Carriage ride Central Park NYC

City Photography Tips and Ideas

Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan! – Walt Whitman

I love big cities and New York City is one of my favorite cities in the world. It has something for everyone and it’s just plain fascinating in my opinion. It’s even more special during the holidays, especially with a little snow on the ground. If you don’t feel like carrying a big DSLR around, you can still take some great shots with your point-and-shoot or even your camera phone. Here are some city photography tips and ideas to motivate you to take great pictures next time you visit NYC or any big city.

Street life

Street photography is very challenging for many reasons. You don’t have much control over your subject, composition, lighting conditions, etc. You want to try to capture candid images of strangers and it could be intimidaing but also a lot of fun. And in this case you can get away with a crooked horizon and a subject in the middle. You just want to make sure you are capturing the moment.

Here is a trick I used in the pictures above. I manually pre-focused my Canon camera at around 10 feet, set my aperture at f/8 and ISO around 1200, depending on the light.  This way my depth of field range was from about 8 to 16 feet; in other words I knew that any subject within this distance will be acceptably in focus. I had the camera around my neck and kept shooting as I was noticing interesting subjects, using mostly a focal length of 28 mm on my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens. I prefer black and white for my street shots. They are more dramatic and too much color sometimes can distract from the main subjects.


In NYC for example, a big attraction is a carriage ride through Central Park. Definitely worth capturing a few shots. In fact I used one of them for the cover photo of this post. Try to find out what are the major attractions in the city you are visiting.

Museum interiors

Guggenheim Museum

If you are visiting a big city I am sure you will visit a few museums. Even though the reason you are going is to enjoy the great artwork, don’t ignore the architecture of the building. Look at the photo above. I took it at the Guggenheim Museum with my iPhone 5 using the Panoramic function, since I didn’t have my camera with me. Also check out one of my older blogs about the iPhone 5 camera here.

Store windows

Around the holidays, stores are even more creative when decorating their windows. The photo above is the holiday window of the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue.

Shoot at night

Night photography is also pretty challenging, but it doesn’t mean that you should stop shooting at night. Even if you don’t have the camera with you, just take a few photos with your phone. Cities are pretty well lit and you might end up with a decent shot. I used my iPhone 5 for the shot above.

I hope these tips and photo examples opened your appetite for some nice city photos. Next time you visit a big city bring your camera and try to capture some cool, less touristy shots. Share your best shots with the Balcony.

 Happy city shooting!

For more photography tips and ideas, check out my latest photography book, Picture (Im)perfect Photographynow available at Amazon.


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