Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to getting great shots in New York City

This post was written before the COVID-19 outbreak and our thoughts are with the people of NYC affected.

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

photo credit: Ren'ee Kahn Bresler

At FOTO, we are committed to helping our fellow creatives flourish. In our Q&A style blog series, Coffee with Creatives, we are highlighting the unique expertise of some of our favorite professionals, sharing tips and information on relevant topics to bring you some practical insight and inspiration for the important work you do.

Today, we are talking with lifestyle, editorial photographer and NYC local, Michelle Rose Sulcov, to discuss tips on getting great shots in New York City!

First things first, how do you take your coffee?

Michelle: Can you believe that I just started drinking coffee recently after a seven-year hiatus! Right now I’m drinking a Cafe au lait with almond milk and sugar free hazelnut or vanilla sweetener. Yum!

Tell us about yourself & your photography business.

Michelle: I’m a native New Yorker and kitty mama. I’ve always had a love of photography which started at sleep away summer camp. I found out within my first few days at camp that I was so allergic to nearly everything there, mainly the beautiful horses that the camp was known for. My counselors put me in double periods of photography, arts and crafts and drama, and my passion was born! I continued practicing photography most of my life and studied art photography at Syracuse University where I earned my BFA in Art Photography. From there, I worked in women’s magazines for more than 10 years as a photo editor. About four years ago, I started Michelle Rose Photo as a side hustle after my friends encouraged me to try it out. I would occasionally shoot for the magazines I worked for but I still wasn’t sure if shooting would be a good fit for me. I did a few test shoots of college friends who had beautiful growing families. The pictures came out so well that I launched my website shortly after. I juggled essentially two full time jobs until the day came, last February, when I was laid off after my magazine folded its print edition. It was honestly the best thing to ever happen to me, although it certainly didn’t feel that way at the time. I’ve been lucky to tap into the NYC mama network to get my name out there and I’m happy to say my business is thriving!

What is your favorite thing about living in New York City?

Michelle: My favorite thing is that each neighborhood has its own distinct personality and that there are just SO many opportunities here.

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

From the perspective of a photographer, what makes the city so special?

Michelle: New York City is really the best city in the world and, not to sound like Stefon from SNL, but it really does have EVERYTHING! It’s such an amazing melting pot of people and cultures with the most gorgeous buildings, apartments and backdrops around every corner. Sometimes I’ll stumble across a street I’ve never seen and mark down the address so I can shoot there in the future. Did I mention there are lots and lots of people and families?!

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

Could you share a few of your go-to locations for families and couples and why you like shooting there?

Michelle: Central Park is such a photogenic place. It’s my go-to for mini shoots. It looks different every season (even year to year!) and feels so authentically NYC.

I also love what they have done with the financial district down around the Oculus. There are brightly colored walls everywhere - it’s a photographer's dream location.

Clients also love the cobblestone streets in TriBeCa and Soho. Again, iconically NYC. If you want the best views of the city in your photos, go to Hoboken or Jersey City. There’s nothing more special than a session later in the day when you can catch the city skyline in the background. I recommend Maxwell Place Park if you head to Jersey. The little beach there is so cute!

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

How often do you shoot in Central Park and do you have a preferred area you like to be in?

Michelle: It’s really my go-to spot for family portraits because you can walk around and find something new around every turn. Cherry Blossom season is truly something to capture though. It hits slightly different every year but mid-April should be a safe bet. I head in on 72nd on the east side and explore from there. 

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

Most underrated place to shoot in the city?

Michelle: Hmmm, that’s a toughie! I really think the best way to shoot in the city is to pick a spot you want to photograph and then walk around. Pan a 10-block radius and find all the hidden gems. Things are always being painted and repainted. I walked out of my local lunch spot and across the street they had painted the most beautiful grey wall and I thought, "Now that’s the perfect headshot background right there!"

Coffee with Creatives: A local guide's to shooting in NYC

Can you share about a favorite shoot you've done in the city and what made it magical?

Michelle: Another toughie. There have been so many magical shoots around the city. Two different shoots come to mind and the clients are actually friends! One was a cake smash that I did by the Flatiron building. I literally laid down on the ground so that I could get the building in the frame. There is a behind-the-scenes photo somewhere and my hair was totally touching the ground - worth it!!! Another magical shoot was in Soho, by Laduree. It was a pregnancy announcement with a gorgeous couple. It was so freezing and windy that we had to take breaks but mama was glowing and the city street backdrop was just stunning. Throw in a little baby’s breath and it was perfection.

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in NYC

For fun, your top five to-dos for a first timer in Manhattan?!

Michelle: 1) Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. There are so many great photo ops along the way! Pro tip: go super early to avoid the crowds. 
2) Have tea at The Plaza because that’s what Eloise would do!
3) Get up need to find a place with an amazing view of the city and take it all in. Check out the top of the Freedom Tower or a rooftop bar like 230 Fifth or Upstairs at the Kimberly.
4) Check out a museum. Depending on your vibe, the American Museum of Natural History is always a classic! If you are into all kinds of art then hit the MoMA for contemporary art, head to the Whitney and then walk The High Line or go to The Guggenheim.
5) Go to Central Park and rent a row boat then grab some lunch at The Loeb Boathouse and walk around the park.
Bonus: Walk down Fifth Ave and go shopping! Or window shopping at least!

Coffee with Creatives: A local's guide to shooting in New York City

And lastly, what Fotostrap do you wear? Favorite thing about it?

Michelle: The Skinny! I wanted something that would protect my neck and look great! I love the Cognac color because my logo really pops. I wear it across my body because I hurt my neck recently. It’s nice and light and doesn’t get in the way. I can’t tell you how many compliments I get on the strap - all of my friends want one!

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Want to be a guest on our series Coffee with Creatives?

Nominate yourself or someone you think would inspire our FOTO family:Nominate yourself or someone you think would be an inspiration to our community of photographers and creatives and be a guest on our blog series!

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