- April 12, 2021
- 13 min to read
Best places for street photography in NYC
Street photography documents every day life and activity — the busy (or calm) nature of the world and the uniqueness of the people around us.
Though the phrase “street photography” might at first conjure images taken only in the street, this type of photo-taking can actually be done anywhere. You can shoot street snaps in the the subway station, the grocery store and the park. And though it generally tends to be candid style images, it doesn’t have to be!
Street photography is a creatively inspiring form of photography because you can make it whatever you want it to be. So long as it tells a compelling story and brings forth some sort of emotion, you’re on the right track.
New York City, in particular, offers an exceptional amount of opportunity for budding street photographers — with its mix of characters, places and activities. That’s why we’ve put together 10 tips for your next trip to NYC that will help you to get powerful and intriguing images.
Tip #1: Choose Your Spot — And Be Patient
New York City is a fast, crowded and lively city. At times, the energy can feel overwhelming, and getting in that perfect position where you can see and capture can be difficult. So, instead of chasing the photo, try going to one place — a street corner, a bookstore, the outside of a restaurant — and wait. Choose a spot that seems to be filled with activity and have your camera ready to snap that stellar photo when the opportunity arises.
Tip #2: Visit the Subway Stations
There is a lot of life that happens at and around the subway stations in New York City. Pay a visit to Times Square station, where the hustle and bustle of thousands of people running about will yield some busy and fun photos.
Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
When it comes to street photography, sometimes the best images are captured when you take the time to get to know your subject. If you see someone on the streets you’d like to take a photo of, don’t be afraid to ask if you can do so. If it seems hard to gather the courage and approach the subject, try starting off with a compliment. What drew you to them? Maybe it’s their smile, their fashion sense, or their positive energy.
Tip #4: Change Your Perspective
New York City is full of the opportunity for unique perspectives — which means that even an image that seems to have been taken thousands of times, can be made your own if you think about changing your perspective. Perhaps you have an idea in mind to snap a shot of a woman walking through the city streets in her high heels. Try getting low to the ground and capturing just her shoes, the way the red or orange hue of them intermingles with the lights of the taxi cabs in the distance.
Tip #5: Explore Coney Island
If you’re taking a trip to NYC between Easter and Halloween, take some time to explore the seasonal tourist and local hangout Coney Island with your camera. There, you’ll find a mix of fun, roller coasters, and sunbathers which will make for some quintessential New York City street style shots. Consider integrating rides and hot dog stands into your photos for some festive and colorful street snaps.
Tip #6: Visit 5th Avenue and 42nd Street
On 5th Avenue, you’ll find a great spot for street portraits — a mix of fancy folks intermingling with characters as they stroll about. Where it crosses at 57th Street, you’ll find the favorite corner of famous fashion street photographer Bill Cunningham with the beautiful background of shop windows and the intersection of locals and tourists from around the world. Likewise, 42nd Street, from Grand Central to Times Square, is one of the most crowded streets in New York, and the perfect place to get busy and full photos of all kinds of people.
Tip #7: Get Inspiration From Central Park
Central Park is full of incredible (and photogenic) places to capture — places that most the time, are filled with people. Between The Lake, The Pond, and Bethesda Terrace, you’ll find lots of locations good for a pretty and memorable street snap. For something extra special, take your stroll through Central Park around morning or evening golden hour, when the entire park is filled with a warm, ethereal glow.
Tip #8: Go For Layers
When you’re thinking of New York City street snaps, go for layers. What this means is that if you see an intriguing character or subject you’d like to capture, think of what makes the most interesting background. Is it best to place them on the street in front of a tree, for example, or is it more interesting to get low and layer them with tall city buildings in the background?
Tip #9: Experiment with Nighttime Photos
New York City is as magical to capture in the nighttime as it is in the daylight. If you’re looking for some creative street style shots, think about taking your camera (and maybe a friend) and exploring at nighttime. The lights will be vibrant. The people will be out and about, wandering from cocktail bars to cool restaurants — and the opportunities for street style photos will abound around you.
Tip #10: Remember “The Decisive Moment”
One of the earliest street photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the term, “the decisive moment.” In essence, it refers to that moment when everything comes together perfectly — the timing, the subject, and the click of your camera. As you venture into the NYC streets, keep the idea of the decisive moment in the back of your pocket and you’ll know when it’s just the right time to release the shutter and snag that beautiful photo.
Street photography works to capture the everyday world as it moves around us — the people, the situations, the scenery. Visit our related article to know more about travel photography workshops.
Whether you’re thinking of sauntering about in Central Park or giving 5th Avenue a visit, our hope is that these tips encourage you to get out there and find that compelling street style story.
In New York City, so much can be found through the lens of your camera. Wishing you the best of luck on your discovery of the streets ahead!