable factors. There are various studios or lofts to choose from that have plenty of beautiful, white natural light from all the windows. Some lofts even have attached outdoor decks on a higher floor in the building, so you get the city’s buildings as a backdrop as well as an indoor space. A modern photography studio or photography loft space is ideal; you might want to plan part of your NYC shoot outdoors and another part of it at a studio. And if you choose the loft at Daylight Studios in New York City that comes with the outdoor deck, you’ll get the best of both worlds. If you’re shooting for an actor or musician, a portrait studio rental is ideal for a controlled environment with plenty of light filtering in.
Keep some of these tips in mind when planning your next photoshoot in NYC and you’ll be off to a solid start!