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Detroit Photography Locations - Unbelievable Scenic Spots in the Motor City | Learn Where to take Great Shots of Detroit
April 16, 2019
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Places to Photograph in Detroit

The city of Detroit has such a diverse landscape and culture. As you might imagine, the scenes that the city offers are just as diverse as the people living here. As photographers, you’ll always find something interesting to point your lens at, no matter where you are and what time of year it may be. We are here to give you some ideas on both Detroit photography locations and provide links to our posts outlining more specific techniques you can employ throughout the downtown Detroit area.

Downtown and Detroit in general is where we spent a lot of time cutting our teeth learning the nuances of scenic photography. And honestly, you’ll find fewer better places than a city to learn the art of capturing light and geometry together. Any type of photography can be employed within a city.  And all genres can benefit from practicing and learning within the city limits. If you are interested in learning long-exposure, street, portraiture, architectural, scenic, or any types that I have not mentioned, there is a time and place in Detroit where you can practice and learn.

The majority of our Detroit guide will concentrate on some of our favorite locations. You will definitely want to be sure to check back often. We will be adding new entries as our adventures take us to new spots (to us) in the city limits. Following our quick run-down of some great spots, we’ll provide links to some of our other posts.  These posts will go much more in depth into the techniques we enjoy and how a city can be helpful in learning them.

Locations & Resources

(Click the links below to be taken directly to that location or resource.)

1. Belle Isle
2. Millendar Center
3. Campus Martius
4. Hart Plaza
5. The Riverwalk
6. GM Building – Renaissance Center
7. Cultural District (DPL, DIA, Horace H. Rackham Memorial Building)
8. The District Detroit (LCA, CoPA, Ford Field, Fox Theater, Fillmore)
9. Greektown
10. Corktown
11. Educational Articles & Real Portrait Examples

Detroit & Windsor Skyline from Belle Isle's Sunset Point
Sunset Point on Belle Isle is one of my favorite spots for capturing the Detroit/Windsor Skyline

Belle Isle

As you might imagine, Belle Isle State Park is an obvious choice for testing your skill in many different aspects of photography. It definitely my favorite spot in Metro Detroit to catch a sunset. I mean, how many other locations can you watch the light of the sunset silhouette two great international cities? You can at Belle Isle’s Sunset Point. This is also an awesome spot to catch dramatic night-time cityscapes of Detroit and Windsor. There are many other attractions at Belle Isle worthy of capture. If you’d like to get a more intimate knowledge of the park and the historical attractions located there, we invite you read our {Guide to Belle Isle – COMING SOON}.

Detroit's People Mover from Millendar Center
Sometimes the parking structures in Detroit can provide beautiful, unobstructed views!

Millendar Center

While the Millendar Center parking deck is not a park or a destination spot, it is a great place to grab a few shots of some great vistas of Detroit. Here is a place you can find a very dramatic angle of the Renaissance Center with an ultra-wide angle, and a great view of downtown via various vistas. These include the People Mover track down Larned Street as well as Cadillac Square, Campus Martius in the distance, and even the historic Wayne County building down Randolph Street.

Detroit's Campus Martius Skate Park in Winter
The Campus Martius park, surrounding streets, and buildings provide a lot of subject matter in a very small area.

Campus Martius

Campus Martius is one of the more popular meeting spots in downtown Detroit… Regardless of the season. In the warmer months, there is typically a sandy area with beach tables and chairs for the public to use. In the cooler months of the year, you’ll find the ice rink typically packed with skaters, and a rather large Christmas tree will be the centerpiece of the area’s holiday décor. The park is surrounded by what is pretty much a large traffic circle.  This circle links some of the main arteries into the downtown area.  If you are a fan of long-exposure, you’ll find opportunity to capture those light trails from the passing cars.

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza was intended to replace Campus Martius. And, for a time, it did, but that is another story for another day. This park is the de facto spot where most of the music and ethnic festivals are held throughout the year. Though, as the city has worked to improve and grow the commerce downtown, the festivals are growing along with it. These days they are extending outward to include the Woodward corridor all the way to Campus Martius. The photographer will find awesome views of the skyline from here (minus the Ren-Cen, as it will be to your right as you’re facing Jefferson.)

Detroit's Riverwalk Park at Sunset.
If you can’t make it to Belle Isle for the sunset, the Riverwalk in Detroit is also a great spot!

The Riverwalk (Detroit International Riverfront)

If you keep walking through Hart Plaza, you will reach Detroit’s relatively new Riverwalk. This is truly one of the best newer developments in the downtown area in my humble opinion. As it currently stands, the park extends from the Ambassador Bridge all the way to Belle Isle. This is a total of 5.5 miles of different views and vistas of not only Detroit but also, Windsor Ontario across the river.

Detroit's Iconic Renaissance Center
The Ren-Cen. Iconic symbol of Detroit provides photographic opportunity both inside and out.

GM Building (Renaissance Center)

The GM Renaissance Center is more than the tallest building in the state of Michigan. It was a brain-child of Henry Ford II and other local business leaders.  The intent of it’s construction was to serve as a centerpiece for the revitalization of the then struggling downtown Detroit area. Construction began in 1971 and, it first opened in 1976. Ever since that point, it has been one of the biggest attractions in downtown.

In it’s early times, the Ren-Cen was often dubbed as a “city within a city”. It features the western hemispheres tallest “all-hotel skyscraper”, and once held the title for the entire world. Ironically, the project born from Ford became owned by General Motors in 1996. At that point, they moved their world headquarters from the New Center area to the Ren-Cen. It is probably the most photographed building in Detroit, and is visible from pretty much the entire area, depending on your vantage.  You will find a bevy of photographic opportunities here.

The entryway of the Detroit Institute of Arts
The cultural district has a plethora of photographic options. Both inside and outside!

Cultural Center Historic District (DPL, DIA, Horace H. Rackham Memorial Building)

The Detroit Cultural district is nestled in the Midtown area and includes the Art Center, the Detroit Public Library, the Detroit Institute of Arts along with the Horace Rackham Education Memorial Building. These all were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is a very popular center in which to spend the day. All in all, this is a very photographer friendly area and offers a bevy of opportunities regardless of your interest in photography.

The Fox Theater, Detroit at night.
The Fox Theater is only the tip of the iceberg for great subject matter in the Theater District

The District Detroit (LCA, CoPA, Ford Field, Fox Theater, Fillmore)

One of the newer district developments in the downtown area is the sports and entertainment area know as “The District Detroit”. This area is comprised of six theaters, five separate neighborhoods, the home for all four major Detroit sports teams, and is a total of 50 blocks. The development in this area is far from finished but, there is already plenty of interest for those interested in architectural photography.

Greektown Detroit's Monroe Street at night.
There’s always interesting scenery in Detroit’s historic Greektown.

Greektown

Greektown is another of the best Detroit photography locations. This vibrant historic district is one of my personal favorites. Greektown is located a bit northeast of the center of the Downtown area and is home to some of the best Greek restaurants, the notable Athenium hotel, the Greektown Casino-Hotel and a couple of very photogenic churches. This former neighborhood is on the national register of Historic places since 1982, and is one of the most popular destination within the downtown area for many different reasons. Photography in Greektown gives the photographer an opportunity to enjoy practicing in a few different genres. Street, architectural, long-exposure, and even creative cityscapes.

The Michigan Central train station at night.
If you decide to go to Corktown, the Michigan Central train station is one of the more iconic subjects you can capture.

Corktown

If you head a little west of Downtown Detroit, you’ll find a historical district known as Corktown. The name is derived from the many Irish immigrants that settled in this area. In Ireland, they had predominately lived in County Cork. From this, Corktown was born. At one point in the not too distant past, Corktown was also home to the Detroit Tigers and the historic Tiger Stadium.

This historic neighborhood is also home to a rebirth of sorts.  In recent months, the Michigan Central Station which had long remained vacant, is now recently purchased by Ford Motor Company and is (hopefully) finally going to be redeveloped. This building has long been a subject of “Urbex” or “Ruin Porn” type photography by those brave enough to gain (not so legal) entry into the complex. I was never so brave. But, it still provides a great subject matter as an iconic building from Detroit’s storied past. You’ll find other original buildings and neighborhoods still standing and well preserved in this area. All of which give a distinct picture of Detroit’s past. A hungry photographer should know that Corktown is also home to some pretty tasty restaurants. Because, after all… We need to eat too!

 

Educational Articles & Real Portrait Examples

If you have a hankering to learn about some different techniques and genres you can employ throughout the city, here are some other articles you may find of interest:

Finally, if you would like to see some real examples from our portrait and wedding clients within some of the Detroit Locations mentioned above, check out the following links:

  1. Family Photo Session in Downtown Detroit
  2. Downtown Detroit & Belle Isle Engagement Session
  3. Saveski Wedding Dinner – Downtown Detroit Elopement
  4. Senior Portraits in Downtown Detroit
  5. Metro Detroit Wedding Pictures
  6. Engagement Shoot in Downtown Detroit

We hope you have enjoyed our photographic tour of our favorite Detroit photography locations. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back often as more spots are added to our repertoire and more specific articles surrounding these locations and the best techniques to practice there.

Happy Shooting!
Jeff

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3 Comments

  1. Frances

    I definitely need to visit Belle Isle next time, can’t wait for the guide! Thanks for sharing these gorgeous locations, Jeffrey! I’m with Explorest and we built an app that helps people discover 60+ beautiful photo locations in Michigan, and I think you’d enjoy it! We include the exact GPS coordinates & tips by the state’s best photographers. We also have locations in New York and California, across Asia and will be debuting in Europe soon. If you have a moment, check it out! https://www.explorest.com/

  2. Pingback: Belle Isle Couples Session with Megyn & Andy - Intrigue Photography

  3. Pingback: Michigan's Birthday – 183 Years Young - Michigan.Photography

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