One of the first questions I always get from couples when they’re planning their engagement session with me is: Do you have any recommendations on locations where we could schedule our session? I get this same question from soon-to-be grooms (and soon-to-be brides!) who are planning surprise proposals and are asking me to capture this beautiful moment on camera.
I LOVE helping my clients choose locations for their engagement sessions and surprise proposals! In my Engagement Session Prep Guide, which I always send to couples before their engagement session with me (and will oftentimes send to clients who are having trouble deciding on a location to “pop the question”!), I encourage my clients to think about places that match their personalities, spots that have a special meaning to them, or unique locations that they may have special access to that other people don’t. I recommend locations such as: the place where they first met, the couple’s favorite restaurant, the location where they enjoy their favorite activity together, or the couple’s favorite neighborhood, park, or skyline.
For those clients who are still struggling with deciding on a NYC location for their engagement session or a NYC location for their surprise marriage proposal, I’ve compiled a list of amazing spots for photo shoots in Manhattan and its surrounding areas that I’m more than happy to share with them. I compiled this list after many months of shooting engagement session and proposals in NYC, and I always tell my clients that you seriously can’t go wrong with any of these spots. One thing I do want to mention is the following – these NYC locations are not just perfect for engagement sessions and surprise proposals. They’re also great for family/children sessions, lifestyle sessions, senior sessions, anniversary sessions, maternity sessions, and (of course) wedding day portraits!
Despite the fact that many spots tend to be chaotic and sometimes a bit crowded, I love shooting in NYC! There’s just so much magic and beauty all around! So without further ado, below is a list of my go-to NYC photo shoot locations. In the paragraphs that follow, I explain why I think these are the perfect spots for scheduling NYC proposals and engagement sessions, and I let you know which ones may require a permit in order to shoot professional photos there (*hint* – it’s basically all of the restricted gardens!). My ultimate favorite locations from the below list are The Mall/Bethesda Terrace at Central Park, Chelsea Waterside Park/Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers, Brooklyn Bridge Park/DUMBO, and the Boathouse at Prospect Park.
FAVORITE MANHATTAN LOCATIONS
- The Mall and Bethesda Terrace at Central Park – I love starting engagement sessions at The Mall in Central Park (a beautiful walkway lined with trees that runs through the middle of the Park from 66th to 72nd street), and then making our way over to Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain. On my longer engagement sessions, I usually ask my couples if they’d like to continue walking over to the Bow Bridge (a 2-3 minute walk from Bethesda Fountain), through the winding paths of The Ramble, and up to the beautiful stone folly structure called Belvedere Castle (a 10-12 minute walk from Bethesda Fountain). Most couples are more than thrilled to do so, and we take a ton of gorgeous photos along the way! Unfortunately, all of these areas in Central Park are often packed with tourist and locals on pretty much every day of the week. They’re also super popular areas for all kinds of photo sessions, so they’ll generally be packed with photographers and their clients. But on most days, you can find beautiful spots to shoot in that are away from the crowds, and most people are kind enough to move out of the way if you ask them nicely. I always, always, always recommend the Bow Bridge for surprise marriage proposals! It’s an absolutely gorgeous cast iron structure that has amazing views of the Park and of a few iconic Manhattan buildings.
- Chelsea Waterside Park and Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers – This quiet area along the Hudson River has an incredible amount of charm and is perfect for afternoon engagement sessions and proposals scheduled around golden hour. Located at West 23rd Street and by the West Side Highway, Chelsea Waterside Park is a wonderful spot where you can get a few images around nature (there are many grassy areas and TONS of trees), but right away switch it up and get some images with a more urban feel around the different pathways and by the Chelsea Piers sports complex. The sun setting behind the trees in Chelsea Waterside Park always allows me to create incredible backlit photos! Plus, you can always get some cool photos by the water around Pier 62 as the sun approaches the horizon. This spot will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where my boyfriend and I spent a lovely afternoon for our first date!
- Fort Tryon Park – This hidden gem in the uppermost part of Manhattan (specifically located in the Hudson Heights and Inwood neighborhoods) houses The Cloisters museum and about 8 miles of pathways, multiple lawns and the City’s largest garden with unrestricted public access, all of which serve as beautiful backdrops for a proposal or for engagement portraits. Professional photography at or near The Cloisters is strictly prohibited, but you can pretty much shoot anywhere else in the Park. Fort Tryon Park offers an amazing view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades, which are basically miles and miles of cliffs covered in trees. This is probably my second favorite spot (after Chelsea Waterside Park/Pier 62) to shoot backlit golden hour photos as the sun sets on the west.
- Riverside Park – Riverside Park is a great alternative to the three locations I listed above. It offers an incredible park-like feel by the water, butis generally less crowded than other parks on this list. This gorgeous waterfront park is also situated along the Hudson River (on the west side), stretches four miles from 72nd to 158th streets, and has various community gardens (like the gorgeous 91st Street garden!) that serve as amazing backdrops for proposals and engagement sessions.
- Conservatory Garden – The only formal garden in Central Park, this beautiful six-acre garden area is located at 5th Avenue, approximately between 104th and 106th street. It’s a truly iconic location for proposals and engagement sessions. I love this spot, but I always advise my couples that they need to secure a permit in advance in order to take professional photos there.
I also absolutely LOVE the following iconic landmarks in Manhattan that offer incredible scenes for engagement sessions and surprise marriage proposals: Battery Park City (a 92-acre waterfront planned community tucked between the Financial District and the Hudson River), The High Line (a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park in the Meatpacking District), and the Columbia University campus in Upper Manhattan.
FAVORITE LOCATIONS OUTSIDE OF MANHATTAN
- Brooklyn Bridge Park and DUMBO – Some might say the Brooklyn Bridge Park area has the most iconic views of both the Manhattan skyline and some of New York City’s most famous bridges. And they’re probably right! Because of this, this 85-acre waterfront park on the Brooklyn side of the East River is a wonderful spot to schedule a proposal or an engagement session. I love this park (and all of the DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn!) because it allows for SO much variety in scenery and looks for photos! Within just a few blocks in the DUMBO neighborhood, you can find lots of greenery, cobblestone roads, old industrial architecture, beautiful red brick structures, awesome walls covered in graffiti and murals, and so much more! It’s just such a cute neighborhood that is only rivaled by the hip and trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg (also a great Brooklyn location)! Unfortunately, DUMBO is yet another area that is generally packed with tourists, locals, and photographers shooting all kinds of photo sessions for their clients. But it’s absolutely worth it! Especially if you’re scheduling an engagement session or surprising your significant other with a proposal right before sunset.
- The Boathouse at Prospect Park – I absolutely love Prospect Park and all of its beautiful greenery! Prospect Park is a 526-acre public park located in Brooklyn, and is another great alternative to Central Park. My favorite area to shoot in within Prospect Park definitely has to be the area surrounding the Boathouse. I LOVE the view of the Boathouse from the cast iron Lullwater Bridge, which is reminiscent of the Bow Bridge in Central Park! This bridge has to be the absolute best location to shoot an engagement session in Prospect Park. And it’s also a stunning spot for a surprise marriage proposal!
- Long Island City Center – The waterfront area in Long Island City, Queens that is sort of cornered off by Center Boulevard is another gorgeous area with beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline. This area is best know for the iconic ‘Long Island’ and ‘Pepsi-Cola’ signs. There are TONS of beautiful grassy areas in and around Gantry Plaza State Park that contrast beautifully with the barge houses and the buildings situated along the water. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon engagement session or proposal with a city-chic feel!
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden – A beautiful spot for engagement photos and surprise marriage proposals, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (a stunning 52-acre garden in the heart of Brooklyn) is the best place to get gorgeous photos under cherry blossom trees when they’re in bloom. This is another location that is generally extremely crowded and, unfortunately, requires you to make a reservation and secure a permit to shoot professional photos.
- New York Botanical Garden – Of course, this beautiful 250-acre garden also had to make the list! Another beautiful location for engagement photos and surprise proposals, the New York Botanical Garden is located in the Bronx borough. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and a wonderful spot to shoot photos among all kinds of beautiful blooming flowers and plants! A permit is also required to shoot professional photos at this location.
- Liberty State Park – This one is technically outside of NYC. Across the Hudson River, in the beautiful neighborhood of Jersey City, NJ is Liberty State Park. I love the Jersey City neighborhood! (I’m kind of biased because I lived there for an entire summer a year before I officially moved to NYC!) There are incredible views of both the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty from Liberty State Park, which also houses a beautiful memorial in honor of the 9/11 attacks. You can’t go wrong with this spot if you’re scheduling your proposal or engagement session there!
Do you love reading about locations where you can schedule your next NYC photo shoot? Make sure to check out my last blog post where I discuss the best spots in NYC to schedule a FALL portrait session! You can access it HERE!
Are you interested in having me photograph your surprise marriage proposal or your engagement session? I absolutely LOVE photographing these beautiful moments for my couples, and always enjoy visiting some of these iconic NYC locations whenever I do! I also love traveling, and happily welcome out of town/destination proposals and engagement sessions! To get on my calendar right away, you can contact me by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox!