NYC Secrets: 6 Off-the-Beaten-Path Street Photo Locations From a Pro Photographer

As a lifelong New Yorker, street photographer, and certified tour and workshop guide, I've walked and explored a lot of the city over the years (and yet I still have so much more to see). New York is the type of city where you can capture a once-in-a-lifetime photograph anywhere you go, yet I find myself continually going back to these six locations because of how fun, vibrant, and interesting they are to experience and capture. Read on for my picks for the best off-the-beaten-path places to photograph in NYC.

black and white skyline manhattan lower

Photo: James Maher

1. Prince and Broadway in SoHo

James Maher Broadway and SoHo

Photo: James Maher

This is my favorite corner in the city for people watching. No matter when you arrive, the corner of Prince and Broadway will always be packed. Hang out on the corner (from 3pm and on is when it starts to get particularly crazy) and watch some of the trendiest New Yorkers in the city navigate through a neighborhood that is now pretty much just an open air shopping mall. After your brain gets fried from too many people, walk two blocks east to the much quieter Greene Street, with the most beautiful cast-iron architecture in the world.

2. Coney Island

James Maher Coney Island

Photo: James Maher

The favorite neighborhood for every street photographer in New York: head to Brooklyn's Coney Island during a warm day. Photograph the beach, the boardwalk, the people, and the old buildings. Make sure to stay into the evening when the shop lights begin to sparkle and things really get going. Coney Island is a people watcher's dream.

3. Bushwick

James Maher Bushwick

Photo: James Maher

Much of the neighborhood of Bushwick in North Brooklyn has been turned into a street art and graffiti paradise. Go to the Morgan and Jefferson stops on the L train and just walk in a 5-by-5 block radius from each stop. You will see an entire neighborhood filled head-to-toe with jaw-dropping murals. There is also a lot of industry here as well, which is great to see and photograph.

4. Lower East Side

James Maher Lower East Side

Photo: James Maher

The Lower East Side is a neighborhood of contrasts. On one side are the old gorgeous-but-dirty tenement buildings with stunning carved stonework. Long timers and old businesses litter the neighborhood and are fantastic for photography. On the other side are the new glass skyscrapers, hotels, galleries, and bars and clubs filled with trendy people. There is just so much to photograph here. If you are brave, go do some street photography on a warm weekend night and you will catch crowds of people going crazy in a club-filled area around Ludlow and Rivington streets that residents have dubbed "Hell Square."

5. Columbus Park

James Maher Columbus Park

Photo: James Maher

Join the Chinese chess and poker players in Columbus Park. Smack in the middle of Chinatown, the park lies over what was once the heart of the Five Points neighborhood, once the most dangerous area of Manhattan and made famous by the movie Gangs of New York. Visit on a warm day and you will find a park packed with hundreds of people playing games, gambling, listening to music, and dancing. The chess players and musicians are usually fine with being photographed as long as you do it politely, but the card players and tables of women are more sensitive about it, so please be respectful.

6. Manhattan Bridge

James Maher Manhattan Bridge

Photo: James Maher

Forget the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge is where it's at. This is my favorite walk in the city. From the Manhattan side, walk the pedestrian path on the right side of the bridge. You can either walk the entire way and head to the Brooklyn waterfront or you can stop at the halfway point and return back to Manhattan. The bridge has some of the most beautiful sights in the city, from the old Chinatown streets, tenement buildings, and incredible graffiti, to the Brooklyn Bridge and the sparkling skyscrapers of the Financial District. The halfway point has the most beautiful vantage point of the Brooklyn Bridge in the city, and you will usually find yourself only surrounded by a couple of people, instead of the hoards of selfie-stick-wielding maniacs on the Brooklyn Bridge. 

James Maher is a street and cityscape photographer who sells fine art prints of the city. He gives popular private New York photography tours and workshops where he will take you to off-the-beaten path locations and teach you about street and cityscape photography while giving historical accounts of the areas. He is also offering his NY Photographer’s Travel Guide free to City Guide readers.

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