A Top NYC Street Photographer's 5 Favorite Backdrops
Steven Irby, aka Steve Sweatpants, is co-founder and editor-at-large of Street Dreams magazine and a true New Yorker, via Flatbush. He travels the world on the regular, but his favorite location is home, so we asked Steve to show us around his favorite places to shoot, give us his top Instagram-boosting tips, and camera test Coach's new fall men's collection. #nofilter.
Riverside Drive ViaductHarlem
West of the 125th St station is an immense overpass running along 12th Ave; impressive from the side alone, the real appeal of this spot is the incredible symmetry underneath the viaduct, which can be fully appreciated looking south from 135th St. From there, the arches stretch down the avenue like a tunnel made of spider webs, appropriate considering the viaduct’s cameo in The Amazing Spiderman.
Protip 1: Turn your phone
“There’s more real estate on the screen,” says Steve, who recommends portrait over landscape for Instagram greatness, even with the update to the app that now allows both formats.
Bethesda TerraceCentral Park
Bethesda Terrace, at the heart of Central Park, is one of the most nostalgic places in the city. “These tiles have been here for a long, long time," says Steve. "I’m a big fan of the texture, and at nighttime, it’s completely different inside, with an orange glow -- good to shoot anytime of the day.” Down the steps leading into the terrace is the perfect place to snap a framed shot of the Bethesda statue through an arch, the buskers singing there, and the occasional Boston Terrier.
Protip 2: Go slow
“A lot of photography is people watching,” says Steve. Also pay attention to the vibe, as well as the buildings and landmarks, and make time to catch the perfect light.
Grand Central has been documented top to bottom but the neighborhood around it, stretching down to Tudor City, is filled with details that go overlooked while tourists crane their necks upwards. Passing by the Chrysler building, Steve stopped to snap a shot of a cluster of glass pyramids that reflect the entire street instead.
Protip 3: Don’t get boxed in
“Break something down to build it back up again," says Steve. "Shoot with honesty. Put someone in your shoes.”
The Bloody AngleChinatown
Doyers Street is one of the only few curved streets in Manhattan, curling off Pell into a little microcosm of Chinatown. “Every building is a different color, mixed on top of the grime of NYC. The cool bend on the corner works wonders for shots. The smell is incredible too.”
Protip 4: There’s another app for that
“I don’t use filters,” says Steve. Instead, opt for editing software like Lightroom (“a simplified Photoshop”) or Snapseed for more precise clean up than Instagram’s editing tools.
The Manhattan BridgeLower Manhattan
The views of the East River, Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side alone make the Manhattan Bridge a perfect place to shoot, but it's also a favorite for its scale and symmetry. It encompasses one of the things Steve prizes when he take photos: structures that show "how big the city can be."
Protip 5: Don’t over edit
It should be “for refining the shot, not overpowering it,” says Steve. If you didn’t get the right light, don’t bank on forcing it in.