Skip to content

The difference between shooting photography in LA vs NYC

Shooting photography in LA vs. NYC – What’s the difference?

Shooting photography in Los Angeles brings both opportunities and challenges that are not present when shooting in New York City. Beginning with content, New York is the mecca of street photography and the star of many epic films made on location. At the same time, Los Angeles, home of the entertainment industry, brings the lighting, weather, and Hollywood film culture that’s unique to the City Of Angels.

Photographers are always on the lookout for subjects, which often creates unique and moving street scenes. New York is famous for offering up amazing street scene after street scene. The “city that never sleeps” lends itself to photography in a unique way with its diversity and an ever-changing tableau of humanity.

Los Angeles brings a diversity of locations that go beyond street and urban photography to star a variety of sites that include sunny beaches, hillside vistas, arid deserts, exciting and culturally diverse street scenes, and carefully designed sound-stages and sets.


Lighting is more nuanced than many realize, and can be volatile and fast-changing, particularly in Los Angeles. With an average of 320 sunny days annually, Los Angeles is likely to offer up what every photographer is looking for. It’s challenging to resist natural lighting, but it is essential to remember that natural light casts shadows and can change in a moment. Many people prefer a studio’s controlled environment but are lured outside by the fascinating range of locations that Los Angeles offers.

Winter skies and tall buildings can create low light conditions in NewYork City. These can result in beautiful images. The main issues are that longer shutter speed is required. This can result in camera shake (use a tripod) or underexposed images that lack shadow detail. Shooting landscapes when the light is low (the golden hour) can be ideal. Shooting in black and white can yield amazing photographs, once you learn to “see” in monochrome.

Shooting at night in New York City can be much more interesting than during the day. There is a glow that makes everything seem more vibrant and alive. The camera will pick up more than your eyes, and using long exposures, you may even get light trails in your nighttime image. Street scenes move very quickly, and finding the right balance of shutter speed and aperture to catch the perfect light for your image takes practice.




Los Angeles has a wildly diverse range of iconic locations and a coastline that spans miles, topography that includes the desert, sand dunes, and urban spots. The cultural centers and unique location opportunities are vast. As the film industry’s home, the city offers a rich talent pool and an excellent filming and photography infrastructure.

When it comes to filming, Los Angeles eclipses New York City in terms of the pure volume of TV and film being shot. Los Angeles offers most anything a photographer could want in terms of breathtaking vistas, a rich city underbelly, luxurious mansions, and lush city centers. Some of the most popular locations to shoot photography in Los Angeles are the famous Hollywood sign, Malibu and the iconic Malibu Pier, Venice Beach with all of its eccentricities, or the azure waters and rock formations of El Matador State Park. The many production companies and location scouts in Los Angeles will make it easy to cast your perfect location.

The City of New York has been home to many iconic films and offers a rich tableau of subjects and locations around every corner. From Times Square to Grand Central Station or the Empire State Building, or the gritty underbelly of New York, the city is awash with photographic opportunity. New York City is considered one of the top 10 cities for street photography in the world. It is full of iconic street images most any time during the night or day. It’s tough to find a scene in the city that is not full of distractions, and city shooting requires a unique talent and focuses on harnessing those distractions and weaving them into the photographic story. Whether its traffic, trains or the fabric of humanity, the opportunity to add to your story in New York is rich.

Some of the iconic locations that frequently find their way in front of the lenses are the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station, or the natural beauty and respite of Central Park. Some of the less recognizable locations are the multitude of New York streets, a plethora of local restaurants, or fashionable and trendy shops and ethnic neighborhoods. The Hamptons pull back the curtain on the charming and wealthy villages and hamlets of the super-rich just outside of the city.

Talent and Headshots

Looking at the difference between Los Angeles headshots and New York City headshots offers an interesting microcosm of some of the critical differences between shooting in these two robust and cultural cities.

Headshots done in NYC are often darker and more serious than those in LA. Even the wardrobe is different, with New Yorkers wearing more black and dark colors with a chic and minimalist feel. The images are often shot in a studio with more shadows and mood. You’ll see more natural light used and warmer tones in LA, with the subject on more colorful and provocative clothing. This tonality makes for an interesting contrast between the style and the tone of the two cities.

Weather and seasonality

Headshot of long haired woman posing for the camera holding the rope on a bridge
shooting photography in la vs shooting photography in nyc Black and white of man near underground subway entry
Off White Black and white pf view through windshield of a car looking out
Haute House NYC 5.63.1

Each season in New York is vastly unique. With the changes in weather come profound changes in lighting, temperature, the dress and posture of the people, and the landscape itself. The holidays bring the magic that is unique to NYC and a bustle that is palpable. Rains and harsh weather can be limiting in terms of ideal shooting conditions.

Of course, Los Angeles has its seasons as well, but it may take a true Angelino to catch the subtleties of the seasonality of this city. Seasonality puts few restrictions on your shooting but also limits much of the diversity, interest, and range that East Coast seasons can offer. Winter sunsets and sunrises in LA are legendary. With over 300 sunny days, the opportunities for year-round photography are ample.

Permits, licensing, and safety.

Some legal considerations that will apply whether shooting in NYC or Los Angeles.

When shooting simple photography in public, a model release is not always required but, be sensible. People are entitled to a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” In other words, no window peeping, and if a subject waves you off, respect that. When in doubt, ask and get a release.
Places considered “public” might not be! Theaters, shopping malls, or restaurants, for example, may have restrictions applied by the owner, which they have every right to do. Other “public” locations such as airports, museums, or courthouses may also have limitations. When in doubt, ask!
Talk to the film commission about any permitting or licensing required.

Safety tips

Be smart about where you shoot and how you carry yourself. Carrying lots of equipment or shooting in more deserted times and spots can make you a target. Use your head.

Be careful crossing streets, and watch for bicycles as well as cars.

Regardless of where you shoot, both New York and Los Angeles have very active film commissions that will provide guidance and direction on all you need to know about permitting, licensing, insurance, and more when shooting in New York City.

Whether you’re working on the West Coast or the East Coast, a full-service agency like C&I Studios will know how to select the best locations, lighting, timing, and talent for your photography shoot.

Hide picture