Blog Archive

Winning Shots: Photography and Tips from our Snapshot Event


On December 5th we opened our doors to visitors, and their cameras, for Snapshot, a special evening event in which guests were given free range to break our strict “no photography” policy.  Visitors were invited to share their pictures and enter them into a contest on social media using #tenementsnaps. We called on friends from the New York Public Library and from The New Museum, as well as our own Vice President of Marketing and Communications to judge the winners. Emily Whetstone won 1st place scoring herself and 14 of her friends a free tour of the Tenement.

Emily Whetstone's winning photograph.

Shou-ping Yu won second place with a $50 gift certificate to the Museum Shop.

Shou-ping Yu 's lovely second place shot.

Rachel Aherin’s timeless staircase photo was awarded 3rd place. Rachel will receieve a book bundle from the Mueseum shop, curated by our shop buyers.

Rachel Ahrin's great Tenenement Snap.

With all these beautiful photographs floating around we got curious about the tricks of the trade. We turned to Tod Seelie, the Gothamist photographer who took his own beautiful shots while reporting on the event.  Tod let us ask him a few questions about what makes for a great photograph in hard to capture spaces.  Take notes!

When shooting in a small space like the Tenement Museum (or any new York apartment) what’s the are there some good cheats and tricks to getting a wide angle?

— I don’t know if there are any “cheats” to getting a wide angle other than having a wide lens. That said, having a wide lens IS the trick for shooting in tight spaces like the Tenement Museum.

Part of the fun of being in the Tenement Museum at night is the low-light. Is there something you try to remember when you are shooting at night or in a dark place?

— When shooting in a space with ambient lighting at night, you have to be careful to make sure you get a balanced exposure. Be careful not to blow out your highlights (light sources) too much, but don’t let your shadows all slip into total black either. Usually I blow out the light source a bit, and then try to work on the shadows in post.

For us amateur photographers flash can sometimes back fire. What’s a common mistake you think people make when using flash?

— I’m not a big fan of flash when shooting environments because my goal is to try to capture what it is actually like to be there, which includes how the ambient lighting looks. If you’re going to use flash I would say to try and be creative with it, and not just blast everything straight ahead. Angle your flash in a different direction, or try using some sort of diffusion to soften it’s look. Try to make it hard to tell if flash was used or not.

Shooting pictures with an iphone must be totally different than using the cameras you use for work. Is there something you really love about the limitations of a phone camera? Something you really hate? Or do you try to avoid using them?

— There’s not much I love about shooting with a phone, aside from the fact that people in public don’t react the same way as they would if you were using a camera. I enjoy that because it can allow me to be more subtle in situations where a camera might be too obtrusive. Other than that, I tend to use my camera phone like most people, just to snap little fun images to share on Instagram. If I’m actually interested in something visually, I will use my camera. When I was photographing at the Tenement Museum, I was so focused on figuring out the space and how to shoot it that I never thought to take out my phone once, I was totally in camera-mode.

What surprised you most about shooting in the museum?


—  How dramatically lit the space was at night was unexpected for me. Luckily I had anticipated it being very tight spaces, so I had brought my wide lens with me.

Thanks to Tod, our winners, judges and all our Snapshot guests. We are planning more fun events for the future. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the scoop on upcoming events and promotions from the Tenement Museum.


–Posted by, Julia Berick