How to Take the Perfect Photo: Advice from NYC’s Best Instagrammers

nyc sunset

Want to fill your feed with beautiful images of our favorite city? It’s not just about finding great places to shoot but mastering the art of photography. To get you started, we spoke to some of the best NYC-based photographers on Instagram to get a better understanding of how to get that perfect share-worthy shot.

Let’s start with the basics, what kind of camera do you use and why?

Gigi –

I’m currently using a Nikon D7000 and two lenses, a Nikkor 18-140mm and a Tokina 11-18mm. I’ve been using Nikon since I started photography and I love it.

What makes a good photo?

artsy brownstone

Elena – @pictures_of_newyork:

So the great photo of New York for me personally is the photo of tiny and authentic quiet streets. They don’t have to be perfect, but they have to have character… Brownstones, little shops… When you feel the energy of the place. Obviously I love to take pictures of all kind of different New York, old and new, parks and and different neighborhoods… But as I said before, most importantly, my pictures have to have spirit and be alive.

What drew you to photography?

statue of liberty aerial

Marco – @marcodegennarophotos:

I was always into cameras, I bought so many throughout the years. I would take pictures and they wouldn’t look like the ones you see pros putting out. I always thought it was the camera, then I finally sat down and got into it. I bought a Sony mirrorless camera 2 years ago and then proceeded to watch hours of YouTube on how to shoot and edit. Now I shoot as much as I can and continue to learn more and more every day.  I love it and am always learning new things as I go along.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

beach birdseye

Natalie – @Misshattan:

If there’s one thing I wish I knew when starting is to take any chance meeting new creators/photographers and learn from them as much as possible. Everyone has their own spin on little tricks and tips that could make the work flow seamlessly.

How would you describe your photography style?

clock in rain

Ira – @irablockphoto:

I travel a lot and consider myself a cultural photographer. Shooting images of people that relate to where and how they live. When I am back in New York I like to roam the streets and look for different views and angles of New York City, a place that has been photographed so many times it is a challenge to find something a bit different. I love visual challenges so I always have a camera with me.

What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken and why?

central park in fall

Kelly – @Newyorkcitykopp:

My favorite photo is of Central Park in Autumn. I love the extreme contrast of the natural beauty in Central Park versus the strong architectural features of New York City.  The eternal question, man versus nature, which does the woman in the photo seek?  The peace and solitude of nature, or the excitement of this amazing city?

What are some of the difficulties of shooting in New York City?

Don – @papakila:

That’s like asking “What are the difficulties spreading butter?” NYC photographers are spoiled. I know of no place in the world where it’s easier to take a great picture. It’s safe; the lights are on all night; it has iconic architecture from one end to the other and countless spectacular public vantage points; every kind of person in the world is here and people are used to being photographed; it has every kind of weather and it’s always changing. That said, the biggest difficulty is that there are already so many good and even great images of New York City out there that one has to struggle to capture images that are truly outstanding. This is true of every creative field in New York, and it’s the challenge that gets me and my friends up in the morning and keeps us up late at night. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you have three tips for taking a good photo?

surfing nyc

John – @jtsuhar:

There are a number of variables that go into taking a good photo such as equipment, editing applications, and being curious to seeing things in different ways. When planning a composition, I try to be mindful to the rule of thirds, look for symmetry, straighten my horizon line and experiment by adding a human (or another subject) to the image for scale. I find it helpful to explore all angels by putting the subject in several different places and looking for strong colors, shapes and lines and natural light around sunrise and sunset. Moving to different vantage points creates new perspectives and getting physically close to your subject can create intimacy and an emotional connection.

More advanced photographers could start with new equipment such as polarized filters and various lenses such as a fish eye, wide angle, or macro and lead to more technical modifications like changing your shutter speed for long exposures and panning to create motion can create new effects and using a narrow aperture such as f/22 can help create sun flares and starbursts. For me, one of the most important tips is to find a balance in creating content and enjoying the moment.

Where do you find inspiration?


Craig – @Craigsbeds:

Where do I get inspiration…. That’s a tough question actually, I would say it comes from multiple sources. Tales I’ve heard, things I’ve lived through, and other people’s photography and art. I think everyone has a different eye for things, how they measure what’s important, to what is beautiful, to what is moving.

I’ve learned to trust my eye to convey what I think is amazing. I use my camera as a tool to crop out scenes of my life and what I find special. I learned and continue to learn how to manipulate my camera to take an image with how I see it in my mind…. That there is the challenge of photography, we know what we like but we don’t know how to translate that into taking pictures. It takes a lot of time to learn but anyone can learn if they truly want to. My advice to new photographers is to take many pictures and learn what your camera is capable of until it is part of you.

Header photo: John Suhar