I have been photographing Melanie and her family since 2014. What began with wedding photos of Melanie and Jalani saying ‘I do’ underneath the cherry blossom trees in Flushing Meadows Corona Park eventually turned into family photos when little Collier arrived. It has been a pleasure to photograph each chapter in Melanie’s story, and I am now thrilled to photograph the newest addition to her family – Cam. In today’s blog post I will share all the photos from Melanie’s latest photo session plus offer a few photo tips for your own Flushing Meadows Corona Park family portrait. Let’s turn the page on Melanie’s family story…
Family Portrait Session Details
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is home to some of the most remarkable pavilions from the 1964 World’s Fair. Having these amazing architectural legacies in our backyard makes the park dear to every Queens resident, myself included. Melanie grew up not far from Flushing Meadows, so the park has always held a special place in her heart. It seemed only natural to go full circle and have her family portrait in the place she remembered from her own childhood.
Melanie scheduled a 1.5-hour session at the end of November in hopes of capitalizing on the brightly colored fall leaves. Sadly, by the end of the month the leaves had already begun to fall, though we lucked out with some lovely foliage in select locations of the park.
In addition to Melanie, Jalani and their two children, we also had Melanie’s mother along for the ride. Melanie stated up front that her priorities for the shoot were photos of her children alone, photos of the kids with their grandmother, and finally, photos of Melanie and Jalani alone.
Recommended Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Portrait Tour Plan
While Flushing Meadows Corona Park is actually large in size, our photo shoot mainly concentrated on two walkways near the Unisphere. And for anyone planning a similar shoot I would recommend you center your shot list around the park’s most unique feature: the Unisphere. This is especially if your portrait sessions involves little ones in tow who don’t have the attention span to cross the vast park.
I find the best spot to meet clients is at the corner of United Nations Avenue South and the first walkway leading directly to the Unisphere. In addition to being close to one of the park’s main parking lots, this spot also gives you the best vantage point for a starting shot of the Unisphere. After securing photos with the Unisphere in the background, I recommend moving to the left of the main walkway for close up portraits with a blank background. This area has benches and greenery for a variety of shot set ups. For Melanie’s family portrait session, I found this area to have the most colorful fall leaves and it was a fantastic area to let the kids play. This section of the park is fairly lush with foliage, though be sure to watch out for cars peeking through from the Queens Theatre parking lot.
The next spot on your tour of Flushing Meadows Corona Park should be the tree-lined walkways of the Avenue of Africa. The best images with a tree canopy background are found on the right side of the pathway. This is a great spot for family walking shots and for photos of couples alone. My favorite photos from Melanie’s session were taking here, and I always use this spot for wedding portraits in the park.
After the tree canopy shots, it is time to get up close and personal with the Unisphere. Timing-wise, this is a great point in the shoot for bathroom breaks or outfit changes at the Queens Museum. In terms of close up photos of the Unisphere, I recommend choosing your spot wisely as the fountain always seems to have ugly fences up in the middle of winter. Having skateboarders fly through the air in the middle of your shot though does add a little Queensian ambiance.
Tips for a Successful Flushing Meadows
Corona Park Family Portrait
Melanie’s portrait session turned out perfectly, mainly because we followed these simple portrait tips.
Let your photographer know your game plan. Talk with your photographer ahead of time to make sure you have that you are on the same page in terms of shot list priorities. If you really want to focus on your kids and their grandparents, then state that. If you want to make sure to get a great shot of you and your husband alone, as Melanie and Jalani did, then by all means let your photographer know. I put together a shot list weeks ahead of time and your priorities are my priorities.
Get your most important shots first. For portraits of adults, you will get your best photos later in the shoot after everyone has a chance to ‘warm up’ in front of the camera. I find that it takes about fifteen minutes of photography before most adults will be relaxed enough to show a winning smile. With children, the timeline is a bit different. The age of the child determines the length of the attention span, so you have to be quick. For family portraits with little ones, I always start with photos of the kids alone to photograph them at their best. The next step is to add in the entire family to get a great group shot. With these two major photo requests out of the way, the rest of the photos taken are all gravy.
Work the entire family in. You want your family portrait session to include as many combinations of family members as possible. In the case of Melanie’s family portrait, we did a group shot and then moved on to the next most important photo – that of Melanie’s mother and her grandchildren. I then photographed each parent alone with each respective child. I made sure to include photos of Melanie and her mother alone and, of course, recreated Melanie’s wedding portraits with photos of her and Jalani. Parents, don’t forget you deserve a little adult time during your portrait session.
Outfit changes make it a whole new shoot. Melanie and Jalani are style mavens (get some clothing tips from their previous family portrait in Forest Park), so I’m not surprised that they wanted to do a full-on outfit change from head to toe during their portrait session. It took time to change the clothes of everyone in the family, but the result is a completely different mood for the photos we took at the end of the shoot. Remember that outfit changes don’t have to be this radical: you can simply throw on a different sweater or jacket to give you and your family photos a different look. By the way, the best spot for outfit changes in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the restroom in the Queens Museum. I found the museum staff to be very kind and they allowed the whole family to come in and change clothes even though it was obvious that we were not going to be visiting the museum during this visit.
With little ones, make sure you consider the weather. Cold weather does not elicit bright smiles, so if you need to reschedule to a warmer date, then by all means do so. This was actually a rescheduled session for Melanie and Jalani because on the day of their original session (earlier in November) it was supposed to be a high of only 30 degrees. We lucked out with highs in the mid-40s on their actual portrait date.
Snacks. Always bring snacks. My hats off to Melanie and Jalani as parents – they have this photo shoot thing down. The minute anyone started to cry – child or adult – Melanie whipped out some prepackaged snacks and made everyone feel better. This is the golden rule of all family activities: always bring snacks.
There are lots of family activities to do in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Don’t forget that you have plenty of family-friendly photo opportunities besides see the Unisphere, including the Queens Zoo, the adjacent Fantasy Forest Amusement park, and the Queens Botanical Garden. And if you really want to take your family portrait activities up a notch, check out the park’s miniature golf course or go ice skating at the World Ice Arena. (No promises on getting your photographer out on the ice, however.)
Take it from this Queens resident, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a great park no matter the season. From the cherry blossoms in spring to the nuclear winter we are enduring at the moment, Flushing Meadows offers lots of choices for family portraits. Drop me a line if you would like to discuss scheduling your own family portrait this season.
Link to NYC Parks website for Flushing Meadows Corona Park
If you would like to see more examples from my family photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com