NYC wedding photo permits is one of the key considerations during preparing for a photoshoot. Couples want the best of what the city and its vicinity can offer but it may come with a price tag or require an inside knowledge and connections. The very same considerations also come into play for non-wedding photography, be it an engagement photoshoot, a romance session, maternity, family portraiture, fashion shoot, or individual fine art photography. Our experience and advice will help you get to the most popular photoshoot locations.
Getting married in New York City leaves you with ample opportunities to consider. Professional wedding and engagement photography is seen differently by the authorities so some of the most sought-after wedding or engagement session photo locations require permits to photograph. Be sure that you’re fully aware of any details before making solid plans. It’s possible to choose more than one spot to take photos at, but you’re going to want to make sure they’re close in distance so you aren’t scrambling to beat the clock! You wedding photographer is the best resource to balance the time required to fully express their artistic style with the time recommended to cover popular photoshoot locations. While they are your creative and inquisitive eyes, a transportation company is your comforting and speedy feet. Choosing an experienced New York Limo and Party Bus service is vital, as the right chauffeurs are familiar with parking, pick-up, and drop-off locations at all of the major destinations in the area. BONUS: don’t miss four lifehack-style ways to get into some hidden gems covered at the end of the list!
Bookmark this page and check back for updates and new photoshoot locations! Photo credit for all images used: Zorz Studios.
Central Park – Conservatory Garden
Fifth Avenue & 105th Street, New York, NY; (212) 310-6600
Photography is allowed without a permit most anywhere in Central Park, but special rules and regulations apply to the conservatory area. You can find all of the details on the PDF you’ll need to submit. There is a $100 non-refundable fee for wedding photography in the Conservatory Garden. The sessions are booked in thirty minute intervals on the lawn area. You can also get an idea of their bloom schedule here.
Central Park – Bethesda Terrace and Fountain
72 Terrace Dr, New York, NY 10021; (212) 310-6600
In general, you don’t need a permit to photograph in Central Park if you’re using handheld equipment or a tripod. I did numerous individual and engagement photo sessions at the Bethesda Terrace without any special preparations. However, for larger productions and groups involved (e.g., wedding day photography with a large bridal party), even when a permit is not required, permission is still recommended to ensure the space is available. If you’re bringing other equipment, or if you have any other questions about photography in the Park, please email email@example.com. Use the same email to submit your photo permit request on a PDF form or you can do it online here. A minimum of 3 days advance notice is required for filming and productions are not permitted on weekends or holidays. While there are no fees to film or photograph in Central Park, donations to Central Park Conservancy are greatly appreciated.
Grand Central Terminal
89 E 42nd Street, New York, NY; (212) 340-2583
Grand Central Terminal has been a landmark of the city since it was built in 1913. Permits are required if professional equipment will be used or if the photography is commercial in nature. Since it’s likely your photographer will use a tripod or some type of lighting equipment, apply for a free permit to be safe, there is only a fee if the photos are used commercially. After several shoots there I was only approached once. Note that there is no photography permitted near the train tracks. Submit a contact form request on their website a week or more in advance of the wedding.
New York Public Library
476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018; (212) 930-0730
The New York Public Library has been a featured setting in many of Hollywood’s most famous film and television productions and is a sought-after locale for fashion and editorial photography shoots. No wedding photo permits are given unless you are renting the building for your wedding or other private event. Photography and videography are allowed within the rental spaces on the day of the event, subject to NYPL approval. Full details and schedules of any filming and photography must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org in writing at least 2-3 weeks in advance of the event. Fees may be incurred and they will be determined when all details of the shoot are reviewed. You may still shoot outside of the building but permission from the Library may be necessary if the building facade, marble steps, or lions are included in a shot.
Office: 1065 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 2400, New York, NY 10018; (212) 768-4242
A permit is required for shooting in the entire Bryant Park, stairs, entrances, sidewalks surrounding the park (5th Avenue, 6th Avenue, 42nd Street, and 40th Street), and the terrace in front of the New York Public Library. Permission from the Library may be necessary if the building facade, marble steps, or lions are included in a shot. Most shoots will be required to pay a site fee; its amount will be determined after you apply, based on type of shoot (editorial, commercial, etc.), duration, crew size, amount of equipment, location within the park, etc. Wedding photography is free, but still requires a permit. To apply, fill out the PDF form and email it to email@example.com.
New York, NY; (212) 262-7677
Productions using hand-held camera, camera on tripod, hand-held props and/or hand-held equipment and not requesting parking privileges for production vehicles do not need a permit. In Times Square and throughout the city, standing on a city sidewalk, walkway of a city bridge or within a city park while using a hand-held camera is not an activity that requires a permit. $300 non-refundable application fee for a permit is required only for productions with equipment (more than hand-held camera, camera on tripod or handheld items such as bounce-boards, boom mics, etc.) and production vehicles requesting parking privileges (excluding personal vehicles). To download the permit, click here, then fax it to 212-262-7677.
Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor
1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY; (212) 768-4242
While the entire grounds are impressive at this destination, the Chinese Scholar’s Garden stands out with eight pavilions, waterfalls, and koi ponds. It is open until 5PM on Tuesday through Sunday, but it is closed on Mondays and has special hours in the winter. The permit fee allots for two hours at a price point of $150 for the general grounds, but it increases to $350 if you want photos taken in the Chinese Scholar’s Garden. You can submit the details of your request for approval here.
Office: 1 Whitehall Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10004; (212) 344-3491
Permits are required for wedding photography, commercial film, television, or still photography in Battery Park and need to be obtained in advance. Permits aren’t required for portrait photography and I managed to do engagement and children sessions but they are still recommended to ensure use of a particular place within the parks. Wedding photography up to 4 hours is $750, portrait photography up to 3 hours is still listed on their price list at $150. You can apply online via their ePermit page. If you have additional questions, please contact Nidia Reeder, Director of Event Coordination and Management, at (212) 417-2000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fort Tryon Park
Riverside Dr To Broadway, New York, NY 10040; (212) 795-1388
Spectacular vistas of the Hudson River and Palisades, landmarked gardens, historic sites, and meandering paths combine to make Fort Tryon Park a popular location for photography and film projects. No photo permit is required but you may want to make sure you will be able to use a specific area in the park and that no one else has been issued a permit to use that area – as in the case of wedding photography. Also, applying for a permit alerts our staff of your plans; they can then make recommendations on the most popular photoshoot locations or dates for your gathering. Please contact the administrator’s office at (212) 795-1388 ext 301.
99 Margaret Corbin Dr, New York, NY 10040; (212) 923-3700
The Cloisters, a museum governed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, comprises of the reconstructed Gothic chapels and halls dismantled and brought from Europe. It has the design, layout and ambiance intended to evoke a sense of medieval European monastic life. Regretfully, any professional photography is prohibited inside and no wedding photo permits even exist. Nonetheless, you can try making your unique case by emailing to email@example.com. Since the museum sits in Fort Tryon Park (see above), you can, however, shoot around The Cloisters and have it in the background. I even brought my engagement session clients as close as to one of the smaller back gates.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY; (718) 623-7200
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden requires a permit for any professional portrait photographs, even for noncommercial use. You’ll want to request a photo session permit on their website at least a week beforehand. The photo sessions are generally booked in hour increments with the last session booked at 4:30PM, and the cost is $350 for a group with up to twenty people. After that, it is $15 additional for each person, not to exceed 25 participants.
Brooklyn Bridge Park and Dumbo
334 Furman Street, Brooklyn, NY; (718) 222-9939
This waterfront park offers fantastic views of lower Manhattan! Wedding photography in Brooklyn Bridge Park and throughout the adjacent Dumbo area requires a permit if your group exceeds 20 people or if the photographer is using equipment beyond something handheld. However, permits aren’t issues for any holidays or weekends, and requests need to be submitted a few days in advance. You can’t take photos at the Triangle Garden, Pop-up Pool, or playground and picnic table areas. The online permit application is available here.
Gantry Plaza State Park
4-09 47th Rd, Long Island City, NY 10007; (718) 786-6385
Gantry Plaza State Park is a 12-acre riverside oasis that boasts spectacular views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building and the United Nations. Permits may be required to film or photograph in any state park in New York City. This includes student shoots, still photography, video, internet, television and films (shorts, independent, features, etc.). Getting a permit is a two-step process. First, submit the “NYS Parks Film Shoot Request Form” by email to Lillian.firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to 212-866-3186. Allow up to 3 days to receive an approval. Second, submit a completed Permit Application form they will provide. if approved. There is a $30 nonrefundable permit application fee. Allow up to 5 days to receive. For more info, click here.
Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St, Flushing, NY; (718) 886-3800
There are over 18 acres of photo opportunities at the Rose Garden, Wedding Garden, Fragrance Walk, Woodland Garden, and more. Wedding parties are restricted to no more than twenty people, and there is an additional $25 fee for wedding photo permits if they’re purchased on the day of. The Main Garden photography permit allows one hour on the main grounds for $175 and can be booked here. The Wedding Garden specific permit is $300 for 30 minutes in the garden and an hour in the main grounds. For this, you’ll have to contact the Queens Botanical Garden events department at email@example.com.
Old Westbury Gardens
71 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY; (516) 333-0048
Lush flower gardens, tree-lined walks, and the grand architecture are the perfect romantic settings for wedding photography at the Old Westbury Gardens. Wedding photo permits are required and must be requested at least 8 weeks in advance. If your party arrives between 9 AM and 3 PM the base permit fee is $325, after 3:30 PM – $450. Permits are good for 1.5 hours, overtime may be scheduled in advance for an additional $100. Up to 20 guests (bridal party, relatives), excluding photographers/videographers are allowed, additional guests incur a fee. If it rains and the Westbury House is available, you may take photos inside, otherwise, a full refund is given. For complete information and to reserve your day and time, print out and complete the reservation form and mail or fax to the office noted on the form. To view the various gardens available for your wedding pictures, click here.
135 West Gate Drive Huntington, NY 11743; (631) 659-1301
Oheka Castle’s stunning European style, dramatic surroundings, and proximity to New York City continues to make the Castle a popular backdrop for professional film, television, video and still photography productions, as seen in many productions. Similar to New York Public Library, no wedding photo permits exist as regretfully, wedding/engagement photoshoots are exclusively available to couples getting married at Oheka Castle only. For more information on location shooting, contact Kelly Melius at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Liberty State Park
Morris Pesin Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07305; (201) 915-3403
Less than 2,000 feet from the Statue of Liberty, the offers beautiful views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Once a transportation hub, the land was abandoned as the railroad industry declined. The Liberty State Park was restored in 1976, converting the old train station into a cool architectural prop along with an old locomotive (officially non-climbable). It is also home to the Empty Sky, the official New Jersey September 11 memorial, often used by wedding photographers due to its unique reflective lighting effect. The photo permit is $60-75 (non-commercial) or $150-200 (commercial). It can be downloaded and either faxed or emailed to email@example.com.
Grounds for Sculpture
80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, NJ 08619; (609) 249-0212
Grounds for Sculpture offers a wide variety of unique facilities to meet all of your photography needs and is the ideal surrounding to host the wedding of your dreams, “a world where art and nature collude and sometimes collide.” It showcases over 270 amazing contemporary sculptures, meticulously sited on 42 acres of horticultural wonder. Wedding photography session is offered at a flat rate of $500. It includes up to 12 guests, an Individual Plus Membership (value of $120), and a golf cart and driver for transporting people or the equipment. Photography sessions must be approved in advance. In case of inclement weather, you may choose to have your photography taken within one of our indoor galleries; there is no refund. Fill out the photography agreement form and email to the Events Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your date.
Bonus 1 – Hotels
Some of the historic and cultural photoshoot locations offer an incredible set design but their photo permit costs are sometimes skyrocketing, only having movie productions in mind. Although I had clients pay close to $1,000 for an hour or two, there is sort of a shortcut that can give you a similar feel even if on a smaller scale. It may cost you twice as less and you get to use the space for a full day and night, either taking the most of it for your photography project, or just staying overnight in style. Boutique hotels. There are those that add charm, class, and style which might beat your own home, let alone a photo studio. You may be able to choose between postmodern and Victorian, Art Deco and Gothic, chic and rustic, urban and country, all for just a few hundred dollars. Some hotels also have beautifully decorated common areas, libraries, hallways, staircases, patios, etc. When you book a night there, it could be fine to get photographed as long as you do not inconvenience other patrons. The photos above are from just three of Manhattan’s hotels where I worked. Ask your photographer if he or she knows any picturesque hotels for your stylish photo shoot.
Bonus 2 – Local Connections and Businesses
Connections work wonders. Your photographer may have some already (like an antique car lot I used in one of the engagement sessions above) but their connections are still limited, would require a high photo permit fee, or may be difficult to revisit too often. You or your friends can amplify them if only you pause for a good moment and think hard. Don’t rush with an immediate thought “I don’t know anyone!” — you are ditching any opportunity right off the bat! Many of my clients dipped into their network connections and were up to pleasant surprises. The’d recall a swimming instructor who welcomed them for an underwater maternity shoot, a bar which they frequent, a winery they had a business relationship with, a gym they are members of, or a whole theater their friends got them into! The unbeatable kicker there is that there were zero photo permit fees! Ask yourself, your family, your friends, ask your social connections — you’ll never know until you do, and may be up to a shocking discovery!
Bonus 3 – Hidden Gems
Every photographer has collected a list of cool photoshoot locations discovered by chance. They are not off-limits (see next) and can be freely, safely, and legally approached by a small production crew but for some reason, not as widely known or taken advantage of. They are the hidden gems treasured by the locals so you would just need to ask your friends (especially the joggers/runners/cyclists who go to the remote places). Your photographer may also have some in mind, like the ones pictured above. One was a lead by the client herself who lives there, another – the result of my own online research, and the last one – an accidental discovery while shooting a regular session in a park.
Bonus 4 – No Trespassing Zones
Finally, the most challenging and not recommended for the faint-hearted category: the fenced-off areas not even meant for public access. Clearly not for the wedding day or family photography, they offer some insane photo opportunities for engagement sessions or dramatic portraiture, varying from private to industrial, from construction sites to wilder than safe nature, from abandoned psychiatric asylums to jails. You can try looking for the overseeing agency and approach for permit — to be likely rejected or be unsuccessful in your search. If you are keen on shooting there, the results will depend on how daring and risk-taking your photographer is, and on the element of sheer luck. You may get arrested or fined, as it happened to me, you may get your vehicle sunk in a desert sand (again happened to me), or you may end up running away to save your butt… As for me, such outcomes do not deter from future projects and discovering new offbeat photoshoot locations.