If you are going to tie the knot down at City Hall, the reality is you don’t have a lot of obvious options for portraits in the area. Just walking into the Marriage Bureau office, you’ll notice you are surrounded by construction and scaffolding. While you do have locations such as the Little Wedding Garden, Foley Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, and even Chinatown, which spot is best? In today’s blog I assess all of your City Hall wedding portrait locations and let you know the pros and cons of each option from a photographer’s perspective.
Carla lives in the East Village and is a former member of community garden 6BC. Her father’s 60th birthday was right around the corner, and she wanted to give him the gift of a beautiful family portrait. So what better location for her family portrait than garden 6BC – her own backyard, so to speak? If you have a similar community garden family portrait in the works, here are a few details that you need to know.
Park Portrait Strategies
It was a beautiful day on Saturday for a Central Park lake proposal! Zing, the groom-to-be, did a lot of planning before the big day, and I am happy to say that Claire said ‘yes’! Check out all the details from Zing’s proposal to Claire in Central Park and find out my secrets to making it look like you have the park all to yourself.
Or, How I Photographed 21 People in 6 Hours
I recently had the pleasure of photographing a family reunion portrait. Picture it if you will: a beautiful home nestled in the woods. Inside and outside, 21 family members of various ages are running all over the place being photographed here, there, and everywhere. That was basically my six-hour day, and it was fantastically fun chaos for every minute that I was there. Are you getting your own gang together soon? I can vouch that a reunion portrait is a terrific idea for families of any size, and here are some tips for pulling off your own family reunion photo session.
Scout out your locations ahead of time, and have a plan of action. The plan was genius: Christine, my client, had scheduled a family reunion for the Fourth of July weekend. She had rented a house in the Poconos for everyone to get away from the city and get back in touch with one another. The main activity for the weekend was our photo shoot on Saturday. I knew how meaningful this session was to Christine and her family, and thus she and I put a lot of thought into planning the full six-hour day. There was a detailed itinerary from when I arrived at 2:00 p.m., until the moment I left at 8:00 p.m. Everyone was done with hair and makeup and ready to go when my feet hit the ground. We knew that the day would start with photographing some of the younger children since they would be going down for naps in the afternoon, and the best light of the afternoon was saved for the larger group photos of everyone. Finally, the day ended with a big meal served up by Chef Joe, whom Christine brought in for the weekend. Christine helpfully provided me with a full list of who was to be photographed, the group combinations she wanted, and best of all, a link to the VRBO house description.
The Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania are about an hour and a half outside of New York. You have to take a bus, not a train, to get there. Since it was a little difficult to visit, I did all of my location scouting online. The link to the house gave me a room-by-room view, and I also did some Google Earth sleuthing to see what the outside areas looked like. I knew there was a pool table downstairs that would be perfect for some shots with the guys, and the upstairs living room had high ceilings and a mezzanine level that would give me a bird’s eye view on the action around the dinner table. There was a field. field in the backyard, and this environmental curiosity came in handy for several photos. Furthermore, the house was surrounded by woods, so I knew I could use the great outdoors to my advantage. In short, even though it was technically one location, I had a myriad of backgrounds to choose from and tried to think ahead of time which background would suit each family member. No family group was photographed with the same background. Finally, I calculated when sunset would occur, and make sure to reserve the ‘golden hour’ for our big group shots to give these photos the best light. When I arrived, I made sure to scout the house with Christine at my side. She told me the areas that were of importance to her, and together we made finalized the plan deciding which family members would be assigned each location.
Be organized, with a full list of who you want photographed. Christine was instrumental in making this a successful photo shoot. She provided me with a list of individuals along with a list of every group photo she wanted. There were 21 individual family members, four couples, and 19 groups. I shot in order of who was ready to go, starting with one family that had young children who knew the kids would tire easily. Christine served as my ‘wrangler’ introducing me to family members and shepherding people in front of the camera. For your own family shoot, I recommend the same. Have one family member designated as the photo session point person who will bring people to me, and make sure that the next group is ready to go. I would also prioritize your list of photos so that I know which groups are most important to you.
Coordinate with your hair and make up people to make sure family members who need to be photographed first are finished first. Seriously, this shoot went off without a hitch. When I arrived, the hair and makeup people had already left, and every family member was camera-ready. I have had weddings where I had to wait an extra hour for makeup ‘professionals’ to apply a last touch of glitter. Not with this group.
Make sure to include individual shots, as well as group photos. Christine was great to include individual family photos in her shot list. It was important that each family member got some time in front of the camera, and with few exceptions, I took care of everyone. Not every member of your family may need or even want an individual photo, but it’s nice to offer that as an option. Nowadays everyone needs a photo for social media, and this is a great way to give the gift of a good photo.
Save your big group shots for the best light. Individuals can be posed to make use of even the harshest bad light. As case in point, take a look at these shots on the boulder field. I started taking photos at 2:00 p.m., and in the summer this means that the light is almost directly overhead. There was no shade to hide under, but the boulder field was such a cool environmental feature that we had to include it in photos no matter what the lighting was. In contrast, I saved the big group photos for a time when the light was much less harsh. One group photo was set in the forest in total shade, and the final group photo was backlit with just a touch of fill flash on the deck overlooking the backyard.
Allow time for fun photos to happen naturally. Our day was jam-packed, but we had intervals of time set aside for family members to simply play. I knew the pool table would be the source of some great photos, so after a few staged shots, I told the kids to just enjoy the game. The older family members taught the little ones how to use a pool cue, and hilarity ensued. The girls were photographed upstairs right before dinner and as you can tell from the photos, everyone was famished.
Have some activities planned that do not involve the camera. Christine and her family love good food almost as much as they love one another. As such, the gang had a big dinner planned for the end of the day. The table was beautiful, and Chef Joe put his best work on the table. Honestly, his plates were beautiful. In terms of the overall composition and flow of story of the images, ending the shoot with the family holding hands and praying before dinner was the perfect shot. It shows how much love was in that room. For your own family reunion photo session, I recommend including activities such as eating, sports, a group walk, or even helping around the house where you can document the entire family pitching in together. These moments show you actively working as a family in a natural setting and say so much more than simply smiling.
Have fun re-creating family photos of yore. Christine has been haunted by family photo from her past. We, of course, had to re-create it down to the last detail during this photo session. For me, the best shot is of the family trying to get it together and position themselves in the exact same spot and with the same gestures as they had so many years ago. Priceless.
And finally, plan enough time for your photo session. With 21 family members to photograph, I did not get to every individual shot on our list. Furthermore, at the end of six hours, the family was simply exhausted from having their photos taken. Everyone wanted to rest, and thankfully, that’s when dinner was ready. When you are scheduling your own family reunion photo session, take into consideration that most people can only last two hours having their photo taken. Prioritize your most important photos, and leave everything else for either another day or at least build in a rest period.
Planning a family reunion photo shoot of your own? Give me a call and let’s chat.
Hair and makeup: Shataya Beauty
Chef: Chef Joe
Coming up in the next blog: find out all the details of Chris and Rob’s Housing Works Bookstore wedding. There was song, there was dance, there was love…what more do you need?
If you would like to see more images from my family photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com
With the end of summer drawing near, I thought it might be a good time to offer a few beach engagement tips drawn from Angii and Paul’s recent Long Beach engagement session. While this couple scheduled their engagement session AFTER they walked down the aisle (and I’ll have photos from their Montauk Lighthouse wedding soon!), the lessons learned from their photo session will help you plan the perfect seaside photo shoot, no matter when you book your session.
What do you do if it’s raining on the day of your portrait? This town has a wealth of unique spots to act as a backdrop for any type of portrait. Sadly, however, most of these locations are outdoors. With the rain we have been having lately, I have had to reschedule countless family and engagement portraits. It’s time to find an indoor alternative. And thus, this week I became a photographer with a mission: to search out this city’s elusive public atriums and see how these spaces would work as NYC rainy day photo shoot locations.
For Jason and Michelle, their New York public library engagement love story began a few years ago when Jason would drop Michelle off at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue to study for her medical degree. After meeting on the app Hinge, this iconic building in the heart of Manhattan became near and dear to their hearts, so it only made sense that we would go here for their engagement session. But to start things off, we begin our tale at the Library Hotel on 41st Street where Jason surprised Michelle with a marriage proposal.
Surprise Proposal at the Library Hotel
Jason and Michelle live near Fifth Avenue, and Bookmarks bar on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel is one of their favorite spots to visit in the city. In fact, this rooftop bar is where their parents met for the first time. It was only natural that Jason decided to pop the question to Michelle here. While rain was in the forecast, the bar has a covered atrium that had enough space for Jason to get down on one knee. Luckily, the rain held off despite every assurance of a dreary forecast. Jason and Michelle must be meant for each other because the sun came out and everything went according to plan.
I had the pleasure of photographing Tamara and Brian‘s wedding at the Library Hotel many years ago. The bar is just as lovely today, and is now managed in the daytime by Joel who worked with Jason to orchestrate the perfect surprise proposal. Jason made sure to have flowers delivered, and Joel had the champagne on ice in the corner. Joel even went to the trouble of spreading out a bed of rose petals for the couple.
When the elevator doors opened and Michelle heard her favorite song playing from behind the bar, she knew something was about to happen. The couple walked through the doors and onto the outside patio where I was waiting. Jason led Michelle to the corner and calmly, but quickly, asked her to marry him.
I gave Jason and Michelle a few moments to themselves, and we then started taking photos — first of the rings, and then making use of the spectacular city views. It was hot as blue blazes that day, and all of us were sweating, although you wouldn’t notice from the photos. After a few minutes in the air conditioning, we headed off to the library, where Michelle had mentioned that she was hoping all along she would get engaged. Mission accomplished, and we finished out the rest of the hour inside the library.
New York Public Library Engagement Session
A few words of advice if you were planning to stage your own engagement shoot inside the New York public library: security guards are in abundance. The rule is that you can’t use a tripod, go nuts with your flash, or inconvenience any patrons. That means that you are limited to taking photos in the hallways and on the staircases. If you don’t follow the rules, the security guards will indeed throw you out. In short, all of the fancy reading rooms with the beautiful ceilings are off-limits to elaborately staged photos.
But as I always say, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. I planned it out with Jason and Michelle ahead of time exactly what they would do and where they would stand. With only a minute to get the shot, I had Jason and Michelle walk into the main aisle of the Rose Main Reading Room, turn and face each other quickly and then face me. I only got two shots before other patrons walked into my frame, but that’s all I needed. I was then politely told by the desk librarian that I was blocking the aisle. Not a problem, and we scampered out of the library before any security guards felt the need to swoop down upon us.
Jason and Michelle were pressed for time because they had to get ready for their engagement party at the Raines Law Room on 39th Street later that evening. The areas we concentrated on for the photo shoot were the main hallway, staircase and window on the first floor, phone booth on the first floor, third-floor hallway staircase, and Rose Main Reading Room. If I had additional time, I would have taken photos in Bryant Park, as well as more photos outside the library itself. Bottom line, this couple picked the perfect combination of venues. The Library Hotel and New York public library were perfect complements to each other, and more importantly, very personal locations that meant a lot to both of them.
Proposal venue: Bookmarks Bar, Library Hotel
Engagement portrait venue: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library
Engagement party venue: Raines Law Room at the William Hotel
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photography portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com
It may still feel like winter in New York, but believe it or not, the cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom. I visited Flushing Meadows Corona Park today for a venue visit, and here is my report on the cherry blossoms in Queens.
Time is ticking down for my favorite holiday of the year to arrive… Halloween! To get everyone in a spooktacular mood, I thought I would share photos from Nancy and Jeff’s engagement shoot at this year’s Comic Con. For those of you who don’t know, Comic Con is the preeminent conference for anime, sci-fi, superheroes, and other caped crusaders of all sorts. Nancy and Jeff’s shoot went off without a hitch, and I have compiled a few tips if you were planning your own Comic Con engagement shoot or any other type of similar adventure at a big event.