Best Photo Spots in New York City

Times Square - one of the best photo spots in New York City

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

New York City is one of the most popular destinations in the world with 66.6 million visitors. Also, it’s one of the most picturesque cities in the world with more than 116 million posts on Instagram with hashtag #newyork.

In NYC you will find some of the most famous buildings. There are a lot of skyscrapers you saw in the most famous Hollywood movies. Furthermore, NYC is one of the most important cities for many businesses, especially for entertainment, media, finance, trade, etc. Also, there are also a lot of photo spots in New York City that will make your photos unique.

The good chance is that you are either visited New York City or you are going to visit it. This guide is not a “classic” tourist guide you will find on Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor. Instead, we’d like to present your guide from the photographer’s point of view. That said, you shouldn’t use this guide to organize your whole trip in New York City, but to have an additional guide for where you should take great photos and footage, in which time of day, and which gears are the best suited.

So, when you read this guide till the end you will find which are the best photo spots in New York City. Also besides that, you will know what’s the best season for visit, the easiest way to get photo spots, and our tips for travel photographers.

Let’s move to some essentials for travelers who want to get a fantastic experience of New York City as a photographer.

Table of Contents

Essentials for Photographers

Flatiron district

Photo by Lerone Pieters on Unsplash

Before we jump into photo spots in New York City let’s first quickly overview the city in order to help you prepare your trip easily.

New York City is one of the world’s greatest cities with a population of more than 8.2 million. It is located at the mouth of the river Hudson River to the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island). 

All the beautiful places we outlined here are located in either Manhattan or Brooklyn. Also, all of them are easily accessible either using public transport, either pedestrian.

The Best Time to Visit

New York is a city full of visitors during the whole year. It means that there is no particular season where it’s the best time to visit a city. We can even say that you should visit New York in all 4 seasons and enjoy the magic of the city.

However, if we need to add our personal touch, it would be springtime (from March to May) and autumn (from September to November). The reason why we choose these 2 periods is the weather.

Winter is a nice time to feel New Year’s atmosphere and get some nice photos, but winter in New York City could be cold. So if you are going to walk a lot you should prepare warm clothes Also, we need to stress that hotels are cheaper in February than in other parts of the year. So if you want to save some money, February is also a good time.

On the other hand, summer is hot and dry, so you should ensure you have enough water for walking. All in all, if you prefer mild temperatures, plan to have a long walk to explore and take photos & get some nice footage, spring or autumn are ideal seasons to visit New York City.

Tips for Getting Around

Definitely, the best way to get around is by foot for nearby distances and combine it with the subway for longer distances. Everything is very well connected by a very extended subway system.

More information about public transport in New York City you will find at Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

However you can rent a car for traveling around NYC, but for any transportation within the city, it’s basically useless because of traffic jams and parking spaces. Simply, you will be faster if you rely on the subway and your feet.

A Few More Travel Photo Tips

New York City is simply an ideal destination for city & urban photography. You will be able to take photos of street life and people. On the other hand, you will be able to take beautiful cityscape photos of the famous New York skyline and a lot of important buildings.

If we need to find one downside of photo vacation in New York City it’s the crowd always and everywhere. It means that you should find creative ways to avoid it or make it not so visible on non-street life photos. 

We can say that for most locations you will get the best photos were taken in the afternoon (around a golden hour), twilight (around a blue hour), and during the night.

Last but not least important, it’s very useful to buy a CityPASS. It enables you to see the best attractions in New York City and save a good amount of money in comparison to buying tickets for them separately. 

Some of these attractions are the Empire State Building, Top of The Rock Observation Deck, ferry access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and many more.

Photo Spots in New York City

Times square at night

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

We divided photo spots in New York City into the 3 most picturesque neighborhoods: Midtown Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Also, we ordered photo spots not by priority, but by geographical order. Because to make it easier to you to plan the routes.

Manhattan Photo Spots

Manhattan is the most famous part of New York City. In this article, we are focused on Midtown Manhattan and Lower Manhattan (downtown). Let’s move on:

Midtown Manhattan

1. Central Park

Let’s start with Central Park as a zero point. It’s one of the most popular locations for travelers and photographers. It’s also one of the most popular filming locations. Because of that, it’s obvious why it becomes a very popular NYC location for Instagram photos. 

But don’t worry about the uniqueness of your photos, because it’s very big (its size is 840 acres), and you will definitely find a spot that will make your photos (and footage) unique!

There are a lot of places within Central Park you should visit to inspire you for some beautiful photos and footage. Some of them are (by alphabet order):

  • Bow Bridge;
  • Bethesda Fountain;
  • Belvedere Castle;
  • Central Park Zoo;
  • Columbus Circle;
  • Central Park Lakes (The Lake, Conservatory Water, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, The Pond…);
  • Gapstow Bridge;
  • John Lennon Memorial;
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art;
  • The Mall;
  • Wollman’s Rink (if you are in NYC during a winter).

Also, we recommend you rent a raw boat on The Lake and find some interesting angles to take photos of the NYC skyline. Also, we recommend you rent a bike to explore Central Park.

If you want to get really good photos we recommend you avoid being in hurry. So, set aside at least 1 whole day exploring Central Park. Also, this location is really picturesque both during the day and in night, so consider picking locations to take night photos as well. 

For example, to take night photos of NYC Skyline. If you want to avoid tourists and you are an early bird, try picking early morning hours to get some nice photos.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

The fastest option is to pick up a subway. There are 8 subway stations on the edge of Central Park. If you want to start from the north somewhere around Harlem Meer, you can get off on Central Park North (110 St) or Cathedral Pkwy subway stations. On the other hand, if you want to reach it from south Columbus Circle station will work the best.

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2. 5th Avenue

Fifth Avenue is one of the hottest photo spots of New York City. It is one of the most luxurious streets in the world and heaven for shopaholics. Upperparts of 5th Avenue are even more luxurious with top designer stores and high-level luxury buildings.

If you like to feel the NYC street atmosphere it’s a great place to take some street life shoots. This location is fantastic for both day and nightlife photos, and there is no chance that this street will be empty at any time.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps 

There are no subway lines on 5th Avenue, you can reach this street via nearby subway stations. There are few subway stations in streets that cross 5th Avenue.

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3. Rockefeller Center & Top of The Rock (OBSERVATION DECK)

Rockefeller center is one of the most famous NYC tourist attractions. It’s the place where you will see Christmas tree if you visit New York City around the Christmas holidays. Also, there is one of the most popular observation decks in NYC.

Top of The Rock is located on the 70th floor and it offers a 360-degree view on the NYC Skyline. So, no matter that it isn’t the highest observation deck in New York City, the view is probably the best because there is no higher building nearby. If you can, try picking this location at sunset or at the night for the most effective photos.

We recommend you buy tickets in advance in order to avoid waiting in long lines.

How to get there

Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza

The easiest way is by subway. There are 3 stations nearby, no more than 5-8 minutes of walking: 47-50 St-Rockefeller Ctr, 5 Av/53 St, 49 St.

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4. St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in New York City. It’s one of the most visited NYC landmarks with more than 5 million yearly visitors, and one of the most interesting photo spots in New York City. It’s located on 5th Avenue nearby to Rockefeller Center (about 3 minutes walking).

Make sure you have an ultra-wide lens in order to be able to frame the whole cathedral and don’t miss taking twilight or night photos because of very effective lighting.

How to get there

Address: 5th Ave

The nearest subway station is 5 Avenue-53 St.

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5. Times Square

Times Square is one of the most famous photo spots in New York City. It definitely worth taking photos during the day, but don’t miss nighttime photos as well. There is no chance that you will see this location with no crowd, so if you want to avoid people you should emulate it and take a few long exposure photos. Of course, don’t miss taking photos of street life because people make Times Square so vibrant, not only entertainment on screens.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Get off at subway station Times Sq-42 St and you are at the square.

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6. Grand Central Terminal

It’s the main transportation hub in New York City and you shouldn’t miss it because a lot of movie scenes were taken here. Also, it’s close to other attractions as Chrysler Building. If you want to take architectural and street life shoots, you will be in a right place.

How to get there

Address: 89 E 42nd St

Subway station Grand Central – 42 St.

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7. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt (OBSERVATION DECK)

It’s the newest observation deck in NYC located on the top floors of the One Vanderbilt building. The experience is magnificent because of a lot of reflecting glasses. Also, there is a part with the glassed floor.

We highly recommend you buy tickets in advance. No matter if you will be on other observation decks in NYC, we’d encourage you not to miss SUMMIT because of the fantastic experience.

How to get there

Address: 45 E 42nd St

Grand Central – 42 St is the closest subway station.

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8. Chrysler Building

It’s a beautiful art deco skyscraper completed in 1930. Maybe it’s not as popular as Empire State Building, but it’s definitely one of the most famous skyscrapers in NYC. Worth visiting and taking photos there. 

Need to say that there is no observation deck, but you could take interesting angles from the ground (ideally with an ultra-wide lens). Also can take nice shots of the Chrysler building from the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Get off at subway station 5 Av.

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9. Vessel at Hudson Yards

The Vessel has opened in March 2019 and quickly become a popular photo spots in New York City. There are 16 stories and 80 landings. To be honest, the panorama view from the Vessel is not spectacular because surrounded by much higher buildings. But it’s pretty photogenic and a nice experience is to climb on it.

However, we need to stress that the Vessel is temporarily closed but hope it will be opened again soon. Now, you can take some outdoor shots and find inspiration for your perfect Instagram story.

How to get there

Address: 20 Hudson Yards

Subway station: 34 St-Hudson Yards.

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10. Edge (OBSERVATION DECK)

It’s another fantastic observation deck in NYC. We recommend you to visit it no matter if you have already gone to Top of the Rock. It’s located at the North Tower at Hudson Yards (the official name of the tower is 30 Hudson Yards). You will be able to get to the 100th floor and enjoy the 360-degree view

Don’t miss walking on the glass floor and taking a shoot at people down on the street with your legs in the frame.

We recommend you visit this observation deck between golden hour and night to get the most effective shots. The easiest way to book your visit is to buy a ticket in advance.

P.S. if you are an adrenaline junkie and want to try a more adventurous experience you can also try also a city climb.

How to get there

Address: 30 Hudson Yards

Subway station: 34 St-Hudson Yards.

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11. The High Line

When you are around the Edge and Hudson Yards, the best option is to continue to go walking on The High Line. It’s a relatively new attraction in NYC. Before 1980 it used to be a train line, but now it’s a park and one of the hottest photo spots in New York City. 

We recommend you walk here during the day and take some fantastic shots of both streetlife above you and the chill-out atmosphere in the park.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: 34 St-Hudson Yards.

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12. Empire State Building (OBSERVATION DECK)

Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in New York City. It held the title of the highest building in the world for 40 years (from 1931 till 1971). Today is not the highest but one of the most notable buildings of NYC.

If you want to enjoy the fantastic 360-degree panoramic view from 86th and 102nd floors we recommend you buy tickets in advance here. Try to pick times around sunset for the best photos, but these times are also the most popular, so make sure you make an early reservation, especially during the high season.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: 33 St.

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13. Flatiron Building

This is one of the oldest skyscrapers in NYC. Also, it’s one of the most famous landmarks of Manhattan. Furthermore, this building is one of the most popular photo spots in New York City. We recommend you to have an ultra-wide lens with you (either on your camera or smartphone) to play with perspective and fine good angles.

How to get there

Address: 175 5th Ave

Subway station: 23 St.

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Lower Manhattan

14. SoHo

SoHo (South of Houston Street) is one of the trendiest neighborhoods and shopping districts in NYC. If you want to take some fashionable shots or want to take some streetlife shots, don’t miss SoHo. Play with lenses if you want to take shots in interesting angles.

Considering that streets are usually narrow you should aim for an ultra-wide lens if you want to take regular cityscape photos with buildings and streets in the same frame. Make sure to see also the garden in the NoMo SoHo hotel.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

The closest subway stations are Canal St and Franklin St.

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15. One World Observatory (OBSERVATION DECK), The Oculus & The 9/11 Memorial

If you want to see the tallest building in the USA, don’t miss One World Trade Center. Its height is 1.776 ft (541 m) and there is also a fantastic observation deck located on 3 floors (100-102). There are also 2 restaurants and a café if you want to take a break and enjoy in view while you eat your favorite meal.

You can buy tickets for the observation deck here.

The second photo spot is the Oculus. It’s basically a transportation hub, but with a very interesting design and it becomes one of the most popular Instagrammable photo spots in New York City.

Also, you have to visit also the 9/11 Memorial & Museum which are located nearby.

Regarding equipment, try picking out an ultra-wide lens, but also standard wide-lens should work. You can also expect the crowd, especially in the Oculus, so you should be prepared.

How to get there

Address: 117 West St

Subway station: WTC Cortlandt.

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16. Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most known landmarks of NYC. It’s located on Liberty Island, and you can reach it by ferry. Also if you want to take nice images from the distance, you can use viewpoints at Battery Park. Don’t miss the telephoto lens or at least an all-round lens to make a nice frame.

However, if you are going to visit the island, you will need to have an ultra-wide lens (or enough wide) because you will be very close to the statue, and it won’t be easy to fit the whole statue in the frame.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

By a ferry.

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17. Piers at East River Waterfront Esplanade

When you are in Lower Manhattan, don’t miss taking photos at the East River. There are several piers at the East River Waterfront, but Piers 15 and 17 are the most photogenic. On Pier 15 you also upper level from which you can take nice photos of Brooklyn Bridge and also the skyline of Lower Manhattan. 

Also nearby you will find pier 17 which is usually less crowded. The view toward Brooklyn Bridge is fantastic, especially during sunsets and twilight. There are also a few restaurants and cafes so you can also take a break and enjoy at the moment.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

A few minutes walking from South Ferry or Whitehall St subway stations.

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18. Brooklyn Bridge

It’s another well-known landmark that appears also in a lot of Hollywood movies. And also one of the most famous photo spots in New York City. It connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

From the bridge, you will get one of the best views of Lower Manhattan. Need to say that the pedestrian zone is separated from the avenue, so it’s really nice for easy walking and catching interesting angles with your camera. However, you should expect a crowd.

If you are an early bird, try getting this bridge very early in the morning to avoid a crowd and get some nice sunrise photos. On the other hand, a sunset times, the bridge is usually very busy, but if you like street life photos, it’s also a good time to be there.

Brooklyn Bridge is also a great spot for night photos, but we need to stress that if you want to use a tripod pay attention to vibration because the bridge is usually busy with cars so micro-vibrations can make images blurry even if you use a tripod. 

So, late night is better for tripod images because simply traffic will be much lower and you will probably avoid vibrations that can make photos blurry.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station on Manhattan side: Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall.
Subway station on Brooklyn side: Hight street.

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19. Manhattan Bridge

Manhattan Bridge is another NYC landmark. Maybe it’s not so famous as Brooklyn Bridge but it’s definitely one of the best photo spots in New York City. There is a separate pedestrian/bicycle track and it’s not as crowded as pedestrian track on Brooklyn Bridge.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station on Manhattan side: Grand St.
Subway station on Brooklyn side: York St.

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Brooklyn Photo Spots

20. Domino Park

Domino Park is located in Brooklyn at East River beside Williamsburg bridge. It’s built on a place where earlier was Domino Sugar Refinery, so its look is a mix of urban and ex-industrial styles. If you want to shoot the skyline of Midtown Manhattan it’s one of the best spots. 

A combination of a wide lens for panoramic images and a telephoto lens will work the best. If you want to shoot skyline silhouette pick times around sunset. The park is open till 1 am, so it’s also a great place for night photos of the Midtown Manhattan skyline.

How to get there

Address: 300 Kent Ave

Subway station: Marcy Av.

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21. Dumbo

Dumbo is a neighborhood in Brooklyn and you will reach it when you pass Manhattan Bridge. There is located one of the most interesting locations to take photos of Manhattan Bridge – the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street.

This is a very unique place to take photos of the bridge with the angle that it is surrounded by red brick houses. You can count that there will be a lot of other people who want to take the photo in the same location.

Also, these 2 streets are fully operated, so pay attention to cars as well. This location is great for all kinds of photos and at all times. If you have enough time try picking this location for both daylight and night photos. Also if you want to avoid crowds, be an early bird.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: York St.

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22. Pebble Beach

When you are at Dumbo, move down to Brooklyn Beach Park and start your photo walking at Pebble Beach. It’s located between 2 bridges (Brooklyn and Manhattan) and enables you to take great shots toward Lower Manhattan with both bridges in the frame. 

There is no wrong time to go there, but the best photos you will take at the sunsets and after the sunset. Also, it’s a fantastic location for night photos. Be sure you keep both wide and telephoto lenses.

How to get there

Address: 65 Plymouth St

Subway station: York St.

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23. Brooklyn Bridge Park

It’s one of the nicest waterfront locations in Brooklyn. It’s also a fantastic location for taking photos of Lower Manhattan from the distance. You will find a lot of viewpoints from Pebble Beach and Brooklyn Bridge to pier 6. 

For this kind of location, we recommend you keep all lenses you have in your backpack and experiment with different perspectives. Wide or ultra-wide lenses will help you to take great cityscape panorama-style images, but don’t miss the telephoto lens. 

Also, try picking this location for both daylight and night photos because of its fantastic location and an unobstructed view of Lower Manhattan.

How to get there

Address: 334 Furman St

Subway station: Clark St.

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24. Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Next to Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Basically, you will get pretty same shoots as from the park, but considering it’s slightly upstairs than the park, you will find some interesting perspectives to take different shots.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: Clark St.

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25. Prospect Park

It’s one of the biggest parks in Brooklyn. There are several zones in the park, so some zones are great for picnics, but other zones are devoted to some other activities. However, if you love nature oases within big cities, you shouldn’t miss Prospect park.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: Prospect Park.

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26. Coney Island Beach

If you want to feel reach beach life of New York City you must visit Coney Island Beach. It’s located in the south of Brooklyn. However, if you are in NYC outside of the summertime, there won’t be such a kind of vibe, but in summer you should expect a great atmosphere. 

Also, a lot of events are hosted there, so check out here if there is something interesting to you.

How to get there

Location on Google Maps

Subway station: West 8 Street.

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3 Additional Ways to Find Unique Angles

NYC boat tours

Photo by Ana Orives on Unsplash

Boat Tours & Ferry Rides

New York City is surrounded by water, so exploit it to find some unique and more interesting angles. We recommend you take boat tours or at least take a ferry ride.

Boat tours

GetYourGuide
Viator

Ferry

Routes & schedule

Helicopter Flight

A helicopter ride is also a fantastic way to get some interesting angles. Plus, usually, you will be able to arrange a custom route.

However, you should be aware that these tours are not cheap in private tour offers, but those are definitely pay off. Group tours are cheaper, but in that case you won’t have the same flexibility as when you are on a private tour.

Also, once you are on the flight don’t presume that you should have a wide lens and keep exposure as fast as possible because this kind of shoot will be more like action photography. So, your settings will be different than when you take the usual landscape shots.

Helicopter tours

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Rooftop Bars & Restaurants

We are definitely not a gastronomical website, but considering you are (as we when traveling) constantly looking to interesting viewpoints, you should definitely evaluate rooftops. 

Also, you could use them to take a break, enjoy delicious meals and drinks, plus take some interesting shots above.

List of the best rooftop bars in NYC by The Rooftop Guide
List of rooftop bars by Secret NYC

Conclusion

New York City is one of the most visited cities, and definitely one of the cities that are fantastic for photographers.

We let you know which is the best time to visit NYC and share with you some tips to getting around. However, we didn’t go too much into other things to do, because we wanted to write it solely to be focused to photo spots. There are a lot of other websites where you will find general information, and some of them we featured.

The heart of this guide is photo spots in New York City. So, we were focused on the 3 most interesting parts of the city (Midtown Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn) when we choose photo spots. 

Of course, this is not a “full list” of every interesting photo spot, but something with which you will start exploring the city. Also, we wanted to give you some inspiration with some nice examples from Instagram.

We are more than glad to hear from you about your favorite photo spots in New York City? If there is any other place that travel photographers shouldn’t miss? Let us know about it in the comment section below.

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