A Photographer’s Guide to New York City

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NYC is a magical place.

Each time I think of the city I’m reminded of my 12 year old self, flying from a small Midwestern home into the Big Apple, and being swallowed by the seemingly endless skyscrapers surrounding me.

It felt like the city never ended. And it’s a feeling that hasn’t left me even when I visit to this day.

Now, when you travel to NYC, it’s easy to get lost in the entertainment, nightlife, or work demands in the city that never sleeps. But aside from the incredible culture and energy, New York offers some truly inspiring picture spots that can top off a perfect trip.

From the historical charm of The Brooklynn Bridge, to the sleek and futuristic design of The Oculus and The Vessel, each photography spot can help you understand elements of NYC’s storied past, while getting a taste of the future ahead.

So let’s dive into it. Time for a photographer’s journey through NYC.


The Oculus

Daniel Polevoy / Unsplash

Like a scene out of the Matrix (Keanu Reaves even filmed a scene here), The Oculus is a modern, sleek, and abstract terminal station with the World Trade Center complex.

The $4 billion terminal, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, consists of white ribs that interlock high above the ground, offering a glimpse into what looks like a future civilization. Capture a photo from the top balcony looking down, or reverse it and shoot from the ground floor facing up towards the ceiling. Whichever direction you choose, The Oculus offers a neat peak into extraordinarily modern architecture in a city known for pushing boundaries.


Walking on The Brooklynn Bridge

Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash

Historical, charming, and rich with beautiful photo spots.

The Brooklyn Bridge is a monument to New York City’s rugged and industrial rise. Crafted in 1883 with steel, stone, and wood, this neo-Gothic bridge offers stunning angles for photography. Use the suspension cables as leading lines to create a stunning effect drawing the eye in, or simply capture the city in the background with movement on the road or pedestrian walkways in the foreground.

Whatever photo you’re seeking to create, The Brooklynn Bridge offers a chance to capture something inspiring. Just prepare to battle some crowds for the perfect shot — the walkways can get quite busy.


The Vessel

Juliana Malta / Unsplash

Opened in 2019, The Vessel is a relatively new addition to the photography mainstays of New York City.

The elaborate, honeycomb-structure was created by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick and rises 16 stories with 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps, and 80 landings for visitors to climb. The Vessel is also the centerpiece structure of the Hudson Yards development, which means you’ll be able to walk to other incredible photo opportunities, such as the highest outdoor observatory deck in the Western hemisphere — The Edge.


Top Of The Rock

Leif Christoph Gottwald / Unsplash

One of the most quintessential photography spots in the Big Apple.

The observatory on top of the Rockefeller Center in NYC (hence the name, “Top Of The Rock” — pretty nifty), offers some of the most stunning city sights.

From the Empire State Building positioned directly in front, to the super tall skyscrapers surrounding you in Manhattan, and out to the World Trade Center off in the distance, this observatory is sure to offer views that will not disappoint. Extra points if you’re able to visit during sunset — just note that the cost of tickets is a bit higher during this time of day (about $50 per person at time of writing).


Washington Street in Dumbo

NYC’s most Instagrammable location has to be Washington Street in Dumbo, which offers a brick-building clad street framing the iconic Brooklynn Bridge in the background. Regardless of the hour, people will come to this location to capture one of the most emblematic spots in New York City.

See Also

Now look at the two photos below — brownie points if you can spot the Empire State Building centered between the column gap in the bridge.


Flatiron Building

Vlad Hilitanu / Unsplash

Located at 175 Fifth Avenue, the Flatiron Building is a landmark tower in the Manhattan borough — and you’ve probably seen a photo or two of this building in your lifetime.

The distinctive triangular shape provides a unique photo opportunity, allowing your camera lens to capture sweeping streets flaring out from each side of the building. Additionally, the building is right next to Madison Square Park, making for a perfect afternoon trip of snapping photos and relaxing in the park.


Final Thoughts

New York City is a place constantly in flux between a glossy future and an industrial past.

The city is lined with brick and stone buildings, centuries old structures, and rich history. But it’s also home to massive new urban developments, supertall glass skyscrapers, and architecture pushing the bounds of modern design.

And awesome enough, these photography spots pay respect to that story, and provide a small experience through the twists and turns in New York City’s history.

In a city of over 20 million plus, it’s almost impossible to cover all of the top spots for photography. But hopefully this list is enough to get you started for a trek across the Big Apple, with a storied journey of photography locations ranging from historical buildings and structures, to bold and modern new elements.

Happy exploring.

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