New York City is one of my favorite spots to shoot and also one of the most recognizable locations for photography in the world. You may be reading this because you are either planning a trip or are already in the city. When I took my first trip up to New York City I frantically scoured the internet and instagram looking for the best spots to shoot. As a photographer, I know how stressful the scouting process is and created this guide to ease some of that pain. I will be focusing on a few spots you may have seen on instagram and also adding in some unique and lesser known spots which I have found over my now many trips up to The Big Apple.
#1 Intersection of Fulton and Nassau
At the intersection of Fulton and Nassau in Lower Manhattan you will find this awesome view of One World Trade Center. This street is a one way and is relatively easy to stand in the middle of the road with the help of a friend watching your back. There are many other cool spots across lower Manhattan to perfectly frame WTC in the middle of the street. I chose to include this view in the guide due to the distinctive architecture of the buildings in the foreground giving the perfect classic and modern blend of NYC.
#2 Pod 39 Hotel Roof
One of my favorite places to stay in NYC is the Pod 39 Hotel. It’s relatively inexpensive, walkable to Times Square, and has this amazing rooftop view. This rooftop is really easy to get onto, for best results go late at night after everyone has gone to bed to setup a tripod!
#3 Intersection of 6th Ave and 42nd Street
Just between the Pod 39 hotel and Times Square you will find this reflection off of a Jewelry store right next to Bryant Park. It takes some patience to get the right balance of traffic and people walking by to create the complete effect, but its New York, there are taxis and pedestrians everywhere.
#4 Brooklyn Bridge
One of the most iconic locations in the city is Brooklyn Bridge. It is tough to get a clean shot here without lots of other fellow travelers unless you go late at night or early in the morning. For these shots, I set my camera on the beams of the bridge to hide the fact that the bridge walkway was fairly crowded.
#5 The Knickerbocker Hotel Rooftop
On the edge of Times Sq. stands the historic Knickerbocker Hotel. There is open access to their rooftop which has a bar called St. Cloud. I have occasionally stopped for drinks there and always bring my camera along. Here you will get a unique perspective above the madness that is Times Square and a great view of the New Years Ball. The ball drops every year on national television to ring in the new year. The best vantage point here is from the corner reserved table (Bottom Picture). Luckily, the corner reserved table is open throughout the day and does not get crowded until late at night.
#6 Armani 5th Ave Staircase
Close to Central Park in the heart of the upscale stores of 5th Ave you will find this unique staircase. The Fuksas Staircase was constructed in 2009 by architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas in the four story Armani store. The employees are used to photographers and are open to letting you shoot there. If you are nice to them they will even tell you their favorite angles. I would recommend bringing a lens with a focal range between 12-18mm to get the scale of the entire staircase.
#7 Mandarin Oriental Hotel
If you walk across the park from the Armani store to Columbus Circle, you will see the Mandarin Oriental Hotel NYC. The hotel has a great view from the restaurant level which is accessible without being a hotel guest. I would recommend bringing a flexible lens hood or jacket here as you will have to cover the edges of the lens to avoid unwanted reflections in the shot.
#8 Broadway-Lafayette St Subway Station
Throughout the city there are many unique subway art installations. One of my favorites for portraits is Hive by Leo Villareal. Closer to the Bleecker St side of the station you will find this unique beehive shaped neon installation. The LED panels on the ceiling frequently change colors and allow for different moods of the shot. One of my favorite angles here is right between the railings to capture the symmetry of the piece and use the lines of the railing to direct the viewers eye to the subject. The model Alex can be found on instagram at (@ishootwhatever).
#9 Views from the Manhattan Bridge
Chinatown is full of great locations for photography, its a bustling neighborhood full of characters for street portraits as well as some awesome overlooks of the city. The locations shown in the photos below are some of the most popular on instagram. These views can be found by taking a short walk up the pedestrian/bike path of the Manhattan Bridge. Luckily, due to the heavy traffic by photographers, many holes in the chainlink fence have been cut to prevent any obstructions in your shot.
#10 Brooklyn Bridge Park
One of the iconic views of the Manhattan Skyline can be found at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here you will get the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground and a nice reflection of the city lights off of the East River. It is hard to fully perceive the scale of Manhattan from Manhattan itself, once you see the skyline from Brooklyn you are able to see the layers of skyscrapers which form the iconic NYC Skyline.
My friend Andy (@someguy) has compiled another great list which compliments the locations I didn’t cover in this article and I would suggest you check his guide out which can be found here: The 12 Best Places to Take Pictures in New York City.