July 12, 2017

4 Steps to Create Iconic Photos of NYC

Words + Photos : Patrick Kolts

As a New Yorker (for over 10 years now), I have become that “numb scroller” on Instagram, casually passing by those cliche shots I’ve seen a million times.

The middle-of-the-street Times Square shot... The Brooklyn Bridge jumping shot… The view of Manhattan and the old piers from the Brooklyn Bridge Park… I get bored seeing the same angle and framing over and over. But if I scroll back in my feed, I know I’ve posted the same exact, annoyingly great, shot. Iconic shots are classic for a reason.

So how can we take those iconic shots but with a new perspective? Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years to freshen my approach:




1. Embarrass Yourself!

Embarrassment is the first challenge to finding a new perspective. To see something in a new light, you’ve got to put yourself in an abnormal position. Sometimes I’m on the ground, on my knees, my back or my stomach; sometimes I’m climbing on scaffolding, chairs, benches, trees, etc. (Please don’t hurt yourself with this advice and then attempt to sue me).

The point is: sometimes you gotta act the fool to get something different! You need to be willing to forget about how you look and realize the reason why that perspective might pay off is because not everyone is willing to go that distance.

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2. Humans Are Your Friends.

Many locations are iconic simply because they’re so large. In NYC, there are so many beautifully large buildings and spaces, and it can be hard to show off their grandness.

The best way to show off the scale of something iconic is to add a person into the shot. This can be a friend who is shooting with you or a random passerby. The person will help translate magnitude into the photo, and the human element paired with the architecture creates a juxtaposition that will add visual stimulation to your image.

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3- Let The Locals Tell The Story.

Another way to change your perspective when shooting iconic locations is to show the faces of people who walk through these scenes every day. I love incorporating candid moments of people into my photos!

People use these famous buildings and landmarks everyday, so I want to embrace that realism, whether it’s a stride-by, a bicyclist, skateboarder, a cab, or even a hoverboard (Though I think the latter is illegal because they blow up). Whenever possible (and appropriate), use the surrounding environment as a backdrop, while the faces and movements of people show the iconic shot in a new light.

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4- Embrace The Elements.

For many, adverse weather is a big deterrent from going out to photograph something. Having the patience and courage to go out and embrace the elements is one of the best ways to distinguish your photos of an iconic scene from the many others.

Rain and snow stop most people from getting out of the house and on the streets, so let that be the motivation to double wrap your scarf or buy those rain boots. I like to use rain puddles to show off reflections and some of the best advice I can give is to have a little bit of fun with the weather elements. Just be sure to stay safe.

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Most of these tips I’ve discovered from shooting in the same environment for a long time! I try to remember the ol’ “you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet” mentality. Sometimes everything is off and you don’t walk away with a great reinvention, but when it does work, you feel like Jack from Titanic. You’re the King of The World! Haha, best of luck!


Patrick Kolts

Patrick is a New York City based freelance photographer and content creator. He’s passionate about helping brands and individuals tell their stories through compelling imagery.

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