The Beginner’s Guide to Photography in Central Park

Central Park is one of the most Instagrammed landmarks in the world—and millions of visitors each year capture the Park’s energy and beauty through photography. But with 843 acres, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Read on to learn insider tips on when, where, and how to get the best snapshots in New York City’s backyard.

The Mall covered in snow

The Mall (mid-Park from 66th to 72nd Streets) is one of the most popular destinations in Central Park. Between the majestic American elm trees and the five statues at the Mall’s south end—also known as Literary Walk—there’s so much to photograph.

Where to get skyline photos

One of Central Park’s most iconic features is its setting in the middle of bustling Manhattan. For photos of the City’s skyscrapers, head to these locations.

  • Sheep Meadow offers a vast landscape and a clear view of the Midtown skyline. On a warm, sunny day, it’s easy to include hundreds of picnic-goers in your photos, too.
  • Central Park is built on top of ancient exposed bedrock, which can be found throughout the Park. Take advantage of this natural elevation—specifically Umpire Rock and Hernshead—for different perspectives.
A view looking up to Umpire Rock with the skyline on the horizon

Climb Central Park’s exposed bedrock to get more sweeping views. At Umpire Rock (west side at 63rd Street), you can admire much of Midtown with the Park in the foreground.

  • The views in the Park change dramatically each season! In the wintertime, without foliage to obscure the sights, the vistas in and around Central Park are more prominent than ever. See glimpses of Midtown that you can’t see the rest of the year from winding paths at the Great Hill, the Ramble, and Summit Rock.
  • The 1.58-mile track surrounding the Reservoir features an unsurpassed view of nearly 100 acres of water and the Upper West Side, Midtown, and Upper East Side skylines.
  • Oak Bridge, which serves as one of the major entrances to the Ramble, overlooks the Lake with Midtown in the distance.
A view across the Lake, framed by trees, with the midtown skyline in the distance

Find this view of the Lake and Midtown at Oak Bridge (west side at 77th Street). Head east over the bridge to enter the Ramble, where you can photograph birds and other wildlife.

  • From various outlooks in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, you’ll find some of the best views of Midtown in the winter. Capture the many buildings just south of the Park juxtaposed with the wilderness of the Hallett.
  • For one of the topmost views of the City skyscrapers, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's rooftop garden from May through October (weather permitting).

Best sunrise and sunset views

The Reservoir is arguably the best spot in the Park for photographing the City’s dramatic sunrises and sunsets. The Lake also offers wide views. Stick around—the City’s sunrises and sunsets can be quite vivid, and you’ll want time to capture the various hues.

Sunset is reflected on the still surface of the Reservoir

From the east side of the Reservoir running track (85th Street to 96th Street), you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and a direct view of much of the Upper West Side skyline (including the iconic El Dorado building).

Where to see various wildlife

Central Park is filled with cute critters, from squirrels to birds to turtles. If you’re looking to take photos of the Park’s wildlife, keep these spots in mind. Wherever you go, just remember to respect wildlife by giving them plenty of space and not feeding them.

  • Central Park welcomes more than 210 bird species each year. The Park’s three woodlands—the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, the Ramble, and the North Woods—are must-visit spots for photographing birds. The Twitter account @BirdCentralPark also shares alerts of where to find rare birds in the Park.
  • There are many animals, such as squirrels and ducks, that you’ll find in abundance throughout the Park. But don’t forget to look up—it’s also not uncommon to see owls and red-tailed hawks. And if you’re a fan of the Park’s famous Mandarin duck, he’s frequently spotted at the Pond.
A hawk is alert to its prey as it perches on a tall branch

Looking to photograph wildlife? Red-tailed hawks are year-round residents of Central Park. You can also see chipmunks, turtles, squirrels, ducks, and other animals throughout the Park.

Where to capture a different perspective

Explore away from the beaten path and you’ll be rewarded with unique views of Central Park’s most-photographed landmarks. The Point offers lesser-seen views of Bethesda Terrace and Bow Bridge. At Strawberry Fields, walk to the open field just northeast of the Imagine Mosaic, and you’ll find a quiet, secluded view of the Lake and Hernshead.

What to know before you go

With so many different landscapes, animals, architectural features, and more—in addition to millions of visitors each year—Central Park is a special place to take photos. Even seasoned photographers who are new to the Park may find these tips helpful.

  • Get to the Park early. Some Park landmarks are wildly popular and can get very busy—fast. Park hotspots include Bethesda Terrace, the Imagine mosaic, and Alice in Wonderland. Visit them before 10:00 am to beat the daily rush and catch the best lighting.
  • Download our insider maps and guides. Are you a fan of floral photography? Consult our Bloom Guide for the best spots and times to find your favorite flowers. In the autumn, you’ll want to reference our fall foliage map.
Myriad shades of pink, purple, and yellow crowd this photo of blooms

Conservatory Garden (east side from 104th to 106th Street) is Central Park’s only formal garden and features various blooms. The Garden’s mum display in the fall is particularly popular.

  • Be patient. There are lots of people in the Park at all times of year, especially closer to the south end. If people are blocking your perfect shot, just wait for them to move. They want to capture the moment, too!
  • Wear appropriate gear. Climbing the Park’s rock outcrops provides you with many new views. However, make sure to wear sneakers or sturdy boots.
  • Come prepared. Bring water and snacks to keep yourself hydrated and energized. Reference a Central Park map to find restrooms, refreshment areas, visitor centers, and information kiosks.
  • Look to the lampposts. If you get lost, reference the nearest lamppost. The four numbers on any lamppost base provide your location: the first two numbers indicate the nearest street (“65” means 65th Street) and the last two designate whether you're on the west or east side (odd numbers mean west, even numbers mean east).
Two lamps stand guard along a path through the North End

Lost? Look at the four numbers on any Central Park lamppost base. The first two numbers indicate the nearest street, and the last two designate whether you're on the west or east side (odd numbers mean west, even numbers mean east).

And lastly, if you’re visiting Central Park in search of beautiful photos, don’t be afraid to wander! The Park was intended to be a place to roam, so there are many places to discover if you venture somewhere new.

Once you get those great shots, share them with us and Central Park lovers around the world! Post photos of the places and things you love in the Park on social media, and be sure to tag @CentralParkNYC and use the hashtag #CentralParkLove.