Photographing New York: Midtown and 42nd Street

Midtown and 42nd Street - New York Photographer's Guide

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)

Wandering past the old buildings and new architecture of Midtown is a great way to explore New York, and there is not a more crowded place anywhere in the city. My favorite walk is east to west on 42nd Street, starting at the Chrysler Building (make sure to walk into the lobby), to Grand Central Terminal, to the New York Public Library, to Bryant Park, with views of the American Standard Radiator Building and the Empire State Building, and then ending in Times Square. This is a wonderful walk to do after sunset and into the evening.

New York Public Library, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York Photography
If you visit during the day, take some time to see the New York Public Library. The library will usually have an exhibit of some sort and old photographs of the city shown throughout the second floor. The interior of the structure is awe-inspiring. Do not forget to walk into the historic Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, which house stunning ceiling frescoes.

Chrysler Building, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York 
Make sure to explore the interior of Grand Central. Unfortunately, they do not allow tripods, although you can contact them to try and reserve a three-hour time slot to use one, but you must do this at least two weeks before. There are two ledges on each side of the terminal where you can rest your camera to photograph the interior and the crowds. Hold your camera strap to avoid dropping it below, and a small beanbag can help you steady the camera to get the shot you want. Use a slow shutter speed of around 4 seconds to capture the motion in the crowd. Snap a lot of these shots to make sure you capture the right mix of people moving.

Grand Central, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York

5th Avenue is a mecca for shopping and street photography. Walk the length of it in the 40s and 50s, and stop on occasional street corners for people watching and street photography. You will see people from all over the world and all types of New Yorkers, including some very well-to-do people. Some great and not-so-great fashions will pass you by.

Grand Central Crowd, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York
Visit Rockefeller Center between 49th and 50th Streets, and go to Top of the Rock. Top of the Rock is stunning at most times, but I highly suggest it at sunset and dusk. Go early to snag a spot to rest your camera on as people can be aggressive and you are not allowed to bring tripods up there. Across the street between 50th and 51st is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and if you walk one block west to 6th Avenue you will see Radio City Music Hall. In winter, make sure to walk the stretch of 5th Avenue between 50th and 58th to see all of the famous holiday window displays. Bergdorf Goodman has the premier windows.

Top of the Rock, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York Photography

Walking east to west on 34th Street is also a great walk due to the sheer amount of people you will encounter. Start on Park Avenue to see both a long view of Grand Central to the north and the Empire State Building to the west. Walk west past the Empire State Building and take a detour through Herald Square to the corner of Broadway and 32nd Street for one of the best views of the skyscraper. Walk back to 34th Street to see Macy’s and the incredible crowds of people outside. Continue west while shooting some street photography until you get to your final destination, B&H Photo Video. Explore the mecca of photography, a mammoth block of a store, and try not to spend all of your travel money.

St. Patricks Cathedral, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York Photography

Empire State Building, Midtown and 42nd Street, New York Photography

(This guide is part of The New York Photographer’s Travel Book, which is available as a free digital download.)