5 tips for better street photography in New York city

My New York city tourist routine


I recently went to New York city with my family. It has now become a ritual for us. I love to go there and take advantage of the fact that I have a daughter and a wife that are addicted to shopping in the big city. When they go on their runs I do two things;

  • Shop at B and H photo
  • Do even more street photography


I have now done this routine about 6 times and it has led me to a couple of good pointers for photographers who are either shy or on the run. So here are a couple of pointers for you for street photography in the big apple.


New York city seen from the Hudson river

New York city seen from the New Jersey Atlantic Island fairy

1 ) Don’t be ashamed of being a typical tourist


I always get this feeling that I should be shooting elsewhere than Time Square and the 9/11 memorial. I remember that when I started the whole street photography thing, I felt that these places were not legit. But I now realize that street has a great deal to do with people and a little bit less to do with the place that they are taken. So what better place to take pictures than the place where the people are. Photography also has a lot to do with the story you tell and the angle you use to tell it.


2) Scout with the tacky tourbus.


Either at Times Square or around that area, there are always a bunch of vendors selling you the tour of the city. This involves a visual and audio tour in those double decker busses where the top half is cut off. These buses offer a downtown package, uptown package or even an unlimited package where you can spend the day hopping on and off buses to see what you want to see. Haggle yourself a tour. Once you get over the general touristy aspect, you will discover nooks and crannies you never thought existed in the city. Things that even native New Yorkers do not know.


Top view of pedestians in New York city

Shot taken from a tour bus down onto the streets of New York

You will also get a birds eye view of the city and hence, great angles for actual photography. The tour allows you a mental note of what to do for the rest of the day as well. New York is an overload of history, the tourbus really allows by far the fastest and most efficient way to take the city in.


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3) Walk or bike or subway to get around


Once you do scout and find out where you want to go to shoot, either walk or bike or subway. Why? Because this gives you a great picture taking advantage. Getting the in betweens. I do not know how many times I was walking to one place and just saw a shot and started to shoot. Sometimes I get more shots on the journey there than I do at the actual spot I wanted to shoot.


  • Subway: Get the all you can eat day pass and a map. Don’t worry about getting lost as well. It is all part of the fun. For the plans and schedules, click here
  • Walk: Make sure you have a pair of fantastic walking shoes and hydrate.
  • Bike: Do not bring a bike there. Use the city bikes that are stationed all around the city. Learn the rules about renting those bikes before you fly to New York. It can be a bit confusing when you are at the pay station but once you get a hang of the whole system it is extremely practical.
View of New York city citi bike app

The Citibike mobile app screenshot

4) Time is limited, but you still should not rush


Take note of where you go the first time you visit New York and try to switch it up the next time you go. This point is important because if you walk into New York thinking that you will get everything it has to offer, you will be in for a pretty terrible surprise. There is enough history to lat a month of visiting. Don’t be rushed because a rushed photographer is a bad photographer in my humble opinion.



Limosine speeding through the streets of New York

A cabby jets through New York while calm is reflected in his window

5) Look outside of your lens at times to take in what you see.


My biggest mistake as a beginner photographer was to always want to make a record of what I saw without seeing it. Part of the fun of photography is to have a story about what is in the shot. Take the time to put the camera down once in a while take it all in.


Now for the gearheads out there


All  shots were taken with the Fujifilm X-T20 and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0. I also used the Fujifilm 35mm f/2.0 fixed focal for that sharper even more dramatic look. I am a big fan of both of these lenses in every way. Just love using these lenses. I will have a video on some of the bad points of the X-T20 soon. I just find that determining focus points and the miniscule EVF are a pain. Although they can be overlooked, I wish that I had a joystick. But overall I love the images out of the X-T20 and both these lenses.

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