You booked your dream trip to New York City and want to commemorate the moment with a family portrait. What do you need to know before your photo shoot? Fear not; I have all the NYC family portrait tips you could ever need in today’s blog post. From where to go, to what to avoid, I’ll tell you how to NOT look like a tourist when visiting the Big Apple. (First tip: no one actually calls it ‘the Big Apple.’)
NYC Family Portrait Tips – Best Locations
Most visitors to the city want to hit the landmarks that make New York, New York. Perhaps it’s the bright lights, big city feel of Times Square, or the soaring skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan that define ‘New York City’ for you. In any case, you have tons of options for whatever atmosphere you want for your photo shoot. Here are the most popular destination requests I encounter as a photographer:
- Central Park along 72nd Street (Bethesda Fountain, the boathouse, Bow Bridge, the Mall)
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Empire State Building
These three spots are all great locations, and offer epic photo opportunities. But if you want to take your photos to the next level, then it’s time to visit the NYC locations with even better – and more unique – photo opportunities. These are the locations I wish more people would request:
- Coney Island and all its quirkiness
- Brooklyn Heights Promenade with views of the NYC skyline and beautiful old brownstones
- South Street Seaport with the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge
- Battery Park and the Wall Street area for its view of the Statue of Liberty
- Fort Tryon Park with views of the Hudson River
- Riverside Park also with views of the Hudson River
- Central Park, around the 100th Street Pool, for the most beautiful landscape views in the city
NYC Family Portrait Tips – Visiting Multiple Locations
New York City is a big place and traffic is a b—-. To maximize a visit to New York, most tourists want to visit more than one location. This is possible, but you have to realize that the majority of the city’s landmarks are located very far away from one other. Traffic is worse here than in California. Yes, you can take the subway or a photogenic yellow cab from one spot to the next, but this still takes time out of your photo session. In addition, most people only have the stamina for an hour and a half portrait session. So if 45 minutes of your session is spent in transit, then you are taking valuable camera time away from your photo shoot.
I recommend a maximum of two locations located close to each other. Here are some of your best neighboring photo locations:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
- Central Park and the New York City midtown skyline
- Battery Park and downtown New York City skyscrapers or the Oculus
- Grand Central, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park
- New York Public Library, Bryant Park and Times Square
- Empire State Building and Madison Square Park
- Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn
NYC Destination Family Portrait Tips – Know What to Wear
The weather in New York City is all over the map, and I recommend you check the forecast before your trip so that you know what the day and nighttime highs and lows are. In general, I find most tourists from down south aren’t used to it being a bit colder up north, and they also aren’t prepared for the wind. If you are going to be taking photos in any waterfront park, come prepared for a constant breeze. This means select a hairstyle that doesn’t blow around that much and definitely bring a jacket.
As for how to not look like a tourist, New York City does tend to dress a bit more fashionably than other cities, but not by much. You don’t need to come dressed to the nines, but you should strive to take it a step above yoga pants. Most importantly, we all wear comfortable shoes because walking is the fastest way to get anywhere. For more tips on what to wear during your family portrait session, check out this article.
NYC Family Portrait Tips – Safety Concerns
For the most popular destinations I have listed above, safety is not a concern. Sure, there are pick pockets everywhere. But in 20 years of living in New York City, I have only felt unsafe towards the very end of the Covid pandemic. Things are pretty much back to normal, and as long as you remain in populated areas during the day, you should be fine.
That said, there are two areas that you should be concerned about. Washington Square Park has a high vagrant count and still feels sketchy towards the west end of the park. Also, Times Square at night is something of a concern. Keep your photo shoot hours to before 8 PM and you’ll be just fine.
NYC Family Portrait Tips – When to Visit and When to Book
September and October are by far the most popular months for photo shoots in New York City. As in other parts of the country, this is when families are getting their holiday portraits made. Compounding this is the fact that fall is also peak wedding season here in NYC.
If this is when you plan to visit New York City, then book as far in advance as you can. The good news is that photographers like myself have the most availability during the week. Weekdays are also the best time for photo shoots because you can avoid the weekend crowds in most public spaces and parks.
NYC Family Portrait Tips – Things to Avoid
Timing is everything. Any photo in New York City is possible, but you just have to time it right. If you want to have Central Park all to yourself, then the time for your portrait session should be 7 AM on a Monday. To avoid looking like a tourist, you need to avoid the tourists, so select a time for your shoot that keeps you away from the masses.
It takes more than a New York minute to get anywhere. I haven’t had many tragedies with my family portraits, but on two occasions I have had families get completely lost before their session. While I always give my clients an exact location and subway information, make sure you know where you are going before the day of your photo shoot. If you have any questions about directions, then check with your photographer well ahead of time. I also always recommend that clients meet at the entrance to a park and then walk in together with their photographer. It is just too hard to find each other in the middle of Central Park, versus meeting at 72nd Street and Central Park West and entering the park with your photographer as your tour guide.
Rush-hour is 24/7 here. Traffic in New York City is horrendous, and the time it takes by taxi or car service will be longer than you expect. For that matter, expect it to take a while on the subway, especially if you are new to the system. Finally, remember that there is a difference between Roosevelt Island and Roosevelt Avenue (Jackson Heights). Bottom line: give yourself more than enough time to get to your photo shoot. You don’t want to arrive flustered.
Meet Suzanne and Her Family
Accompanying today’s blog post are photos from Suzanne’s family portrait in Central Park. Suzanne was visiting from Texas, and while she is familiar with the city, she had never had a family portrait here. With her precious little daughter, mother and aunt in tow, we headed out to have some fun in Central Park. And while her portrait session concentrated on the ever-popular 72nd Street corridor, her session was scheduled on a weekday morning so as to cut down on the crowds. The main focus was to show the family having fun in an outdoor setting, and that mission was definitely accomplished.
Enjoy the images, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Interested in scheduling a family portrait session in NYC? Drop me a line, and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my family portrait portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com