For those of you who are not familiar with me or my photography, I live in what would be considered a rural (read: extremely rural!) part of Middle Georgia, USA. When I am not in the studio, my photography consists mostly of rural landscapes and small towns. I recently spent several days in New York, so photographing in the city was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but altogether an amazing experience. So, I thought I would impart a few simple tips for anyone who might be planning a photography trip to a large, or simply unfamiliar, city any time soon.
1. Do Your Homework
If this is your first time in the city, and especially if it is a really large city, browse images online to find out what parts of the city interest you as a photographer. For me, I have been to New York many times, but this was my first photography-related trip, so I decided beforehand which areas I was interested in photographing. This saved me a lot of hassle once I arrived in New York, and prevented me from wasting time looking for places to shoot, because I knew exactly where I wanted to go.
2. Keep an Open Mind
While having a game-plan helped me maximize my time, going with the flow and exploring new areas near the places I was photographing turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the trip. If possible, carve out some time for yourself to just wander around with your camera, because you never know when you will find exciting opportunities in unexpected places.
3. The Gear Situation
Now, the type of cameras and lenses you bring with you depends entirely on the type of photos you want to create – portraits, architectural, street photography, etc. Also, you may want to keep in mind the weight of your gear. If you are going to be walking a lot, or riding crowded subways or buses, you may be unhappy carrying around fifty pounds of gear all day. If possible, bring a prime lens and a zoom lens, as this will give you the option for portraits and detail shots (prime lens), as well as wide angle architectural shots, and candid photos of people (both of these can be done with a zoom lens). I am a film girl at heart, so I took a 35mm SLR with a 50mm lens for photographing people, and my Holga to photograph architecture and street scenes.
4. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Being in a new place with new scenery is the perfect chance to experiment with your photography. For me, I found myself photographing people more than I normally would back home. I am fairly shy, and have a difficult time photographing strangers in the area where I live, mainly because I am shooting in small towns, so I feel conspicuous with my camera. Being in a large city helped me to blend in, and gave me an extra boost of confidence to photograph strangers more than I normally would.
5. Let the Light Guide You
If, for whatever reason, you are having a difficult time creating interesting photos, try shooting at a different time of day. A location that appears uninteresting at noon can take on a completely different feeling at night. On the other hand, shooting at midday can be perfect for architectural and black & white photography, as the high sun creates interesting shadows and lines. And, when in doubt, there is always the tried-and-true golden hour (the hour just before the sun sets).
6. Last But Not Least
This should go without saying, but I feel like I should say it anyway because I know that when we get in the shooting-groove, we can become unaware of our surroundings because we are just so focused! If you are in a city that you are unfamiliar with, please be careful and aware of your surroundings, especially if you are alone or photographing at night. While one street may be safe, if you wander just a block or two in another direction, you could easily find yourself in a not-so-safe situation, so just be mindful of where you are!