Photographing New York isn’t always easy, and Times Square is perhaps the trickiest of all. Between the surging crowds, the glare of neon lights, and the general chaos, the landmark isn’t always camera-friendly.
Even more challenging, though, is taking a Times Square shot that doesn’t look like it could be slapped on the front of a postcard and sold for 75 cents. How, exactly, can travellers capture a sight on film that attracts millions of visitors every year – and still come away with an image that’s all their own?
To answer that question, we went to the experts: photographers whose stunning Times Square images offer new and captivating perspectives on one of the city’s best-known corners. Even if you don’t class yourself as a pro shutterbug, their tips will have you on your way to creating frame-worthy (or at least Instagram-worthy) shots during your next trip to NYC.
Photographer Chris Bandera has great advice for those visiting a popular destination for the first time. “When travelling, I was always super excited to get shots of famous landmarks. I ended up shooting from the same vantage point as everyone else and came home with the same shots as everyone else.”
But to capture a unique angle, he says that it’s actually best to begin with the clichés. “Get the prerequisite, posed (but of course still memorable) shots out of the way first. You may feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, and more latitude in skipping certain photogenic attractions [later on].”
He has another essential tip for visiting photographers: don’t worry about dragging along high-end kit with you – it’ll only lead to fatigue. Rather, a serviceable camera with a single focal-length lens will actually lead you to more personal shots: “Instead of zooming in, you'll walk closer. Instead of going wide, you'll find detail and texture – unknowingly, you'll seek more interesting and creative compositions, resulting in shots different from the rest,” Bandera says.
As several of the photographers we spoke with explained, there are always a few basics to keep in mind before setting out to capture your images: make sure your camera is fully charged beforehand, and familiarise yourself with its settings in advance. If you’re after good nighttime photographs especially, a tripod may be advised – though a portable one is always the most convenient for travellers. And check the weather forecast before you depart: sunny skies versus overcast conditions will have a big impact on the final look of your photos.
For those looking to take action shots, artist Claire Langevine advises photographing New York from the perspective of a street-style photographer. “Crouching down and letting people pass by you on either side can give the effect as though the photo is being taken from within the crowd […] I'll usually take a few minutes to observe what people are doing around me, and then start snapping away and hope that I end up with a few shots I really like.” Times Square isn’t short on crowds, and those with an interest in people watching may well stumble across some compositional gems.
And for those eager to flex their creative muscles (and who possess a bit of technical savvy), don’t be afraid to experiment with post-processing. Programmes like Photoshop offer a number of tools that, when handled capably, make for striking visuals.
Says photographer Joey Lax-Salinas, who captured the ultra eye-catching image below, “Processing my photographs is an ever-evolving art. I use a technique known as HDR photography, which allows me to capture all of the details in a wide range of light. I can capture the details in the shadows as well as in the bright lights and merge those details into a sharp, vibrant photo […] Sometimes I choose to go a bit over the top and add a more artistic, creative feel to my photos, and other times I choose to leave them sharp and vibrant while retaining a realistic look.”
Amateur or practiced snapper, New York newbie or practiced Big Apple traveller, everyone has their own perspective on the city – now’s the chance to share your vision.
What’s your secret to photographing New York landmarks? Which of these Times Square shots is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen
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About the author: ClaireBullenClaire Bullen
Claire is a born globetrotter: before relocating to London, she spent time in New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. When she's not in pursuit of the next exciting meal, she can be found haunting indie bookstores and sketching outdoors. Follow Claire @ClaireMBullen