New York is one of the most photographed — and photogenic — cities in the world, whether you’re a local, a tourist or a selfie-loving Instagrammer. But with towering skyscrapers, incessant crowds and erratic weather, it’s not always easy to capture our fair city, and that’s where Shutterstock comes in.

Metro spent a morning last week with Lisa Combs, who has been a Shutterstock contributor since 2010 and has more than 4,000 images in her portfolio on the site.

Combs shared tips for shooting cityscapes from atop the Empire State Building, building photography outside the Flatiron Building, food photography at Union Fare and capturing people and scenes at the Union Square Greenmarket, and now we pass these tips on to you, loyal readers.

Shutterstock Tip 1: Light & filters

“The first thing I do is walk around to see where the light is working for me,” Combs said on the very hazy day — not exactly ideal for clear captures from atop the Empire State Building.

 

On such days, think about shooting smaller details and even the crowd in addition to the big picture — and don’t rule out filters.

“I know a lot of old-school photographers think that’s a cheat, but we’re given these tools, why not take advantage of them?” Combs said. “Put it in Lightroom or whatever editing software or app you have to give it a cool effect. With a point-and-shoot or your phone, you can definitely have a home-run shot today. You have to work with what you’re given.”

Shutterstock Tip 2: Look around

Don’t just see what’s in front of you, Combs urged, but look up, down and behind you. 

“Look everywhere. What would be more amazing than looking up toward the top of the Empire State Building with the American flag?” Combs asked. “That’s a great shot.”

Shutterstock contributor Lisa Combs gave us tips for shooting in New York City. (Lisa Combs)

Shutterstock Tip 3: Rule of thirds

Combs is a firm believer in the rule of thirds, a basic photography principle of imagining a nine-part grid to set up the four key areas to balance your shot.

“Picture kind of a tic-tac-toe board and look where the lines meet, those are the thirds,” she explained. “If you’re photographing downtown, you might want to have the World Trade Center one of the pinpoint thirds to make it visually attractive.”

Shutterstock Tip 4: Through the looking glass

Since you may need to shoot the city from behind glass at some point, like on the Empire State Building’s 102nd story-Top Deck or through a restaurant window, “make sure your lens or phone is right up against the glass, otherwise you’re going to get some funky reflections,” Combs said.

Shutterstock Tip 5: Change your perspective

Combs is “really big” on getting down low and raising her camera up to “just change the angle and see the city in a different way.” 

Shutterstock Tip 6: Step back

To shoot the Flatiron Building, we stopped at Broadway and East 25th Street to capture not just the whole building, but the scene surrounding it before going closer for more detailed shots. 

“It tells the story when you see everything in the frame, the stoplights, the clock, the people,” Combs said. “Look for those little details and work them into the shot.”

When shooting an iconic building, be sure to capture the scene surrounding it, says Shutterstock contributor Lisa Combs. (Lisa Combs)

Shutterstock Tip 7: Make mouths water

With one of the world’s greatest food scenes, you’re likely going to eat lots of Instagram-worthy things in New York City. Combs suggests getting photos of the food in the case or on trays, the people making or serving it, and, of course, the main event.

“Get in really close, get it from different angles to catch the light in different ways and get those decadent details, these swirls of chocolate, to make mouths water,” Combs said as we shot some of Union Fare’s cream-filled croissants. “Another shot is directly overhead, which is all the rage on Instagram.” 

How to become Shutterstock contributor

To become a Shutterstock contributor, you can apply right on its website. First-timers will be asked to submit 10 original images or video that will be evaluated by a team of reviewers.

If one or more of those first 10 images are accepted, you will become an active member of the Shutterstock community. If an image or video is rejected, you'll receive specific feedback on why and will be encouraged to re-submit the content after making improvements. Once a contributor has an active account, they can upload new content anytime.

And no, you don’t need a fancy, expensive camera or equipment to contribute as Shutterstock accepts smartphone images as well. 

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