This post lists the very best places to take photographs in NYC and is organized by major areas of the city frequented by visitors.
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.
From stunning views from some of NYC’s tallest buildings to gorgeous beaux-art 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.
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.
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!
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 Station is one of the best photo spots in NYC!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
For great pictures, head to the observation deck on the 70th floor where you can get a clear view of the New York City skyline without glass panels or metal fences obstructing the view.
Visit during the evening hours for spectacular shots like the one above.
Before we continue, we've asked the roughly 170k members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook group to let us know where they suggest getting that iconic photo.
We used some of these suggestions in this blog post.
Our group consists of locals, regular visitors, and newbies to New York, all willing to help you with your travel plans.
Click the image to join the conversation.
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.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Across from Rockefeller Center is one of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world.
St. Pat’s is the largest neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in America and is definitely photo-worthy.
Step inside for more beautiful images.
The most commonly photographed view of Times Square is that of the 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.
Nighttime is by far the best time to get your pictures as the area is lit up and simply electric!
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.
Inside visit the Rose Main Reading Room on the top floor with splendid ceiling murals and chandeliers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To get a great shot of this unique New York architectural landmark, go to the southern end of “Flatiron Plaza”.
Crouch down to capture a view of both the 5th Avenue and Broadway sides of the 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’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.
Below are three spots to check out.
Read this post on Central Park Photography for six other special spots that your camera lens will love, like Bethesda Fountain, Bethesda Terrace, the Bow Bridge and others.
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.
This quaint bridge crossing over The Pond is an ideal spot to capture the contrasting landscape of NYC.
While beautiful year-round, it is extra pretty in October when the leaves are changing colors.
Once sheep grazed here, but now you’ll find sunbathers and frisbee players frolicking in this green meadow.
The Dakota Building is visible if you want to include it in your photo.
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 appears in lots of Christmas movies. There is a Christmas Movie Tour which you might enjoy.
Here you will find some of the city’s historic and grandest structures as well as its sleekest and tallest skyscrapers.
One World Observatory (Freedom Tower)
For serious photographers, this is one of the popular NYC photo shoot locations.
Unlike the other observation decks in the city, you are allowed to bring a DSLR camera and take high-quality photos.
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.
9/11 Memorial and Museum
The memorial is a solemn, yet peaceful place. Its two massive cascading fountains are great for a landscape shot.
If you'd like a close-up, the fountains are rimmed with granite in which the names of 9/11 victims are engraved.
Often there are flowers placed near a name and close-ups of these images are very special.
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!
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 NYC Instagram spots in Lower Manhattan
National Museum of the American Indian
For more awesome Lower Manhattan sights that you’ll want to photograph, see our post on things to do in Lower Manhattan!
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.
It's also home to the Chelsea Market, where you can grab food before or after your photo session!
An elevated railroad repurposed into a 1.45-mile-long park with a pedestrian walkway 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).
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.
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.
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 Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
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.
You will also want to get a shot from the glass floor that looks down on the street from 100 floors above.
This unique 150-foot tall (47 m) sculpture/spiral staircase is a must for lovers of modern architecture. It's one of the most Instagrammable places in NYC.
If possible, use a wide-angle lens to capture this amazing structure.
Though visiting the inside of The Vessel is not currently possible, it may reopen to visitors on the future.
Brooklyn is a diverse borough with many photogenic neighborhoods.
From its beautiful brownstones, skyline views of Manhattan, the extraordinary Brooklyn Bridge, and cutting-edge street art, Brooklyn is a photographer’s dream!
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Located in Brooklyn Heights, this is THE place to get pictures of the Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset.
It is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent photography spots in NYC.
Any time of day or night the views from the Promenade are incredible.
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.
To learn more about the bridge and how to walk it, see our post, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
A nearby locale to get great photographs of the bridge and the harbor is Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO.
Head to DUMBO's Washington Street 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.
To find out where to go to grab this shot, read our post on things to do in DUMBO.
By the way, if you are wondering how the neighborhood got its name, read our post on the interesting story on the origin of the name DUMBO and what this acronym stands for.
This oh-so-iconic NYC location is ripe for photographs!
Its historic boardwalk and rides, the ocean views, and the interesting people you'll see make Coney Island worth the trip.
It's easily reached by multiple subways and there are a lot of things to do there so grab your camera and go!
Set on 52 acres at the northern end of Park Slope, this botanic garden has so many lovely photo opportunities.
One locale is the Japanese Hill and Pond Garden, constructed in 1914.
In the springtime, the cherry blossoms are stunning!
The BBG has some free entrance days throughout the year. Read our post on free and sometimes free museums and other attractions.