With globally recognized icons like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, New York City is one of the most photographed places in the world. Follow along with us and we’ll show you where and how to get great photos of NYC. Remember to tag your photos of the City with #thisisnewyorkcity on your social network of choice.
Novice and experienced photographers alike can benefit from a photo safari of NYC. Zim Pham’s New York Photo Safari is equal parts hands-on workshop and tour. In her Central Park safari, for instance, she’ll show you some of the park’s most photogenic spots while giving you tips on composition and mastering your camera in different kinds of lighting. Pham’s safaris also cover iconic New York City architecture, the High Line and NYC after dark. Another great photo tour and workshop option is Remember Forever, whose mission is to ensure that every aspiring photographer who visits the City learns the art of travel photography and returns home with postcard-perfect pictures. Remember Forever offers tours of Times Square, Battery Park and Central Park as well as more intensive beginner and advanced workshops that include nighttime visits to NYC’s bridges and buildings.
Times Square at Twilight
Times Square’s greatest draw, its lights, also poses its greatest challenge to photographers. Our tip? Shoot just after sunset. The sky will be dim enough that the lights really stand out against the blues and violets of twilight, but not so dark that the harsh contrast between a black sky and bright lights confuses your camera’s light meter. Get there just before sunset and scout out some spots from which to shoot. We like the location above, but there are almost as many angles to cover as there are lights.
Central Park: Bethesda Fountain
Bethesda Fountain and its surrounding terrace are among the most photographed features of Central Park. If you’re trying to frame a friend or family member in the shot along with the fountain, Zim Pham of New York Photo Safari suggests something that seems counterintuitive: have your human subject stand closer to you, away from the fountain. First, Pham says, put some good distance between you and the fountain, enough so that it fills up the right third of the frame when you’re holding the camera in landscape orientation. Then position your friend or family member in the left of the frame, but close to you and the camera so he or she fills the photo. Don’t worry about getting them completely in the photo. The goal is not to get a head-to-toe depiction, just from the torso up—enough that both the fountain and person are clearly visible. This technique works not only for Bethesda Fountain but for any large subject (the Statue of Liberty, for example) that you’d like to frame along with people.
Central Park: Bow Bridge
A short walk northwest of Bethesda Fountain is Bow Bridge, a pretty cast-iron crossing whose gentle arc gives it its name. As you approach the bridge from the southeast, you’ll see the two towers of the San Remo building. Your first impulse might be to shoot the San Remo from the foot of the bridge itself, but if you step off the path there’s a little outcropping into the lake that allows you to frame the bridge and the San Remo together—and if you wait long enough on a nice day, a rowboat or two. It’s one of the more iconic images of the park.
If you’re having trouble taking a photo from afar that encompasses all of the Brooklyn Bridge, try shooting just a portion of it; the towers and suspension cables are recognizable the world over. If you’re approaching this shot from the Brooklyn side, you’ll also be able to capture some of Lower Manhattan’s skyline. If you’re including friends and family, remember that compositional tip from the Bethesda Fountain.
Grand Central and Chrysler Building
Want to get two New York City landmarks in one shot? Stand just west of Grand Central Terminal, point your camera toward the sky and you’ll be able to squeeze in the train station’s clock in the bottom left and the tip of the Chrysler Building in the top right of the photo. Don’t worry that you’re only getting a portion of each building. The resulting shot is so dramatic, and each building is so well known, that your friends on Facebook and Instagram will immediately know where you are.
Grand Central from the Floor
One of the tips for creating bold, interesting photos that Zim Pham of New York Photo Safari gave us was to shoot from extreme angles—either up high or down low. For most of us—unless we’re on the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building (which we’ll get to in a bit)—going low is easier. And when you’re trying to capture the interior and grandeur of Grand Central Terminal, it might be the only way to go. Shoot low to the floor, as in this photo, and you can take in both the clock above the central information kiosk and a large portion of the sweeping ceiling that depicts the signs of the zodiac.
Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
One great way to see the Statue of Liberty is from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry. If you’re departing from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan, you’ll want to be on the starboard (right) side of the boat. Heading to Manhattan from St. George Terminal in Staten Island, stand on the port (left) side. The best time to get the shot is around sunrise to avoid backlighting. Or, you can use that backlighting to spectacular effect by shooting a silhouette of Lady Liberty against a dramatic red-orange sunset.
One World Trade Center from the Back of the Staten Island Ferry
One World Trade Center is fast becoming a visual representation of NYC. Since we’ve already got you on the Staten Island Ferry (see previous slide), we should point out that you can get a pretty nice shot of the 1,776-foot-tall tower from the back of the boat. As you head away from Manhattan, you can use the ferry’s wake as a visual element that draws your eye toward Lower Manhattan.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark and Staten Island Promenade
So you took the Staten Island Ferry to take photos of the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Center? There’s a spectacular view of Manhattan from the Staten Island Promenade. And if you plan ahead, you can watch a Staten Island Yankees game (the Yankees’ minor league team) in Richmond County Bank Ballpark, which might very well have one of the nicest views—and photo ops—in the country.
Manhattan Skyline from the Empire State Building
Here’s a fairly well known “secret” that’s worth repeating: a great time to visit the Empire State Building Observatory is, like Times Square, just before sunset. You’ll be able to take in views—and photos—of the City in daylight and then as millions of lights wink on with twilight. Just be sure to factor in wait times—or buy an express ticket online in advance, which allows you to skip the line.
Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock
If you want a great image of the Empire State Building itself—and an unobstructed view of Central Park—Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock Observation Deck offers both. Top of the Rock has three observation decks, each with 360-degree views, so there are plenty of photo ops.
Rockefeller Center and Shooting Up
New York is such a vertical city that a casual photographer may be at a loss in capturing some of the City’s taller buildings. Instead of trying to shoot from a distance, the tip here is to get right up under the structure, align your camera in portrait mode and point it almost straight up, making sure the building is framed from the bottom of the viewfinder to nearly the top.
Commissioned to mark the dawn of the Space Age, the 12-story-high Unisphere in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair. It has since become an icon of the borough of Queens and the City itself. Keep in mind our Bethesda Fountain tip if you’re trying to place friends into the frame. Pro tip: if the fountain surrounding the Unisphere is off and empty, you can get a striking photo looking up from underneath the globe.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade provides an unparalleled vantage point for taking in all of the Brooklyn Bridge. From this lofty perch you’ll be able to snap a great photo of the structure as well as the skyline of Lower Manhattan. You’ll also be able to see the Statue of Liberty, but she’ll be too far away for a great photo. Try the Staten Island Ferry instead.
Columbus Circle from the Time Warner Center
Remember what we said about getting eagle-eye views? One easy and semi-secret way to get a nice shot of Columbus Circle is to head to the third floor of The Shops at Columbus Circle. From the balcony near Bouchon Bakery you’ll get a sweeping view of the Christopher Columbus statue and the southwest corner of Central Park. It’s an especially nice shot in fall, when the leaves are changing.
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is, again, one of those situations where you’re going to want to get low in order to get in as much of the façade as possible. We suggest standing as far back as you can near the corner of 161st Street and Macombs Dam Bridge and shooting up from ground level. And it’s all the better if you’re seeing a night game, when the building is lit from within in Yankee blue.