Times Square, in New York City, draws millions of visitors every year, most of whom take pictures during their visit. And night time is the most visually interesting time of day because of all the bright neon lights and excitement. However, it can also be the most challenging time to take photos. Read on for a few tips that will help you make these types of photos more successfully.
It's easy to be overwhelmed when visiting a new place, especially if it's crowded and noisy. Take your time and look things over. Wander around a bit and get a feel for what's there. Remember, your goal is not just to get some pictures, but to try to make something worthwhile out of the opportunity. Too often people just start shooting pictures, without much thought as to what's going on and what they'd like their pictures to say. It's often helpful to walk around the area, looking for spots that really catch your eye. Once you've done that, see how many different ways you can make photos of them. The process of looking for and discovering different angles and shots will help you make the most of any situation.
Anyone who's had a chance to visit Times Square in the last 18 months has seen the red steps. They were built as part of the new TKTS offices, and if you visit at night you'll see those 27 steps are lit red from underneath, giving them a nice glow. So go ahead and make them your first subject. Avoid the temptation to shoot just any picture that includes them, but think about how you can creatively use the steps to make your photograph more interesting. Watch how people climb to the top for the view and to take pictures. Try silhouetting them against those bright signs in the background, or walk to the top and shoot downward, of the crowd climbing them. Look at the patterns that are created by the shape and color of the steps. Try capturing just a person's feet and a few steps, for a graphically dynamic image. See what happens if you shoot at slow shutter speeds, like 1/15 of a second or slower. If you do that, be especially sure to stay steady and squeeze the shutter gently to avoid introducing blur from your action of shooting the photo. And, if your lens has VR (Vibration Reduction), be sure to have it turned on.
Don't forget that it's all those neon signs and lighted billboards that make Times Square such a special place at night. They're a visual treat and give you plenty of light to take pictures in. If you find a sign (or group of signs) you particularly like, see if there's a different angle you can use, perhaps getting right underneath it and shooting up, or zooming in for a tight shot of just part of the sign.
With the mix of light there, play with your white balance settings as well. Try the incandescent setting, the fluorescent and even daylight. Pick whichever one you like best based on the color you see on the LCD as you review your images.
And, of course, play with exposure as well. Try shooting some photos of the cabs streaming by. Turn off the flash and see how slow you can shoot. Notice what the blur looks like when you hold the camera still as the cab passes. Then try following the cab with the camera as it passes, shooting the picture. That's called "panning" and can result in some nice photos.
Whatever you do, have fun. Big city areas that are active at night, like Times Square, provide great photographic opportunities.