Whether you like architecture, street, urban, or long-form documentary photography, there’s a subject for almost every photographer in New York. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another city with such a concentration of diverse and inspiring places. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Central Park are among the most photographed places in the world. But there is so much more to New York City.
If these tourist locations don’t grab your attention, head off the beaten path to the streets of the Bronx or Queens, where equally interesting subjects await observant photographers. Let’s take a closer look at these places.
Although New York doesn’t have the long history of European cities, it’s amazing what has been built here since 1624 and continues to be built. The city is unique in its dynamism.
Whenever you visit, you can see plenty of new buildings and rapidly changing neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are revitalized and affluent, while others are falling into poverty and oblivion. The light may be the most interesting to photographers. Beams of light make their way between the giant skyscrapers and illuminate the street as if you were watching a theater stage.
1. Iconic bridges
You’re probably familiar with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is great because you can walk along it without cars rushing past you (they are below you). You get panoramic views of Manhattan, New Jersey, and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance. This colossal bridge is best enjoyed in the early morning. Not only because of the best light, but also because there are fewer tourists.
If you look at a map of New York, you see lots of other bridges. All have great architecture and unique views. Some of the most interesting are the Williamsburg Bridge, Queensboro Bridge, George Washington Bridge, and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. If you set out exploring, always make sure the bridge is open to pedestrians.
2. Crowded streets
If you’re tired of walking and have had enough architecture, just sit on a bench and people-watch. You’ll see a plethora of different ethnicities, religious groups, and fashion styles. Unfortunately, you’ll also see diversity in the social status of the residents. New York is far from being just about beauty. There is a lot of poverty and homelessness.
Don’t be afraid to ask New Yorkers to take their portrait. People are open-minded and there’s a good chance they’ll agree. You can also shoot stealth street photography, play with color and light, or use different reflections or effects such as steam rising from the sewers.
3. New York from above
At a certain point, you’re bound to feel the urge to step out of the shadows of the giant skyscrapers and see everything from above. For many, this is one of the highlights of the entire trip. With the desire to see everything from above, there is also the dilemma of where to go for the best view.
If I had to recommend just one building, it would be the Top of the Rock, the observation deck at the top of the Rockefeller Center. There are certainly more popular options, such as the observation decks at the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. Both are great, but the iconic Empire State Building is better seen and photographed from a distance, rather than from its top. For that reason, Top of the Rock is your best choice. The observation deck has open spaces between the glass where you can stick your lens through and shoot unobstructed.
You might want to consider one of the new additions, The Edge. This observation deck gives you a different perspective and reveals a great view of the Hudson River. However, all of the above-mentioned observation decks need to be booked several days in advance, especially if you want to experience them during the morning or evening light.
If you want to see the street from above, but don’t want to go to the tops of skyscrapers, take a walk along the High Line. It’s a 2.3 km-long hanging park that was created where the tracks connecting local factories once ran.
4. A slice of nature in the middle of the city
Yes, you guessed right, Central Park. In the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities lies an oasis of peace and tranquility. You can spend all day in Central Park and watch New Yorkers relax. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by fascinating panoramas of skyscrapers rising from the densely planted trees. At this stage, it’s a good idea to put the camera down for a bit and catch your breath.
5. Lesser-known places
So far, we’ve talked mainly about the most visited places that are concentrated in one borough, Manhattan. If you want to escape the crowds, you don’t have to go far. New York City is huge and even in Manhattan, you can find quiet places without tourists.
If a slightly different New York is what draws you and you want to see what everyday life is like for most New Yorkers, I recommend heading to residential areas like Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Queens.
You may be asking why I’m sending you to the Bronx when it has such a bad reputation. Times are changing, and as I already said, New York is extremely dynamic. The Bronx has undergone many changes and is now a borough like any other, with both good and bad neighborhoods.
It’s always a good idea to do some research on specific neighborhoods beforehand. In the case of the Bronx, you can’t go wrong if you explore the Grand Concourse, a wide boulevard lined with brick buildings and French Art Deco architecture.