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29 Best Photography Locations in NYC

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New York City is a photographer’s paradise.

You’ve got both urban and natural landscapes, buildings of nearly every architectural style, and multiple skyscrapers with observation decks with 360-degree views of the city and beyond.

This post lists the very best places to take photographs in NYC and is organized by major areas of the city frequented by visitors.

New York Walking Tours

Midtown Manhattan

From stunning views from some of NYC’s tallest buildings to gorgeous beaux-arts buildings and the best of art-deco architecture, Midtown Manhattan is one of the very best places to take pictures of NYC!

If you'd like to learn more about these locations when taking your pictures, join us on one of our pay-what-you-like Midtown Manhattan walking tours.


1. Empire State Building 

Standing at 1250 feet (381 m), the Empire State Building can be seen from many locations near and far! For the best panoramic views of NYC, visit this famous observation deck.

Empire State Building

If you want to be a bit creative, look up from the streets surrounding the building and look up -- you will feel very small, but you will get an interesting shot! 


2. Grand Central Terminal

There are so many wonderful sights to photograph inside Grand Central Terminal.

The celestial ceiling inside the terminal, the 24-carat gold-plated chandeliers, the grand staircase, and the four-sided clock, to name a few.

With so many different special sites in one location, Grand Central is one of the best photo spots in NYC! 

Grand Central Terminal

Head to the lower level to the Oyster Bar and go back in time to the 1920s with a black-and-white photo!

Outside, on top of the south face of the terminal, snap a picture of Roman gods, Minerva, Mercury, and Hercules surrounding a giant clock.


3. Chrysler Building 

Quite possibly the favorite skyscraper of New Yorkers, the Chrysler Building is an Art-Deco gem. For the best photos, visit the observation deck at SUMMIT.

Other views can be found if you walk around the side streets, including 42nd Street.

Chrysler Building

It isn't easy to get an unobstructed view of the building.

But, if you like artsy photos with contrasting architecture, you can take a picture from the outside of Grand Central's 42nd Street side and get an angled view of the Chrysler Building behind it.


4. Rockefeller Center

A visit to Rockefeller Center is like visiting an amazing outdoor museum with murals, sculptures, carvings and reliefs on the buildings that make up this complex.

Rockefeller Center Promendae level

It is a great place for NYC photography. Choose from the Atlas statue, the Channel Garden, the Prometheus Statue on the Promenade level and much more!


5. Top of the Rock Observation Deck

At 850 feet (260 m) tall, this observation deck is dwarfed by most of the midtown skyscrapers around it.

But what it lacks in stature, it makes up for with great 360 views of its competitors: Empire State Building, One World Observatory, and many more.

Top of The Rock

For great pictures, head to the observation deck on the 70th floor where you can get a clear view of the skyline without glass panels or metal fences obstructing the view. 

Visit during the evening hours for spectacular shots like the one above.


6. Radio City Music Hall 

The best views of the grand marquee of this grand venue, stand on the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and 50th Street.

Night shots are superior to daytime as the neon lights shine bright! If you want pictures of the lush interior, take a Radio City Music Hall Tour.

Radio City Music Hall

7. St. Patrick’s Cathedral  

Across from Rockefeller Center is one of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Pat’s is the largest neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in America and is definitely photo-worthy. Step inside for more beautiful images.


8. Times Square

The most commonly photographed view of Times Square is that of OneTimes Square building nestled between huge billboards on all sides.

To get this iconic shot, stand on the red TKTS stairs just below 47th Street and look south.

Times Sqaure at night

Nighttime is by far the best time to get your pictures as the area is lit up and simply electric! 


9. New York City Public Library 

On your way into the library - which is free to enter, and well worth a visit- you'll pass the two most famous lions in the world.

New York Public Library Reading Room

Inside visit the Rose Main Reading Room on the top floor with splendid ceiling murals and chandeliers.


10. Summit One Vanderbilt

This 1,401 foot-tall (427 m) skyscraper at One Vanderbilt is among the top 30 tallest buildings in the world! SUMMIT is a four-floor experience with unique features.

view from Summit One Vanderbilt

From its different levels, you can see the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Central Park, and Brooklyn and Queens.

Opt for photos looking north at Central Park as you can get southern views of the city from many other locations.


11. Roosevelt Island Tram 

This 4-minute cable car ride between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island is 250 feet above the East River and offers sweeping 360-degree views of New York City.

Have your camera out and set to the appropriate shutter speed.

view from Roosevelt Island

Once on the island, there are several points where you can find incredible skyline views. For a stable image of a Midtown Manhattan skyline, stroll the Roosevelt Island Promenade.


12. Flatiron Building

To get a great shot of this unique New York architectural beauty, go to the southern end of “Flatiron Plaza”.

Crouch down down to capture a view of both the 5th Avenue and Broadway sides of the building.

Flatiron Building

Let us show you some of these locations and many others on one of our pay-what-you-like Midtown Manhattan walking tours.


Central Park  

Central Park’s 843 acres (400 hectares) of meadows, hills, lakes and ponds, are an oasis in an urban jungle. The park has dozens of beautiful sites making it an incredibly nice place to take pictures. 

Read this post on Central Park Photography for six other special spots that your camera lens will love.

For guidance that takes you right to the best sights in the park take one of our pay-what-you-like Central Park walking tours.  Below are three spots to check out. 


13. Gapstow Bridge 

This quaint bridge crossing over The Pond is an ideal spot to capture the contrasting landscape of NYC.

Gapstow Bridge

While beautiful year-round, it is extra pretty in October when the leaves are changing colors.


14. Sheep Meadow 

Once sheep grazed here, but now you’ll find sunbathers and frisbee players frolicking in this green meadow.

Sheep Meadow in Central Park

The Dakota Building is visible if you want to include it in your photo.


15. Wollman Rink 

In winter the rink is open for ice skating.

The rink and the tall buildings surrounding it are one of the best NY city backgrounds! Why not go ice-skating while you are there?

Wollman Rink in Central Park

Wollman Rink appears in lots of Christmas movies. There is a Christmas Movie Tour which you might enjoy.


Lower Manhattan

Here you will find some of the city’s historic and grandest structures as well as its sleekest and tallest skyscrapers.

16. One World Observatory (Freedom Tower)

For serious photographers, this is one of the popular NYC photoshoot locations.

Unlike the other observation decks in the city, you are allowed to bring a DSLR camera and take high-quality photos.

View from One World Observatory

No matter what kind of camera, your photos from this 1,776-foot tower will be as spectacular as the 360-degree views of New York City and beyond. 

17. 9/11 Memorial and Museum 

The memorial is a solemn, yet peaceful place. Its two massive cascading fountains are great for a landscape shot.

September 11 Memorial Fountain

If you'd like a close-up, the fountains are rimmed with granite in which the names of 9/11’s victims are engraved.

Often there are flowers placed near a name and close-ups of these images are very special.  


18. Staten Island Ferry

Taking the Staten Island Ferry is one of the very best things to do for free in NYC. The views of Lower Manhattan are spectacular.

You will sail right past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so you can get a picture that's pretty close!

Staten Island Ferry

You'll also see the Brooklyn shoreline! You can ride this free ferry every day, around the clock. Any time of the day or night, your photos will be breathtaking.

Other top spots in Lower Manhattan

19. Trinity Church  

20. National Museum of the American Indian 

21. Charging Bull sculpture

22. Woolworth Building

For more awesome Lower Manhattan sights that you’ll want to photograph, see our post on things to do in Lower Manhattan!


Chelsea

This neighborhood is on the west side of Manhattan just below Midtown.

It is a fantastic neighborhood for photography as the area has lovely tree-lined streets, historic buildings, quirky architecture, a sky-high observation deck and two unique urban parks.

23. High Line 

An elevated railroad repurposed into a 1.45-mile-long park offers unbelievable photo-ops.

The park is lined with industrial buildings from the early to mid-20th Century and modern gems like the “Iceberg” building (the IAC building designed by Frank Gehry).

High Line

You can get close-ups of its unheralded flora and fauna as well. 

Because of its amazing history and the everchanging landscape, you might want o take a tour. We offer a pay-what-you-wish High Line tour.


24. Little Island

This is one of the most unusual urban parks you’ll come across in the United States, if not the world!

This 2.4-acre park rests on 132 concrete piles that rise out of the Hudson River.

Little Island

The best locations to take snapshots are from street level looking at Little Island and from the Southwest Overlook.

From here you can see the skyline of Lower Manhattan, including the towering One World Observatory.


25. Edge 

The views are unbelievable from this 1,100-foot-tall (340 m) observation deck on the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards.

The pictures seen most often on Instagram are taken from the corner where the two glass paneled edges meet.

View from Edge observatory

You will also want to get a shot from the glass floor that looks down on the street from 100 floors above.


26. The Vessel 

This unique 150-foot tall (47 m) sculpture/spiral staircase is a must for lovers of modern architecture. Though currently closed to visitors, it may be open again.

The Vessel

The pictures from inside The Vessel of the city beyond are just as good as the pictures of The Vessel from the outside! 


Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a diverse borough with many neighborhoods that are photogenic.

From its beautiful brownstones, skyline views of Manhattan, the extraordinary Brooklyn Bridge and the cutting edge street art, Brooklyn is a photographer’s dream!


27. Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Located in Brooklyn Heights, this is THE place to get pictures of the Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset.

Any time of day or night the views from the Promenade are incredible.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

28. Brooklyn Bridge 

Undoubtedly, this magnificent suspension bridge is one of the most famous locations in NYC and is recognized around the world.

A walk across this bridge is a must-do while you are in NYC. 

Brooklyn Bridge

To learn more about the bridge and how to walk it, see our post, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.


29. Manhattan Bridge 

Head to DUMBO for what is one of the most iconic and best NY city images -- the Manhattan Bridge perfectly framing the Empire State Building in the distance. 

Manhattan Bridge

To find out where to go to grab this shot, read our post on things to do in DUMBO.


About The Author

Courtney

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: May 17th, 2022
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