Everything you need to know to get the Central Park Engagement Photos of your dreams!
So here’s the deal, if you found this guide you’re probably overwhelmed right now planning for your Central Park Engagement Session or wedding. There are hundreds of Central Park Engagement Session Locations, it can definitely feel overwhelming. The easiest tip we have is to just quit stressing and hire us 😂 but we understand if you’re just in the planning phase. That’s why we’re going to spill all the deets for you out of the goodness of our hearts!
We LOVE photographing in Central Park and this guide will break it down location by location and even include some different seasons for you too!
The number one pro-tip we have is: Be Flexible
Be flexible with your schedule. If you want the absolute best photos with zero people in them, be open to a sunrise or weekday session. The best way to avoid massive throngs of tourists is to do the session or wedding/elopement in the early morning whenever possible. Weekends at sunrise are even doable! It’s all about timing. Typically the super popular locations are best to knock out first at the beginning of a portrait session so as to avoid early risers. If you MUST have sunset/golden hour that is okay too, just know that major maneuvering will be necessary to avoid having people in most photos. Some of the popular spots will be 100 times trickier to get empty or near empty, but it’s never impossible. To avoid this stress and wasting time waiting for places like Bethesda Terrace and Bow Bridge to clear, listen to our sunrise/weekday advice!
Pro-tip #2: Wear shoes that don’t make you want to die every time you take a step. The park is 840 acres, we won’t have time for all 840 of them but we will certainly travel across a few! If you’re going to want to be in heels that aren’t ideal for walking, bring a quick pair of comfy shoes to change into for those walks between locations that might be a bit longer.
Without any further delay, here is our guide to some of the hottest spots in the park!! We’ll constantly be adding to this too so keep this saved. 🙂 Below is the list, if you want to jump to that section just click the link below and it will whisk you to that section of this lengthy resource.
BETHESDA TERRACE / BETHESDA FOUNTAIN
Bethesda Terrace and Bethesda Fountain are both extremely close in proximity and arguably the most iconic photo spots in all of Central Park. We usually like to start our sessions here, followed by the Bow Bridge just to get these popular spots out of the way. A good spot to enter the park to get here is E 72nd Avenue and Fifth Avenue if you’re getting dropped off by car or attempting to park.
Because of the number of photo spots here, we’ll break it down by area and include multiple photos for each spot.
*Bethesda Terrace + Fountain is one of the most popular locations in Central Park. Runners, dog-walkers, athletes, tourists, and other engagement sessions are CONSTANTLY passing through this area. To maximize the beauty of this location, we strongly recommend listening to our golden rule: sunrise and/or weekdays!
BETHESDA TERRACE / ARCHES / UNDERPASS
Another absolutely iconic Central Park engagement session photo spot, we recommend coming here as early as possible. This is one of the most known locations in the park. If you want the fountain to be filled with water and/or plant-life we recommend coming to the fountain in the summertime!
BETHESDA – STAIRS
The stairs, like the Arches and underpass area of Bethesda Terrace are gorgeous any time of year!
Another Central Park staple, we recommend coming to this location early in the morning to avoid crowds. Even in the AM you’ll see dog-walkers and early risers coming here to pose for engagement sessions or selfies. If you are looking to have photos on the Bow Bridge featuring lush foliage, you’ll want to come anytime from Spring through mid-Fall to ensure the leaves are all still intact. During Winter as you can see in some of the photos below, the leaves completely disappear.
GAPSTOW BRIDGE + THE POND
This scenic bridge in the South Eastern corner of Central Park has city views, and a few off the beaten path nooks to get away from tourists. The Pond is extremely scenic during the Spring months as seen in the following image.
THE MALL AND THE LITERARY WALK
This is a HUGE span of the park right down the middle on the lower third. It’s the main conduit to get from place to place and a great opportunity for some park bench photos or random stop-offs.
This small manmade body of water is used mostly for sailing model boats but can be a gorgeous photo opportunity during any season! This is usually just a small pit-stop during an engagement session and not a location that we spend a majority of our time at.
CENTRAL PARK CONSERVATORY GARDENS
The Conservatory Gardens is farther North than most of the Central Park spots listed here. We recommend starting or ending your session with the Conservatory Gardens and hopping in an Uber/Lyft or cab to get down to the Southern end for the other popular spots.
THE SAN REMO / EL DORADO
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the distinction between these two iconic Upper West Side buildings. The San Remo is the more common photo-op, appearing in the distance across The Lake and visible from Cherry Hill and The Bow Bridge. The El Dorado is about a four minute drive North of The San Remo and is visible when photographing near the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The photos below will only show the San Remo as that’s the more popular and conveniently located backdrop.
FIFTH AVENUE + SURROUNDING PHOTO SPOTS
Central Park is surrounded by gorgeous cityscapes on all sides of the park. You have The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue as well as the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. There are limitless possibilities to choose from, we recommend choosing a spot that might hold some sentimental value when possible. If you prefer to start at a coffee shop or museum we can work our way inward from the city to get both city + park photos!
Similar in design to the Dene Summerhouse, this on is a bit more centrally located on the southern end of the park. Used mostly for elopements and ceremonies, it’s still a great place to stop for engagement photos. Ideally in the morning or on a weekday as it can get crowded in this area with picnickers.
CENTRAL PARK ROCKS
Did you know Central Park is known for it’s rocks?! Yes, that is no joke – the rocks make for stunning foreground composition with the cityscapes or nature as the backdrop. If you wear shoes comfy enough to do a little climbing, the results are incredible. There are some rocky outcropping areas that can be accessed even in high heals too, just ask us for recommendations.
During late Spring through mid Fall we don’t recommend visiting the Sheep Meadow for engagement photos. Below is a photo that might show why. It’s EXTREMELY packed with tourists, locals, and other people soaking up the sun. If you wanted a wide open field photo this would be a good spot but only at sunrise otherwise there will be hundreds of people in the background.
Located just a minute away from the stately Belvedere Castle, you’ll be able to walk through some incredible blooms during Spring and Summer.
We don’t have an example photo of Belvedere Castle quite yet, be our first! We took some photos in that area with the couple below, but unfortunately it was still under extensive renovation in late 2019. The photo below is the forested clearing at the base of the castle.
If you want more off the beaten path photos and to be a little closer to nature this might be a good option for you! There are waterfalls, a “Ramble Cave” and other serene areas to enjoy.
At this point it should come at no surprise to you that the Ladies Pavilion is often used for ceremonies and elopements! The park is full of romantic spots to tie the knot and read vows. This small pavilion also makes for a great stop along the way down the West side of the park. Next to the Ladies Pavilion is a rocky area known as Hernshead, which you’ll see below.
HALLETT NATURE SANCTUARY
Tucked away near the Gapstow Bridge and Pond area of the park, we recommend coming here Spring through Fall. Winter months the area can be a bit barren. Small trails throughout well manicured patches of tall grass and trees take up most of the space in this sanctuary. Some flat rocks can be found for city views.
CENTRAL PARK WATERFALLS
As of now we’ve photographed a few Central Park waterfalls in the Ramble section of the park. If you want to locate more just let us know and we can visit some of the other waterfalls in the park.
THE PLAZA HOTEL
While we don’t recommend taking engagement photos on the property of this iconic hotel, we can certainly include it as a backdrop for your engagement pictures.
MISCELLANEOUS PHOTO LOCATIONS!
These spots are easy to access, and often times located in transit from one location to the next. If you see any here that draw your attention let us know and we can tell you exactly where they are taken.
CENTRAL PARK AND THE SEASONS
There really is no wrong season for Central Park engagement sessions. We offer coverage at the park year-round but definitely have a strong preference for the Spring, Summer, and Fall months. The Winter months are fine, it just gets REALLY cold. Snow can look amazing in photos at Central Park, so don’t worry – we’re all about getting photos here no matter the season. We just like to prepare everyone so they know what to expect.
The biggest factor when photographing during the seasons will be foliage. During the Winter the foliage is at it’s lowest. Spring you will see VIBRANT blooms and gorgeous blossoms throughout Central Park. Summer is overwhelmingly green with few other colors – the trees and shrubbery is all very lush. Fall is when the trees really start to show their oranges and yellows and you can find plenty of leaves to throw or walk through.
PERMITS + PARK FEES
For normal engagement sessions where it’s just the couple and us you will not need to obtain a permit for any of the above locations. The only potential spot that may cause problems would be the Conservatory Gardens. A $100 wedding photography fee is required, but if it is only an engagement session you can get by without one. If you want to play it safe and check ahead of time, visit or call the Conservatory Gardens.
Wedding Ceremony + Elopement information
Elopements and Wedding Ceremonies with 20 people or less do not need a permit. To obtain one or if you have questions the NYC Parks website is extremely helpful. The phone number for NYC Central Park Information is: (212) 310-6600. The NYC Central Park Information Hearing Impaired number: (800) 281-5722
Conservatory Gardens does have a $400.00 ceremony permit fee – this is not a recommendation, you will definitely need to reach out about this prior to the wedding/elopement date. If you want to avoid the fee, there are a number of gorgeous spots above that will still be PERFECT, ask us for recommendations! The number to the Conservatory Gardens is: 212.360.2766.
For planning your elopement or wedding at Central Park here is a helpful link to the Park Wedding Guidelines PDF. We’ll also be making a dedicated elopement + wedding resource page available for Central Park, stay tuned.
- Bethesda Terrace + Bethesda Fountain
- Bow Bridge
- Gapstow Bridge + The Pond
- The Mall and Literary Walk
- Conservatory Water
- Conservatory Gardens
- 5th Avenue and Surrounding City Photo Spots
- Dene Summerhouse
- Cop Cot
- Cherry Hill
- Central Park Rocks
- Sheep Meadow
- Shakespeare Garden
- Belvedere Castle
- The Ramble
- Ladies Pavilion
- Hallett Nature Sanctuary
- Central Park Waterfalls
- Miscellaneous Locations
- Seasons at Central Park
- Permit + Fee Information
- Weddings + Elopement Information