There is no shortage of incredible places to take photos in New York City, and yet – sometimes it’s still easy to fall into the habit of taking clients to the same spots, over and over. Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, The High Line, the LOVE Sculpture… there’s nothing wrong with these locations, and I totally understand why people like having their portraits there. But lately I’ve been thinking of a lot of great, classic New York City spots that I don’t think people give enough consideration to when deciding where to have their engagement or elopement portraits taken. I think it’s fun to mix it up, get out of the rut of going to the same spots over and over, and pick some places that are a little bit off the beaten path for your portraits. Here are five hidden gems that I think you should give some serious consideration to when coming up with location ideas for your portraits.
- DUMBO: No, not the elephant. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and is a neighborhood in Brooklyn between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. It’s a really interesting neighborhood that has gone from industrial to residential/commercial in the last few decades. My husband works in this neighborhood, and whenever I am down there, I always see so many perfect spots for portraits. It is such a cool area, and it’s also right next to another great Brooklyn portrait location: Brooklyn Heights. It would be so easy to spend an afternoon in these two neighborhoods capturing some classic New York City portraits. And both neighborhoods offer gorgeous skyline views of Manhattan.
- The East Village/Alphabet City: When John and I first moved to New York City six and a half years ago, we lived in an itty bitty studio on Avenue C in the East Village. And although we are now Upper West Siders through and through, I still have a tremendous soft spot for the East Village, Alphabet City, and Tompkins Square Park. I have literally only ever photographed one portrait session in the neighborhood in all the years I’ve been in shooting in New York City, and that seems so crazy to me. I’d love to wander around through my old neighborhood, capturing the gritty, urban vibe of the East Village in someone’s elopement or engagement photographs.
- Riverside Park: As an Upper West Sider, it pains me to see Riverside Park overlooked so often when it comes to people picking out locations for their portrait sessions. There are so many great spots in the park, not to mention some gorgeous Hudson River views. Riverside Park is the perfect location for a sunset portrait session, as there are no buildings blocking the sunset from there. If you’re deciding between Central Park and Riverside Park, you should consider giving Riverside Park a chance.
- Columbia University & Morningside Heights: Columbia’s campus is just gorgeous. I photographed an engagement session up there a few years ago, and ever since, I’ve been itching to get back up there. There are so many awesome nooks and crannies on the campus, and I absolutely love the neighborhood around the university: Morningside Heights. It is full of classic New York City charm. Plus – my very favorite fountain in all of New York City is in Morningside Heights: the super creepy Peace Fountain next to the Cathedral of Saint John the Devine. You know you want that in your photographs.
- The New York Botanical Garden: Last winter I went up to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx for the first time, and just completely fell in love with it. It is such a gorgeous place, full of beautiful portrait locations. I don’t know the legalities of shooting up there, but it would probably be worth getting a permit if necessary because it’s just an absolutely stunning place, and I’d love to go back up there with clients sometime.