Okay, I know this is a bit bold but I’m just gonna come out and say it. Because if you’re reading this local’s guide to some of the BEST NYC photography spots then chances are that you’re probably thinking the same thing.
So, here goes nothing.
New York City is probably one of the GREATEST cities in the entire world.
Phew, glad I got that off my chest.
But seriously, it’s definitely true. and due in no small part to the fact that there are literally an infinite number of amazing, New York photography locations that await you as you explore this magical metropolis.
And while I can’t create a guide to every single NYC photography spot known to man (because yes my dear reader, we would call that a BOOK):
I can introduce you to some of my absolute FAVE New York photography spots.
All of the super cool places that I myself go when I want to Instagram it up and feel like a pseudo-Carrie Bradshaw, at least if she were a fashionably challenged, financially unstable, debt-riddled New Yorker such as myself.
I’ll even throw in some extra, super-secret photography tips that will help you capture the awe-inspiring architectural and natural beauty of this iconic city.
By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to take some truly epic, NYC photos that would make even Ansel Adams himself jealous, if he were in fact, still alive.
Okay, I kid.
Maybe not THAT good since I don’t claim to be anything close to a pro-photographer.
These tips will definitely help you take some epic photos that will make your Instagram fandom swoon with envy.
If you’re ready, then hop aboard this photographic journey of NYC with me.
Just be sure to grab a moist toilette first since the NYC photography tips are about to get HOT up in here!
I just had to let my nerd flag fly free for a minute there so that you are 100% aware of what you’re getting into before reading this post.
(insert lame winkie emoji here)
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
***Not sure where to stay in NYC? Then check out 414 Hotel (Rooms at this chic, Hell’s Kitchen hotel start at $159 per night and include fridges, flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. There’s even a working fireplace in the lobby!), The James New York(Chic, modern rooms at this Soho hotel start at $177 per night and feature high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, plush linens made from natural materials, and more), The Bowery Hotel, (Rooms at this 5-star, Nolita hotel start at $300 per night and are cozy, but stylish, with free Wifi, free bike rentals, exquisite city views, and more). and Pod 39 (Located in Murray Hill, this pod hotel sits inside a residential home from 1918. Rooms here start at $120 per night and are cozy and outfitted with queen-size beds or stainless-steel bunk beds with individual TVs and bedside shelves).***
1. Washington Square Park
I LOVE Washington Square Park.
Okay, I may be ever so slightly biased since my all-time FAVE cupcake place, Molly’s, sits right along the perimeter of the park, but whatever.
That still doesn’t diminish the greatest of this iconic, NYC greenspace.
I mean, not only is this place next level beautiful (and the perfect spot to do some NYC photography), but its also a super chill area, near NYU, where you can find an eclectic collection of college students riding skateboards, artists creating masterpieces, and street performers trying to wow you with their latest, death-defying feats of wonder.
Throw in some exquisite, historic brownstones and you have the perfect combination of NYC realness with architectural grandeur.
And while there are a thousand and one ways to photograph the arch here:
My personal fave is to stand in front of the arch and use it to frame the Empire State Building while looking up Fifth Avenue.
Just one of those immortal, New York shots that never really gets old.
Now, if you really wanna impress your Instagram groupies, I mean followers, just do a super cas (aka casual) pose in front of the fountain, like you just happened to stumble into Washington Square Park in your finest attire.
“Oh hey, whoops, I just happened to roll out of bed with a face full of makeup and a perfectly quaffed head of hair because yeah, I really am THAT awesome.”
No worries though:
Your secret is safe with me. Because as far as I know, you really did roll out of bed looking THAT fabulous.
If you can, do try and get here early (like before the sun rises early) so that you can snag some photos before all the local college kids come to and do their immortal, walk of shame across the park.
Yeah, there are some things that I definitely do not miss about college.
2. Times Square
It’s a secret to absolutely no one that I LOATHE Times Square.
Between the hordes of tourists, the grown adults dressed up in costumes (so they can charge you a small fortune to take their photo), and the tourist traps aplenty, I’d be perfectly happy if I never set foot in Times Square again.
I’m also not visiting on holiday, looking for all of the top places to do some NYC photography.
And you are!
Besides, Times Square is basically synonymous with NYC and draws in more than 50 million tourists a year for a reason!
Because when you add the glitz and glam of Broadway’s immortal lights to just the right amount of traffic and chaos, you get a place that perfectly represents the city that never sleeps.
You’ll get an amazing bird’s eye view of the very epicenter of New York City, and all while avoiding the throngs of selfie-stick wielding tourists that crowd the streets below.
You’ll get non-existant brownie points if you stop by during the evening since the multitude of bright lights here make it the perfect place to do some brilliant, night photography.
3. The Oculus
No list of top NYC photography spots would be complete without The Oculus; an exquisitely designed, transportation hub that sits at the heart of the new, World Trade Center.
Created by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava:
This bright, modern, and totally symmetrical building has a gorgeous interior that is meant to resemble a winged dove, with the awe-inspiring white, steel, and glass structure of the Oculus at the center of it all.
And while I don’t really get a winged dove vibe when I look at this place:
What I do get is an insane level of beauty that is a must capture for any and all budding photographers out there.
If you take a moment to step outside and walk around, you’ll be able to get equally incredible shots of the building’s exterior, both in the evening and during the day.
I love photographing this building in the evening when the bright white of the interior provides a sharp contrast to the darkness of the evening.
Just do yourself a favor though and try to visit as late in the evening as possible.
This way, you can avoid the crowds and snag a highly sought after middle spot along the expansive landing that overlooks the entire building.
4. The Highline
Is there anything cooler than an old railway track that has been artfully repurposed into an above-ground walking path, art gallery, and greenspace?
And in case you’re wondering:
The correct answer is no since that’s exactly what the Highline is and yeah, it’s kind of sort of flippin’ awesome.
It’s also located along Manhattan’s beautiful west side.
Which means that this picturesque, pedestrian pathway will take you through NYC’s idyllic Chelsea and Meatpacking districts, providing you with sweeping, panoramic views of the city along the way.
And because this park is over a mile and a half long:
Be prepared for a ton of amazing photo ops since this structure has an incredible amount of photographic diversity that enables you to shoot out over the river, take photos down the Highline, or get that immortal shot of the Manhattan skyline itself.
Because yes, the photographic possibilities here really are endless.
If you can though, do try and get here as early in the morning as possible (like when everyone else is still looking at nothing but the inside of their eyelids), so that you can procure super snazzy photos of yourself stomping down the Highline (a la Tyra Banks) without 5 billion, selfie stick-wielding tourists walking through your shot.
I’m a very anti-morning person but a little sleep deprivation is something that I’ll gladly deal with for an iconic shot of NYC’s Highline.
***Feeling a bit hungry after all this NYC photography? Then stop by Artichoke Basille’s pizza, on 10th Avenue, or eat your way through NYC’s immortal, Chelsea Market.***
5. Grand Central Terminal
Next stop on this little NYC photography tour of ours?
Why Grand Central Terminal of course! Because with a bright, turquoise ceiling that is studded with star-like lights that seem to twinkle in the sky, how could we NOT photograph this amazing place?
Good, glad we agree on the important things in life. LOL.
And while the ceiling here is truly spectacular, it’s also super difficult to capture on film since the “stars” don’t really come through in photographs.
I tend to avoid this shot and photograph the iconic, central information desk (from the mid-platform that sits along the stairs on either side of the terminal) or the magnificent, exterior of the building instead.
The architecture here has this old-world style about it that gives this place an almost European feel; an aesthetic that truly is gorgeous to photograph.
For an almost perfect shot of the building’s exterior, just exit the building at 42nd Street and walk up Park Avenue until you bit either East 41st or East 40th Street.
Walk to the middle of the road and stand on the island in the center of the street to snag a uniquely amazing photo of Grand Central.
Bonus points if you can manage to get an iconic yellow cab in the shot too.
***Grand Central Terminal also offers fantastic pay what you wish tours every Sunday at 10 am. The tour runs for about two hours and is super informative. But, if you’re interested, definitely make a reservation first.***
6. DUMBO (AKA Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass)
Chances are, you’ve probably seen this iconic shot of the Manhattan Bridge splattered all over your Instagram feed about a thousand times.
And trust me, there’s a reason for that.
I mean, just look at this photo and you can immediately see why everyone in the Insta-sphere is totally obsessed.
You’ll obviously want to stop by the Brooklyn neighborhood of DUMBO and capture this photo for yourself.
To do so:
Just hop on the F train and get off at York Street station.
Just head to the intersection of Washington Street and Water Street and TADA!
Just whip out your camera and let the magic happen for itself.
Now, because this shot is so popular among tourists and locals alike:
Do try and get here SUPER early in the morning.
Be prepared to wait your turn as everyone and their brother’s, sister’s, cousin’s, ex-boyfriend tries to get this shot for themselves.
Before you leave, don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront (after stopping at Juliana’s for an awesome piece of pizza) so that you can get an amazing, panoramic shot of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
7. The Flatiron Building
I’m not gonna lie to you. I am most definitely NOT a pro-photographer.
But chances are, you probably aren’t either. Therefore:
Welcome to my world and learn from my crazy mistakes, like trying to photograph the Flatiron Building from straight on.
Definitely not a good idea since, not surprisingly, you can’t really appreciate the unique shape of the building from that angle.
Which kind of defeats the whole point of the photo.
Instead, try to take a photo from the left side of the Flatiron building (when facing the building) while standing as far away from the structure as humanly possible,
Well, have you ever taken an amazing photo, only to have Instagram’s wonky dimensions completely destroy it?
Yup, me too. THE HORROR!
And sadly, that’s pretty easy to do at this NYC photography location since the Flatiron building is quite slender and tall, making it only natural that you’d want to take a vertical shot…that will only get cut off by Instagram.
WOMP, WOMP, WOMP.
Therefore, keep the dimensions of Instagram in mind when shooting and try to take a horizontal, distance shot instead.
There really is nothing more disheartening than taking an amazing photo, only to have half of it cropped off by Instagram.
Yeah, thanks Instagram.
Just another reason why I have a very love/hate relationship with you, you social media vixen you.
8. The Vessel
Probably the NEWEST addition to the NYC photography scene is the Vessel, a wonky-looking, beehive-shaped structure that has become the ultra-fab centerpiece of the city’s new and improved Hudson Yards.
Feel free to be duly impressed (LOL).
In truth though, The Vessel is one of those buildings where you’ll see it for the first time and probably won’t be sure if it’s pretty pretty or pretty ugly.
Regardless of how you personally feel about this structure, it’s still a super cool place to do some photography since the design of the building really is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before (Scout’s honor. And yes, I really was a girl scout).
If you’re looking to get your cardio workout for the day, you can also climb to the top of the ultra-funky, spiral staircase inside and get some truly unique, panoramic shots of NYC’s Hudson Yards and nearby waterfront.
Climbing The Vessel is not for the faint of heart (literally) since you’ll have to tackle a solid 2,000 steps if you want to make it to the top.
But, on the plus side:
This creative, new, immersive art installation is totally free and open to all!
However, before you start breaking out your celebratory pair of jazz hands:
Do be aware of the fact that you will have to pre-book your tickets online, at least 2 weeks in advance.
If you like to live dangerously, you can also try to score some same-day tickets when you get there.
However, not surprisingly, there are no guarantees that you’ll actually get tickets.
But, what I can guarantee you is that for the BEST shot of the Vessel go to the left and rear of the structure (if you’re facing the river).
You’ll find the perfect photographic angle since you can capture the entire structure, and all without tons of people in your shot.
Everyone’s WAY too busy photographing The Vessel from straight on to be bothered with walking ALL the way to the other side of the building.
Do try to visit around dusk so that you can enjoy pure, unadulterated, lighting perfection.
9. Bushwick Collective
The Bushwick Collective:
Putting the FUN back in funky NYC photography since, well, I have no idea when.
But regardless of when the Bushwick Collective was actually started:
It’s still an amazing, urban artspace in Brooklyn where you can do a bit of street art-inspired photography.
Not only are the pieces here insanely colorful and truly beautiful to photograph, but they’re also constantly changing.
No matter how many times you decide to stop by, you’ll always have something new and fun to photograph.
If you really wanna embrace your inner Instagram maven, then stop by The Bagel Shop on your way to the Bushwick Collective since they are the home of the ORIGINAL rainbow bagel with birthday cake cream cheese; a totally Instagrammable food in NYC that is beautiful to photograph but even MORE beautiful to eat.
NOM, NOM, NOM.
10. Temple of Dendur at The MET
I feel like picking a favorite NYC photograhy spot is like choosing your favorite child.
It just can’t be done! But:
If you twisted my arm and threatened to rip out all of my fingernails (Gosh, this post has taken a gruesome turn. Thanks Homeland), then without a doubt, the Temple of Dendur at the MET would be my all-time fave NYC Instagram spot.
Why? Besides the obvious fact that this place is totally amazing.
Well, one word, dynamic. I mean, in one shot, you get the combined beauty of an ancient Egyptian Temple (Yup, the entire temple was literally picked up and transplanted to NYC from Egypt), a serene pool of water, and a swath of angular, floor to ceiling windows that let in copious amounts of natural light (the only type of light that photographers actually care about).
If you can though:
Try to beat the crowds and visit as early as possible on either a weekday or weekend morning (the light in the morning is better anyways).
If you’re a perpetual anti-morning person, like me, and the crowds are a bit intense when you finally manage to get here, then just stand with your back to the temple and have someone take your photo from the left.
You can still get a fantastic shot that includes the floor to ceiling windows, the statues leading up to the temple, the temple itself, and the surrounding fountain.
Take this shot and you will have just attained total baller status when it comes to NYC photography.
***PSST: If you have time and are at the MET during either the spring or summer, then head to the MET’s rooftop bar for insane, panoramic views of Central Park. Oh, and if you’re hungry after your visit, skip the MET’s overpriced cafeteria and visit Russ and Daughter’s at the nearby Jewish Museum for delicious, NYC-style bagels.***
11. Central Park (at Bethesda Fountain)
In case you didn’t know, Central Park is HUGE. Yeah, like Titanic level big.
I couldn’t just put Central Park on this NYC photography guide and call it a day. I had to be a bit more specific if I wanted to be of any help to you (And I promise, I really do want to be helpful).
While there are a ton of many amazing New York photography spots in Central Park (Cough, Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle, the Alice and Wonderland Statue, The Lake (yes, that is the lake’s actual name), Sheep’s Meadow, etc. I hope you’re writing some of these down. LOL), the photo ops at Bethesda Fountain are definitely my fave.
To procure a fantastic shot, try to arrive before dawn and take advantage of the relative lack of people as you photograph the area from the central platform that overlooks the fountain and lake.
Also, take some time to explore both the arches beneath the platform and the stairs just behind the fountain.
Doing a mini photoshoot here will result in some hauntingly beautiful shots that thankfully, are also a bit different from the sometimes painfully generic photos that people take here.
And in case this wasn’t already blatantly obvious:
I forever and always dare you to be different.
***Fun little factoid for you! There are over 20 different arches in Central Park and my FAVE for photography purposes is Glade Arch, which sits to the west of 5th Avenue and 79th Street.***
12. Top of the Rock
At least for NYC photography purposes.
Because if you’re standing atop the Empire State Building, then you can’t very well get this New York City icon in your panoramic shot of Manhattan now can you?
But per usual, pre-book your tickets and get here as early as possible if you want to avoid long lines and huge crowds (and who doesn’t?).
Once you’re here, deciding which viewing platform to visit can be a bit difficult since you have three seperate areas to choose from!
I’d recommend heading to the third viewing platform, on the 70th floor, where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the Empire State Building and Central Park, without any annoying, enormous glass window panes in the way (This is also the least crowded of the three observation decks).
And while visiting during sunset is an amazing experience:
It’s also the most popular time of day to visit and will cost you an extra $10 per person, per ticket, so be prepared.
Before you go, do check the weather forecast so that you can avoid visiting on an overcast day.
Oh, and in case you were wondering:
No, The Top of the Rock does NOT permit the use of tripods.
All of my fellow, solo travel-loving homies out there will have to plan accordingly. Because yes, the solo travel photo struggle is VERY real.