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A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

When Davina Tan moved to New York from Malaysia two years ago, she decided to take the opportunity to grow her photography skills. “I didn’t want to be sitting at home,” she says, “so this got me out and about in the city.”

 

She was drawn to New York’s classic American architecture because it was so different from what she was used to back home. “We have a lot of modern spaces in Malaysia,” she says. “So it’s the really charming, vintage, rustic interior spaces of the New York buildings that catches my eye. It’s interesting because it’s new to me.”

 

Davina’s beautiful photos of shops and restaurants in New York, Malaysia, and beyond have attracted more than 75,000 followers on Instagram. Today, she's here as a special guest to share four useful tips with photography loving Local Guides.

 

 

1. Scope out the space. Davina does lots of research ahead of time. To find beautiful places, she first browses other people’s images online. Then, she might drop in to get a sense of the interior before finally returning at just the right time (see below) to take her photos.2017-11-22 06.43.13 1-01 (1).jpegCaption: The interior of Botakliquor, an airy bar with hanging plants in in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.2. Take photos when places aren’t busy. If you scroll through Davina’s feed, you’ll notice something about her interiors: They’re mostly empty. “If there are people in an image, sometimes it can be distracting,” she says. “The viewer doesn’t know where to look, and you can’t really see the space.”

 

For restaurants and cafes, Davina recommends going around 11 a.m. on weekdays, or between 2 and 5 p.m. “That way, I can have the whole place to myself,” she says. Retail stores are another matter, since their busy moments are less predictable. “I never go on weekends,” says Davina. “Otherwise, I just have to try my luck.”2017-12-08 04.24.20 1-01 (1).jpegCaption: Empty tables inside Boucherie, a Parisian-styled restaurant in New York.3. Always use natural light, even indoors. This is Davina’s one cardinal rule. “I don’t rely on indoor lighting and I never use flash,” she says. She times her visits accordingly.2017-10-02 08.24.03 1 (1).jpgCaption: Light streams through the windows at Mettā, a restaurant in Brooklyn.4. Create clean lines. Davina has a background in design, and she says it’s a big influence on her photographic eye. “I like straight lines,” she says, “clear horizontal and vertical lines.” They help the viewer see what you want them to focus on.

 

Getting the lines exactly right can take a bit of time and sometimes several tries. “I put a lot of time and energy into making sure I get it perfect,” says Davina.

2017-12-06 11.42.32 1-01-01-04 (1).jpegCaption: Pastries arranged neatly on a table at Supermoon Bakehouse, a bakery in New York.

 

 

18 comments
LucioV Level 10
Level 10

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

HelloSamsonR Level 10
Level 10

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

Nice tips. Thanks for sharing with us.

Connect Moderator
Connect Moderator

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

These tips are wonderful! They sure will help beginner photographers like me to shoot better. Thanks for sharing @LawrenceNYC

Haseeb Level 9
Level 9

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

Your photos looks too good, I'll definitely try to follow your tips :) 

NareshDarji Level 8
Level 8

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

Nice tips and very useful. I remember this tips. Thanks for sharing @LawrenceNYC

DavidSchendel Level 7
Level 7

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

Thank you for the great advice - love the example photos!  Please let me know your camera of choice.

Fahid Level 10
Level 10

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

Good one @LawrenceNYC . Thanks for sharing!!!

MahabubMunna Level 9
Level 9

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

@LawrenceNYC thanks for your tips. i try to do this next time 

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hansrajkapoor1 Level 3
Level 3

Re: A photographer's tips to capture the secret lives of spaces

@LawrenceNYC  thanks for your tips. i Will try to do this next time