If you’re going to New York and the first thing in your mind is, where on earth do I find the best photo locations in a city this big? Chances are you’re passionate about photography.
My mind kept on wandering along those lines when I was planning my first trip to the Big Apple. While I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the whole city during my few days there, I certainly left the city with so many memories and full memory cards.
I usually prefer capturing quiet nature and landscape scenes before a bustling city street. Yet, I found New York to be such a fun city to photograph and I loved wandering around its streets. The biggest problem with photographing New York, in my opinion, is not that there aren’t enough places to explore. Rather, for me it’s that New York is so big and there is just so much to shoot with my beloved Canon. If you only have a few days, how do you choose?
That’s why I wanted to share my personal list of best photo locations in New York. So that you hopefully will get some ideas for your own trip.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you head out with your camera in search of the best photo locations in New York City:
- If you’re going to be in New York for several days and plan to visit more than one of the major attractions, definitely check out the New York City Pass which saves you money.
- Don’t be afraid to walk everywhere. You’ll find so many interesting things to capture when you’re on street level instead of underneath.
- And if you’re going to be walking a lot, definitely bring comfortable shoes! Always keep a bottle of water with you as you never know when you’ll get thirsty.
- It never hurts to keep some extra batteries in your pocket and make sure to charge them every night before going to bed.
- Have fun! Photography shouldn’t only be about capturing the big landmarks but it’s also about exploring and experimenting with different subjects. Even capturing landmarks from a different angle can really give you a unique photograph.
Before going ahead with my list of best photo locations in New York City, I’d also like to point out that these are my personal favorites and honestly, I couldn’t possibly list all of the amazing locations to photograph in New York because there’s just too many!
So, where to go first?
My List of Best Photo Locations in New York City (in no particular order)
- Central Park
- Top of the Rock
- Empire State Building
- One World Observatory
- 9/11 Memorial
- Times Square
- Grand Central Terminal
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Manhattan Bridge
- New York Skyline
- Lady Liberty
- The New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street
- Bonus: Helicopter ride over New York City
Like I mentioned above, I like landscapes and nature scenes. And Central Park is just that. It’s a huge park right in the middle of the city where you can walk around for hours just trying to take in all the sights. You’ve got water, trees, greenery and people here, so bring your telezoom lens and start capturing.
Some spots in Central Park that are worth visiting are:
- Bethesda Fountain
- Strawberry Fields
- The Pond
- Bow Bridge
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Location: Central Park, New York
Top of the Rock
If you like panoramic views, you should definitely head up to Top of the Rock where you’ll have amazing views over the city. This is my favorite viewpoint in New York and if you plan to go here, you definitely should make a reservation for the time you want to visit – especially if you plan to capture sunset from up here. Make sure that you are there with plenty of time before the actual sunset.
If I were to go back there, I would probably not go during the golden hour or actual sunset, just because of the crowds. But it was still worth it.
My favourite view from Top of the Rock was facing south towards the Empire State Building.
Location: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Empire State Building
At first, I had actually planned to skip the Empire State Building but since I had a City Pass, I decided to go for both locations. And I did not regret it. The Empire State Building gives you a fantastic view over New York city from the 102th floor. Before you go up there you also get a short tour.
Like Top of the Rock, this is also a very crowded place during sunset and if you’re going to visit both – then definitely choose one for sunset and the other for day photographs. Even though the views really are fantastic you’ll get more diversity in your photographs if you don’t visit these two places during the same time of day.
Location: Empire State Building, 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10001
One World Observatory
I’ve personally not been up here but I felt like I needed to include this location anyway. It gives you great views over the city and over Brooklyn – something that neither Empire State Building or Top of the Rock does. If I could change something with my first trip to New York, it would be that I’d choose to visit One World Observatory and only one of the other two viewpoints.
Location: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10006
The 9/11 Memorial is a somber place yet very beautiful and definitely a must on your quest to capture New York City.
Location: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007
Personally, I didn’t find Times Square to be that fantastic. It was mostly very busy, loud, and bright. But I guess that’s New York in a way and it’s such an iconic location that’s still worth visiting. You can get some really cool photographs here so that’s why Times Square still makes my list of best photo locations in New York.
Location: Times Square, New York
Grand Central Terminal
Train stations can be such great locations to capture people and Grand Central Station is certainly a place that photographers should visit because it’s buzzing with life. The building is absolutely gorgeous, and you can find lots of unique and interesting angles to shoot from here.
Location: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
Another iconic shot of New York is captured from DUMBO which stands for “Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass”. From here you get that “perfect” photograph of Manhattan Bridge with the skyline in the background. And as if that’s not enough, you’ll also be able to see the Empire State Building perfectly framed by the bridge. Did I say iconic New York photograph?
Location: Washington St, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11201
The Brooklyn Bridge is the most iconic bridge in New York and definitely a must for any photographer. The question is not if you should take a photograph of Brooklyn Bridge, it’s from which angle.
There are so many different places you could choose and some of the best viewpoints (in my opinion) are from Brooklyn Bridge Park or from one of the boat cruises that take you around the city.
And of course, another great location is on top of the actual bridge itself.
Location: Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Next to Brooklyn Bridge you’ll find Manhattan Bridge which is also gorgeous and definitely worth capturing. In the evening, it looks extra stunning with its sparkling lights on.
Location: Manhattan Bridge, New York
The New York Skyline
Of course, you should capture the skyline while photographing your way around New York City and there are lots of places to do so. One of the best places is definitely Brooklyn Bridge Park and if you can plan your shoot so that you’re there during golden hour or sunset, you certainly won’t regret it. But if not, don’t worry because you’ll still get amazing skyline photographs.
Another great place to capture the skyline is actually from the water. I did the Landmark Cruise with Circle Line Cruises which took me 1.5 hours. And I got some stunning photographs from a more different and unique side of New York.
Location: Various locations
It feels like you can’t visit New York and not get a photograph of Lady Liberty. However, you don’t need to visit the actual island that she lives on and honestly, I didn’t even want to go there. While it could definitely give you some cool close up photographs, the best view over Lady Liberty is from the water.
From my cruise, I got plenty of close-up views and photo opportunities from the boat. But if you don’t want to pay for a cruise, you could opt for a ride on the Staten Island ferry instead. It will also give you a great view over Lady Liberty and it’s free.
Location: Lady Liberty, Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004
The New York Stock Exchange at Wall Street
Maybe not the most typical New York shot, but it’s definitely an interesting area that not all photographers think of first when thinking of New York. But it should at least be on your list because it gives you a look at the different and more business side of New York.
Location: 11 Wall St, New York, NY 10005
BONUS: Helicopter ride over New York City
Capturing New York from above is still a dream of mine but I had to include it on this list. A helicopter ride is definitely something worth taking if you’ve got time and money, because while it’s not exactly cheap – you would certainly get some truly fantastic shots from a bird’s eye perspective.
Photogenic Parks in New York City
Here are some photogenic parks in New York.
- Robert F Wagner Junior Park
- Battery Park
- City Hall Park
- Washington Square Park
- Madison Square Park
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
- Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
- Liberty State Park (Jersey City)
Five of the Best Photo Locations in New York City that I Did Not Visit But Would Definitely Check Out Next Time
- The Flatiron Building (west side of Fifth Avenue, close to 25th Street)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
- New York Public Library
- Museum of Modern Art
- Roosevelt Island
For more travel tips about getting to New York, see the post Down and Dirty: New York here in Journeys Travel Wallet™.
by Helena Gunnare