Six Secrets to Photographing NYC



Nessa Noir, aka Vanessa Granda, is a pop art photographer who has worked with big-time clients like Uber and Reebok, all while building a following of nearly 30k on Instagram. She shares her six best tips on how to shoot in New York City.

1. Find A Location That Speaks To You

via Nessa Noir Tumblr

“I love Chinatown. It’s grimy and colorful, full of people and life. It’s not chi chi.” When location-scouting, Vanessa hits the internet and Instagram, and checks out the geotags and Explore pages. When she’s walking around and sees a cool location, she pulls out her phone and drops a pin.

2. Set Your Alarm

via Nessa Noir Tumblr

“I’m a sucker for freaking natural light. I love early daylight. People always like magic hour,” Vanessa says, about the hour before sunset, when a lot of photographers love to shoot. “I’m like ehh. The light’s too yellow. I like the soft daylight of early morning.”

3. Be Playful


One of Vanessa’s most memorable gigs was shooting an ad campaign for athletic company Bandier, whose leggings are splashed with pictures of kale, lettuce and cherries. “We bought actual kale and put it in the models’ shoes to bring some life to it.”

4. Embrace The Weirdness

via Nessa Noir Tumblr

Looking back on a visit Vanessa made to to the city in December 2014, she recalled an “aha” moment. “We were walking around Williamsburg, and we saw this person in a zombie outfit, who’s being followed by a hundred other people dressed as zombies. This does not happen anywhere else. This was people being themselves. I was like, man, I gotta move here. This is a place for the weird and the creative. This is where I fit in.”

5. Shoot Whatever and Whoever You Want!

via Nessa Noir Tumblr

Vanessa advises first-time visitors to New York City: “Walk as much as you can. Shoot everything you can. Even if you think it’s going to be a bad photo, shoot and walk.” During her regular visits to Chinatown and SoHo, Vanessa shoots buildings, food, clothes and, most importantly, people. Shooting strangers can feel awkward or invasive, she admits. “While living here, I’ve grown more ballsy. If you dress cool, you’re asking to have your photo taken.The worst thing that happens is they ask you to stop.”

6. Curate Your Instagram Feed

via Nessa Noir Instagram

“My Instagram feed is very curated,” Vanessa says, but that doesn’t mean it’s contrived. “It’s whatever I feel like. My Instagram is theme-oriented rather than picture-focused.” She likes to form collages on her profile’s main grid. “A lot of people hate it, but I don’t care. ”

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