If you want to know where to take pictures in New York, you are in the right place. New York City is one of the most photogenic cities in the world, a paradise for street photographers, both advanced or newbies. Anywhere you walk you can find an interesting angle to capture spectacular images of the city life, and if you look around you will always find fascinating elements to create the most artistic compositions. However, there are some specific “instagrammable” places to take pictures in NYC, that are iconic landmarks of the city. In this post, I will take you there. Oh well, to some of them!
I have been in NYC four times but never with the photographer’s eyes like this last time which inspired me to write this post on the most unique instagrammable places in NYC. I was staying in the home of a special friend of mine, a beautiful apartment in Queens, looking after her sweet dog, but with some time for exploring.
This time I traveled with my passion for photography and the exploring mindset of the blogger.
I am not a fan of going back to the same place multiple times because there is so much in this world to explore. But New York City is different, you never stop getting to know this city. There is so much to see, museums, parks, neighborhoods… and Oh! cafes!
But you change too, every time you go back to a place you are not the same person that left the previous time and you will see the city with different eyes and look at it from different angles.
In fact, this time I focused on photography and I was on the hunt for the best places to take pictures in NYC. With some research and casual encounters, I was very happy with my shots, although I know I have missed some good ones. But that gives me an excuse to go back and find more NYC photo spots!
On this trip, I was also able to pack light and travel with the essentials, for the first time. So take a look at my NYC packing list to find some inspiration (includes my camera gear).
If you are researching the best photo opportunities in New York, I am happy to share my findings, but I also look forward to hearing about your best places to photograph in NYC. Please do so in the comments below if you like!
New York practical tips for first-timers
- The best way to move around NYC besides walking is using the practical subway or busses (if you are not in a rush)
- You can purchase the MetroCard and top it up depending on how much you will be using it. I would opt for a flat unlimited rate. Or you can use the OMNY app.
- You can use Google Maps to find the best route and which line you have to take to get you where you want.
- On the busses and at every Subway station there is free WIFI
- You can find free WIFI all around NYC in many spots, especially parks, but sometimes also randomly on the street
- It’s much easier if you buy a local sim card with data – I did it very late during my stay but it was the best investment ever and I regretted not having bought it before.
- You can rent city bikes, which is a convenient way to explore the city in the summer weather
- You must wear a mask in the subway and busses and in every shop or closed environment, but you are allowed to take it off on the street.
The most instagrammable places in NYC – Queens
I was living in Queens, in the multicultural neighborhood of Jackson Heights precisely, and before venturing out to explore the most popular districts, I decided to explore the area I was living in. Jackson Heights is the most culturally diverse neighborhood of New York City. If you cannot travel, go there and you will be immediately transported to India, Pakistan, Thailand, Italy, Mexico and many more. Learn more about Queens in this insightful NYTimes article.
I wasn’t looking for something in particular but I was mesmerized by the colorful surroundings, the multiple races and the different kinds of exotic products sold in the shops.
Queens self guided walking tour
Get to Flushing main street to be transported to China. Austin street in Forest Hills is quaint.
In Long Island City along the water, you can have views of the city but you can check out the iconic Pepsi sign. I didn’t make it there but I went to Astoria instead where I could also enjoy spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.
From 70th to 65th street on Roosevelt Ave are Filipino restaurants. 73rd & 74th st are little India between Roosevelt & 37th ave.
If you walk down 37th ave you will find Columbian, Uruguayan, Argentinian places. Northern blvd has many Latin restaurants – Peruvian, Mexican, Spanish. From Northern Boulevard with 79th street you can have a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline (see picture below)
As I was walking around with my camera I felt completely safe and totally in awe, so many subjects for my pictures.
How to get to Queens
I would suggest you take E M R F 7 and get off at Roosvelt Av., the heart of Jackson Heights. The 7 line is my favorite because it’s above ground and it runs through the city buildings with incredible views.
Cool places to take pictures in NYC – Brooklyn
I believe the New York best pictures I took were in the Brooklyn Bridge area. Here you can find some of the most incredible NYC photo spots, the most popular one being the iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo. I went back there 3 times to find the best shots.
Here below a list of the best spot to photograph in Brooklyn NYC.
Manhattan Bridge (dumbo)
This is probably one of the top photoshoot locations in NYC. In fact, I saw a lot of wedding couples getting their photo shooting under the bridge. To get the famous shot you need to go to Washington st., just look up and you will see the majestic bridge in all its splendor.
You can take different shots with different lenses. I took some with the grand angle and some with a 300mm lens. I prefer the latter. Here below you see some of my shots.
But besides the iconic shot in Dumbo, make sure you walk along the park by the East River where you can get amazing shots of both Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. You can try many different angles and in different times of the day.
If you get there by sunset you can have amazing shots of a starred sun or the sunset colors, if you are lucky. If you get there in the morning on a sunny day you will have the perfect light with the sun at your back.
Old pier (Pier 1)
If you walk from the Manhattan bridge past the Brooklyn bridge you can get spectacular long exposure shots of the water dotted by the old pier posts, like the one below. Remember to carry your tripod with you and some neutral density filters.
If you continue to walk along Brooklyn Park you will have many subjects to photograph, including the Manhattan skyline with both bridges as a nice fra one side, the beautiful luxury boats and the luxury condos that work as a backdrop of the park.
The trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn is filled with spectacular wall art, especially around Bedford avenue a lively road filled with shops and lovely restaurants and bars.
The most famous mural is the Monalisa of Williamsburg decorating the wall of a 3 stories building at the crossroad between Bedford avenue, 6th street, and Broadway. The giant mural is painted by Colossal Media who reproduced the award-winning picture taken by the 14-year-old Steven Paul. If you are interested in mural art, you can check out this great Brooklyn guide where I also took inspiration for my walks.
Manhattan skyline from North Street Pier and park
North Street Pier is one of my favorite NYC photo spots and definitely one of the cool places to take pictures in NYC. From here you have amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. If I could go back I wouldn’t miss it at sunset. But in the morning you can get amazing shots of the Empire State Building towering over Manhattan. Definitely, the best place to photograph New York Skyline from Brooklyn.
This lively park is one of the coolest places where Williamsburg residents love to spend their time chilling and chatting away while sunbathing. From here you can get great shots of Manhattan and of the Williamsburg bridge.
A top photoshoot location in NYC the Brooklyn Bridge is the iconic bridge in NYC, very much photogenic and probably the most photographed bridge in New York City. If you don’t mind the crowd you can get there at any time, always keeping in mind that the sun sets over Manhattan. I don’t think my Brooklyn Bridge shots were some of my best, but I enjoyed photographing it, with lots of lines and shapes. Early mornings would be best though, if you are an early bird, for less people and the best light.
Best instagrammable places in New York – Manhattan
Manhattan is really magical. Every corner is a good spot for taking photos. You just need to look around and see what you have and what kind of composition you want to make with it. There are a few iconic spots, but honestly, just walk and look up down left and right and you will feel the magic too.
I always love the contrast of the yellow taxis and green trees, with the gray buildings. That’s the image I have in my mind when I think of New York City.
From the High line
The High-line is an elevated pedestrian area in Mid-West Manhattan north of the notorious Greenwich village offering a green oasis over a concrete desert, where people can gather among lush greeneries, art expositions, delicious food stands while looking at the city life from above.
As a tourist, as well, you shouldn’t miss it.
The High-Line has also an interesting story worth reading. It’s history goes back to 1833 when it was originally built as a railroad for freight trains on street-level tracks, run by New York Central Railroad, to deliver food to lower Manhattan. However, if it was a great asset for local commerce it also created dangerous conditions for pedestrians and by 1910, more than 540 people had been killed by trains for which it earned the sad name of “Dead Avenue”.
The high line original function declined over the years and the entire area becomes an “ugly eyesore” as citizens would call it, so much so that in the late XX century Mayor Juliani ordered its demolition. Luckily, thanks to the local community “Friends of the High Line”, it was spared and instead turned into the beautiful elevated pedestrian avenue that connects the Whitney Museum with the Vessel (a stunning example of modern architecture).
You can get in and out of the High-Line in many different spots along the way, but I suggest you walk from the beginning to the end. You will be able to spot many different great spots of the city, including a beautiful mural representing Gandhi.
Located in the Hudson Yard right at one end of the High-line, the Vessel is one new modern landmark of New York which makes a great photo subject from many different angles, from the courtyard for a close up or from a distance. Unfortunately when I was visiting it was still closed as part of the covid-related restrictions, but it’s now open and you can book your space and read about it in their official page. It must be definitely worth it for the spectacular views of the city.
But the surprises don’t end here. In the Hudson Yard you can enjoy a luxury mall where to shop and dine but most of all you can climb up to the Edge, for a phenomenal view over the city. You should know that The Edge is the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. I missed this one too, though, but please share a picture if you make it up there. It looks amazing from down below. Oh by the way, you can get great shots of The Edge from the High Line too.
Locate in the heart of The City, The Oculus is a new architecture masterpiece created as part of the World Trade Center by Daniel Libeskind and designed by Santiago Calatrava to commemorate the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In fact, “the white metal clad steel ribs reaching up and out represent a hand releasing a dove“.
Also, “the structure’s orientation serves as a lasting reminder of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is in alignment with the sun’s solar angles on each September 11, from 8:46 am, when the first plane struck, until 10:28 am, when the second tower collapsed. Its central skylight fits this alignment and washes the Oculus floor with a beam of light.” (source)
Even if you don’t have time to shop, it’s definitely worth a stop just to photograph the beautiful building both from the inside and the outside. Also the Oculus is home to 12 subway lines which makes it very easy to reach.
Grand Central Station
I have seen the majestic Grand Central many times but not in this latest trip when I actually had my camera with me. Still, I really had to include it in this post, because it is one of the most unique places to photograph in NYC and definitely worth a stop. Why didn’t I? don’t ask, one of those things that you take for granted and you say “I’ll do it tomorrow” and tomorrow never comes. I am sure many of you can relate to that. Anyway, one of the reasons why I should go back to NYC.
Grand Central Station is not only a Train Terminal but one of the most interesting landmarks of New York where you could spend an entire day, shopping, dining and listening to the self guided tour available both on android and iPhones. A great idea for a rainy day. Bring your tripod with you if you want to photograph the beautiful building.
Central Park, another one of the best Instagram spots in NYC, either on a rainy or sunny day. In all the New York City-based movies there are always a few scenes set in central park. It’s in fact one of the most romantic settings, set of many proposals. Besides enjoying a nice stroll around the lakes there are many activities you can do in the central park, among which renting a bike, or a boat, taking a yoga class, or of course, taking pictures :). Whatever you decide to do, make sure you don’t miss the famous Bow bridge.
The Greenwich Village
Friendly called “The Village”, this artsy neighborhood in Manhattan is one of the richest in culture and charm. Brimming with fancy bistrot and flowery decorated shops it’s a playground for photographers. Walk along the popular Bleaker street and besides all the trendy eateries and cafes, do not miss the iconic original Magnolia Backery shop whose bench became famous in the series Sex and the City. Their cupcakes are indeed out of this world, but they have now opened different branches and there is no more bench outside (sad face). But it still makes a good subject and one of the cool places in NYC for photography.
The Whitney Museum – (Little Island)
In the north side of the village, the Whitney Museum is a must for those who love modern art (on Thursday entry fee is offer based, the other days it’s 25 USD – closed on Tuesday), but also for those how love to see New York City from above. In fact every floor of the Museum has its own terrace where you can enjoy some figurative art pieces and some amazing views of the city including the new popular avenue, Little Island. (I have missed that as well)
One of my favorite spots to photograph in Manhattan was by the arch in Washington square. If you leave the arch behind looking at the 5th avenue you will see the Empire State Building right in front of you in all its beauty peeking out from trees and soaring over the other buildings.
Go far, use a zoom lens, wait for a yellow taxi to come towards you and you will have the perfect vertical shot. (You won’t have to wait too long for the taxi.)
Another landmark of New York City that you absolutely have to see. A photo of the flat iron shape cannot miss in your portfolio of New York city photography. Unfortunately when I was there the building was under maintenance and therefore covered. But you get an idea from the picture I took.
The Met Cloisters and Tyron Park
If you want to photograph some of the off the beaten path areas in New York City, you love art and flowery gardens, you must visit The Met Cloisters Museums located within the beautiful Tyron Park, which I have discovered thanks to my New Yorker friend and fellow travel blogger Gerry from Donimican Abroad.
Located in the north part of Washington heights in the Upper Manhattan area and not far from the lively neighborhood of Little Dominican Republic, this park was a pleasant surprise that should be mentioned.
The Met Cloisters Museum caught my attention more for the internal gardens in the old cloisters which throw you back in time, and the amazing views over the Hudson river. Great setting for pictures if you have a model. 🙂
Once you walk out of the museum, you will have a nice walking trails with peeks over the river as well. But the best part is the spectacular flowery gardens that you will find along the way. It looks like a botanical garden. When Gerry and I went there we had the fortune to meet one Ronda Brand, the designer herself and we had a lovely chat. You can find out more about the park here. It’s also a great setting for photography.
NYC Rooftops and look outs
Among the endless amazing photoshoot locations in NYC, you need to consider all the rooftops available, either as restaurants and bars for a glamorous night out, or just lookouts from where to photograph the city.
I have already talked about The Edge, but there are many more roof top terraces in NYC and I will talk about them in a different post.
For some NYC photography spots from above, the most obvious is the Empire state building, but I skipped it this time and I went to the Top of the Rock where I enjoyed impressive 360˚ views of the city. If you book for sunset time it’s more expensive but all worth it, if you choose to go on a week day when it’s less crowded. I was there from 6 pm to 9 pm and I in that short time I saw New York City during a storm, under a rainbow, at sunset and with the city lights. It was magical indeed and I got some of the best New York pictures.
More random photo spots in NYC
As I mentioned before every corner of NYC is instagrammable. You will always find an interesting angle or a cute picture worthy detail. Here below I will share my favorite random shots in NYC.
It is renowned that the best shots are taken in the golden and blue hours, so early morning and before sunset, but sometimes it’s just not doable. So I am always trying to get the most of the Sun and get a star. 🙂
These are some of the best photo opportunities and the most instagrammable places in New York but not all of them obviously. The city holds so many gems and suggestive secret spots that it would take a lifetime to discover them all, especially without a local guide. That’s why joining a walking tour can be a good way to discover new corners and see different perspectives from different guides. I regret I didn’t do it, but next time I won’t miss it.
That’s why I have realized how fun is to travel multiple times to the same place, it make you discover new things about the place and about yourself. Here you go, another lesson from the road.
And by all means, if you wish to add more cool places in NYC for photography, let me know in the comments below and I will be happy to add your best places to take pictures in New York City to the list.
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