Life Lessons from a Camera in New York City

A visit to New York’s Times Square always gives us unique photo ops.  Times Square is the World’s stage for just about anyone – promotors, actors performing, buskers and people with a message.  An actor dressed in costume handed out off Broadway play brochures and willing posed for a photo with a leg up.The city has placed  hundreds of red metal chair and tables throughout the pedestrian sections of the square – a great place to sit and  people watch,  awe at the huge electronic billboards or sip a coffee.  We wanted to capture this mood by doing a selfie with the red chairs and signage in the background.  The subject of selfies, photobombs and photo apps was covered here in a recent Blog post.

Selfie: Anna and David in Times Sqaure

Selfie: Anna and David in Times Sqaure

Suddenly  we were  approached by two  mostly naked but wonderfully US patriotic body painted girls who surrounded David to pose for a photo.  “Well if you insist, this is my lucky day!” said David eagerly as he handed a few dollars to the girls.  Anna laughed and happily snapped away.   If you look at the photo carefully (in the background!!!) you can see were also photo bombed by a thumbs-up kind of guy.

Dave with Patriot Girls in Times Square

Dave with Patriot Girls in Times Square

We spotted some mounted New York City policemen, chatted with them and they willing offered to photograph us in front of mounted officers.  Beside the their cool Bronx accents we chuckled as they has had missed us with the patriotic women just a few moments before.

David and Anna with NYC mounted police

David and Anna with NYC mounted police

 Central Park 

Rachael’s Birthday

Have some birthday cake

On another visit to New York, we were offered cake in Central Park. Traveling with your camera helps make friends fast!  We were strolling New York’s vast Central Park at 9am on a sunny October Friday and paused at the majestic Bethesda fountain to savour the view and brisk air.

Anna spotted a young couple sporting a cute little black and white paper bag shouting  “Happy F**king Birthday”  in bold letters.  She asked if she could photograph the bag to add to our “funny signs of the World” collection and they said yes.

“It’s Rachael’s birthday today and she is my best friend” smiled a handsome young man named Allison “ have some birthday cake!”

Anna and David with Rachael in Central Park

From the naughty bag came a partially eaten fancy cake topped with burnt out candles,  and napkins, plastic forks and a knife. We were suddenly gorging on double chocolate with creamy icing.  Yummy!!  We quickly shared taking photos of each other with our cameras while others around us laughed at the impromptu celebration in the park.

We love photographing people we don’t  know, a subject covered in   a recent Blog post.

We learned they are both Brazilian – he from Sao Paulo living in Boston and arrived just an hour ago to spend just a few hours that day with Rachael a native of Salvador de Bahia and living in New York City.   They were clearly not “just friends” but were willing to share their joy with a crazy outgoing couple  at least 35 years their senior. (but act much younger?)

We strolled along and chatted together for while and when they learned we had visited and  loved Salvador de Bahia just a year or so ago they immediately invited us to stay with them on our next trip there and we reciprocated and exchanged email addresses with glee.  The two couples parted ways with big smiles and affectionate hugs and we pondered how this could all happen in just 30 minutes without a camera to create such an instant bond between strangers – another life lesson from a camera.

About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, photography and fabric arts workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images and Celebrate the World fine art gallery.  David has just published a brand new series of online travel and general photography courses, visit their blog Travel Photography Tips & Adventures for more

Selfies and Photobombs for Travel Photographers

Watching travellers across the world doing selfies and photobombs is hilarious. This post describes selfies, photobombs and tips for travel photographers wanting to join this phenomenal online and wacky bandwagon.


The Oxford Dictionary’s new word of the year 2013 was SELFIE.  Ellen’s selfie event captured live on TV at the Oscars earlier this year and tweeted moments later was re-tweeted 3.3 million times and actually crashed Twitter with volume overload for a while. Everyone’s doing it, royalty, movie stars, businesses and travellers across the world. A great tool for the Millennial “Me” generation selfies are easily created by holding your smart phone or small digital camera back towards you with friends, a goofy look or cool scene backdrop. Most smartphones have a second small camera lens at the front so you can see and set up your own image before you snap away.

Ellen's selfie at the 2014 Oscars

Ellen’s selfie at the 2014 Oscars

Pope Francis in  selfie

Pope Francis in a selfie

Photographers Ezgie Yurdakul, Anna Smith & David Smith at Vancouver's Granville Island Market

Photographers Ezgie Yurdakul, Anna Smith & David Smith at Vancouver’s Granville Island Market


Once selfies became the rage, photo bombing followed to become a fad as well. Photo Bombing is to appear uninvited in someone’s else’s selfie. Check out some of the recent photobombs by people you know and don’t know.

Jimmy Fallon and Cameron Diaz photobomb people at the Rockefeller Center

Jimmy Fallon and Cameron Diaz photobomb people at the Rockefeller Center

Even Queen Elizabeth Photobombs!

Even Queen Elizabeth photobombs!

David & Anna Smith + new friends photobomb  Peru's Mariella Tuccio in Santorini

David & Anna Smith + new friends photobomb Peru’s Mariella Tuccio shooting a selfie in Santorini. We all became happy friends after this fun selfie and photobomb adventure!


  • If using a digital camera use a wide angle lens setting. Hold a the camera or smart phone as far away from you as possible to avoid enlarged noses with the wide angle lens
  • Put people off center to see the travel scene background when needed
  • Use the camera timer or Bluetooth remote control (on smart phone) to give time to set up the shot
  • Use flash if back lit.
  • Check the shot for good composition (use rule of thirds), eyes open, chin forward – re-shoot as needed
  • Face the light! This will avoid bright back light with resulting dark faces
  • Move the bottom of camera or smart phone at or above your nose so faces look better with less “double chin”
  • Touch a face on the phone for good exposure or use face detection mode
  • Angle yourself – avoid shooting straight on for more attractive portraits!
  • Let photo bombers do their thing – a great way to make new friends
  • Use a selfie stick to create a unique travel image
  • Smile!


Ideal for travel photographers using smart phones and small digital cameras, the ‘Selfie Stick’ is a inexpensive and lightweight collapsible extension with a tripod screw mount and a smart phone holder. Selfie sticks collapse to a mere 25 cm. and extend about 1 metre to allow the camera to be held high and further away from people subjects (or unintended photobombers!). Selfie Sticks can be found at many camera and some smart phone stores stores or online (MINE COST ONLY $15 at Amazon). Positioning yourself and friends in a bottom corner by holding the selfie stick high shows more your travel location.  Well the reason you are doing this is to post on Facebook and impress your friends. Right?

Using a selfie stick in Oia Santorini at sunset

Using a selfie stick in Oia Santorini at sunset


The Pew Research Center February 2014 survey (of people who knew what a selfie was) showed that 55% of Milennial, 24% of Generation X and only 9% of Baby Boomer generations have shared a selfie on a photo sharing or social network site. Consider selfies and photobombs as part of your travel photography repertoire. You are guaranteed to have more fun, laugh and make new friends at the same time.

About the Authors. David and Anna Smith are World travel & fine art photographers, Bloggers, workshop leaders, key note speakers and cruise ship guest lecturers, Their world image archive: Interface Images, fine art gallery: Celebrate the World and Blog: Images-Connecting the World