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Manchester's Photogenic Gems: Top 10 Photography Spots for Instagrammers and Street Photographers

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

I have taken photos all over Manchester, from the main spots everyone goes to, to random back alleys. In this blog post, I'll share my top 10 favorite photography spots in Manchester and Salford, highlighting what makes each location special. Whether you're an Instagram enthusiast, street photographer, or simply seeking picturesque places, this guide will inspire your photographic journey.

1. Salford Quays

Instagrammable Views, Architectural Marvels, and Landmark Shots. Salford Quays and Media City offer Instagram-worthy shots and are and easy bus or tram ride from town. The large open quays give you panoramic views and gorgeous reflections. With loads of incredible architecture in the area, there is always something to shoot, from high-rise apartment buildings to old bridges. With the Iconic Imperial war museum there too, this area is great for getting shots of landmarks, which is why photography there is so popular. Visiting at sunset is a must to capture the picturesque scenery, the reflections of the sky in the water are just perfect and the buildings are far enough apart to allow the orange glow to cover everything in the shot. The Quays are also amazing for nighttime photography, take a tripod with you and get some long exposures of the lights reflecting on the water or take some street portraits of people coming out of the offices and bars being illuminated by all the lights. This is especially good in the winter when it gets dark early and you can spend a whole evening shooting long exposures.

2. Deansgate

Deansgate is a long road running through Manchester city centre and it is where I take a lot of my photos. This pretty street is a must visit for photographers and instagrammers alike. A few of the places on this list are on Deansgate as more specific locations, but the area as a whole has so much to offer. The old architecture of the Great Northern Warehouse runs down a large section of the road with the giant Beetham tower and Deansgate square towers lining up behind it. This is a shot I’ve taken many times as the lighting is always changing and the juxtaposition of the architectural styles lends itself so well to city photography. At the top of Deansgate is the Manchester cathedral, an iconic building that I have captured a few times over the years but have never been inside to shoot. Further down is the John Rylands Library which has been used in loads of TV and film, recently it was in Peaky Blinders, and is great to walk around and take photos inside. Looking down the various streets that come off Deansgate there and countless opportunities for photos of the city, with the roads creating leading lines to different parts of town and more iconic buildings. This area is also great for photographing nice cars as they are often driving up and down the road and since it is so long and straight there are always interesting ways to line the subject up for a dramatic shot. 

3. St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Square is home to the Manchester Central Library and the stone archways on the back of the town hall, these are probably two of the most photographed places in the city. This makes it a magnet for photographers, influencers and those seeking picturesque places. There is also a large tram stop that is often the focal point of shots as the tracks on the ground make perfect leading lines to the buildings in the back. The Midland Hotel is also just off the square and this old building is beautiful from pretty much any angle. For Iconic Manchester landmarks, St Peter’s Square is a must visit at any time of day. In the evenings you can almost always find people skating and riding bikes which make great subjects for street portraits and to capture the people of this great city. This area is also great for portrait shoots as it is nice and open so you're not getting in peoples' way and there are plenty of different backdrops to shoot against. Shooting in the stone arches is always good but often you’ll get people walking through the back of your shot so a few attempts may be needed.

4. Northern Quarter

The Northern Quarter, with its trendy bars, restaurants, and shops, offers a blend of stunning architecture and captivating individuals, making it a perfect spot for Manchester street photography. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere as you compose your shots, waiting for the perfect moment to capture the unique personalities of the locals. The juxtaposition of charming buildings and fascinating people creates an ideal backdrop for street portraits that encapsulate the essence of Manchester's urban chic.

5. New Islington

The New Islington marina is a great place to shoot, with large open spaces and plenty of water for some picturesque reflections. The area has been developed a lot recently so there are a load of new buildings with some really cool architecture to photograph. With Ancoats right next door there are some lovely old mill buildings mixed in with the new developments for people looking to create contrast with the architecture in their images. Rows of colourful canal boats on the water give some great reflections especially when the lighting is right. This is a great outdoor photoshoot location as there is such a mix of scenery in a small area as well as lots of open space so people aren't getting in your way. Walking around the cobbled streets of Ancoats, the large marina and park in New Islington and then the Ashton canal are 3 great locations to explore with a model.

6. Barton Arcade

Barton Arcade on Deansgate is home to a few cafes, restaurants and shops on the ground floor as well as offices on the upper floors. The Architecture here is simply stunning and the large glass roof gives excellent lighting inside, making it a must visit for photographer seeking picturesque places. From St Anne’s Square, you can get some great shots of the outside of the building, with a large glass door and glass dome above it. There is also a door back here which leads to the stairs for access to the offices. In the past, I have been able to get up there and shoot from the internal balcony that runs around the inside of each floor. From up here you can get some lovely images of the metal railings and focus on the amazing architecture in this building. You can also look down on the people below as they walk through the space or sit having food and coffee and get a unique angle for some street portraits.

7. Castlefield

Castlefield is at the bottom end of Deansgate and spreads across an area of parks, canals, bars and apartment buildings. This area is a treasure trove of photography opportunities, there are so many places to shoot in Castlefield I could make another post on it. Under the railway bridges is a personal favourite of mine, with cobbled streets and a dramatic metal bridge overhead. In the evenings as the sun gets low it shines through the gaps and comes in below the bridge to give some amazing images. The canal leading towards town lines up perfectly with Beetham Tower in the background and some older brick buildings in the foreground giving the shot contrast as well as reflections on the water. At any time of day Castlefield is great but at sunset especially there can be some magical views. As the seasons change Castlefield is always a popular place to shoot. On grey winter days the red metal railway bridge adds a pop of colour against the sky, in spring the flowers come out and the trees blossom, in summer the long evenings and packed bars give plenty of opportunities to capture street portraits and in autumn there are vibrant red leaves to shoot for a postcard autumnal image. With this ever changing and picturesque scenery, it's easy to see why so many photographers and influencers are attracted to the area.

8. Spinningfields 

Spinningfields is a bit of an interesting area to take photos, there are security who will come and stop you and say you need a permit to take any photos there. Technically you only need a permit for commercial work but the security often don't understand this and will insist you either get a permit or move on. Although it's a lovely area I wouldn't recommend shooting with models here as it draws too much attention and you'll get shut down, architectural photography on the other hand is normally pretty easy to get away with. Spinningfields offers a wealth of photography opportunities, attracting photographers seeking Instagrammable places in Manchester.Capture the unique buildings and the bridges going over the river, a favourite of mine is shooting around Sunlight House as it lines up so well with Number One Spinningfields. There are quite a few bars in the area as well as offices and apartments so there are plenty of different sorts of people around for some street portraits, a lot of the areas are pedestrianised as well so you can use the roads for leading lines to your subject without worrying about traffic. 

9. Exchange Square

Exchange Square is a bustling part of the city centre right by the Arndale, surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars there are always loads of people around to take pictures of. There are also some amazing buildings in the area, such as Sinclair's Oyster bar, which provide numerous and unique photography opportunities right in the heart of Manchester. With the tram stop there as well there are plenty of opportunities to capture people waiting there or crossing the tracks. Use the tracks as leading lines to draw the viewer into the scene and line them up with some of the buildings in the background or the people in the area. The tram stop also lines up well with the setting sun at certain times of the year so you can get some great silhouettes or use it to get some artistic glare in your images. 

10. Deansgate Square

Deansgate Square is a fairly new development made of several massive skyscrapers filled with apartments and a few bars and shops on the ground floor. These buildings are home to loads of Manchester influencers and celebrities, with insane rent prices and amazing views of the city. This area deserves its own mention on this list simply for the gorgeous look up shots you can capture here. Get yourself in between the towers and point the camera straight up to capture this amazing architecture. These towers look amazing and are often in the background of many other shots around Manchester but especially in the Deansgate area, one of them in particular lines up perfectly if you shoot straight down the road of Deansgate. The large reflective glass buildings get lit up beautifully at sunset and are painted in beautiful light, from up close they also reflect off each other adding more detail and colourful light to the image. I will mention that this area is private property and so I have on occasion been stopped by security and told I can't take pictures. They seem to be fine with a phone, but cameras are a no no. If you want instagrammable content though I'd definitely still recommend checking it out though and be sneaky.

There are so many more amazing places in this city, whether you're drawn to iconic landmarks, urban streets or picturesque waterfronts. One of my favourite things to do when I'm out shooting is just try and get myself lost! Take some random side streets you don't normally walk down and see what new locations you discover, this is how I've found some of my favourite spots and created some amazing work. Always be safe as you walk around the city and pay attention to what is going on around you, bring friends with you for company and to keep you safe. This is especially true at night when carrying an expensive camera around makes you a very good target, so stay safe and get exploring! 


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