After many thwarted attempts thanks to the pandemic, I finally had the chance this past week to capture Rachel and Nick’s Vanderbilt Museum engagement photos. This was my first time visiting the museum, and I can say that it was definitely worth the trip out to Long Island. I’ve got all the details from the portrait session plus a few tips for how to get the best photos during your Vanderbilt Museum shoot in today’s blog post. Let’s dive in!
The History of the Vanderbilt Museum
First, let me share with you the history of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium. The 43-acre estate with a stunning view of Northport Bay was originally the home of William K. Vanderbilt II (known as ‘Willie K’). The Spanish-style mansion was called ‘Eagle’s Nest,’ and construction began in 1910. The estate displays the eccentric collections of Willie K, including a separate marine museum and his extensive natural history and cultural artifacts. Of particular interest are the wild animal and marine life dioramas that were created by artisans from the American Museum of Natural History. The marine museum was opened to the public in 1922 and the rest of the estate was opened to the public in 1950.
Scheduling a Photo Shoot at the Vanderbilt Museum
You must have a photo permit to take any organized photos at the museum. Engagement, or any other type of basic photo shoot, costs $200 for an hour, and each additional hour costs $100. A wedding photo shoot costs $400 for up to two hours of photography. There is a relatively quick turnaround for delivery of the photo permit, and you can get your permit simply by contacting Sarah or Carole at the Vanderbilt Museum office.
Office phone: 631.854.5521
There are no particular rules that photographers need to follow, and drones are allowed as long as they do not get too close to the buildings. All areas of the exterior of the estate and museum are available for photography, and there are some specific interior locations available (though currently off limits due to the pandemic). The interior of the house is a great rain backup location.
The estate is open for visitors on different days depending upon the season, so make sure to check the website before your visit. In the current summer season, the Vanderbilt Museum is open Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The galleries are open from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
For a basic visit to the museum with no photo permit, the cost is $14 per carload, and members get in free. There are additional fees for a tour of Eagle’s Nest and the planetarium. Parking is easily found on the museum grounds in designated areas. There are restrooms in the basement of the building for any outfit changes.
Tips for the Best Vanderbilt Museum Engagement Photos
Even though there is a lot to see during your visit to the Vanderbilt Museum, the building and grounds are quite compact, making it a very manageable venue. The main areas to concentrate on during your Vanderbilt Museum engagement portrait are the central courtyard and interior, main gate, back garden, waterfront area, and lastly the outlying museum spaces. You can easily sweep the entire area in a two-hour shoot. But while the Vanderbilt Museum is indeed a compact location for a portrait session, it is also a tough spot in which to avoid other visitors should the venue be crowded.
The good news is that you can schedule your photo shoot on a day that the museum is not open to the public. And while timing wouldn’t allow Rachel, Nick and I to visit on a day the museum was closed, you should certainly try to schedule your shoot during the week. We visited the museum on a Friday at 1:00 p.m. and arrived just after it had rained. The inclement weather, plus the fact that the pandemic was still raging, meant that we had much lower crowds to contend with during the engagement session.
One other issue is the lack of shade at the Vanderbilt Museum. Our visit was on a heavily overcast day, and this definitely worked to our advantage. My primary concern for the engagement shoot was the fact that there aren’t many trees either in the waterfront area or within the manicured gardens. Scheduling a shoot at 1:00 p.m. (the only time available for my clients), was going to be a problem. There are tree-covered areas on the grounds, but you should try and schedule your session either in the morning or late afternoon so as to avoid harsh sunlight in the middle of the day.
The museum offers all sorts of hidden details that you should include on your shot list. The highlight of Rachel and Nick’s Vanderbilt Museum engagement shoot for me was the triple reflection I found in the open doors of the covered walkway leading out to the side garden. You know I love reflections, and this is my favorite shot of the day.
Finally, make sure you dress accordingly for the session. Since the interior is currently off limits for photos, you will be outdoors the entire time. It gets hot and humid out on Long Island, so dress to be comfortable (yet chic). Also, make sure you wear practical shoes. The pathways and courtyard are made of a very intricate cobblestone comprised of tiny pebbles. High heels should be avoided. Also, the walkways leading down to the water are not paved.
Meet Rachel and Nick
Finally, let’s get some details on Rachel and Nick. These two met in 2015 while on the volleyball team in college. It has been an interesting time trying to plan a wedding during a pandemic – luckily Rachel and Nick’s wedding is not scheduled until 2021. The reception is planned for the Riviera Waterfront Mansion in Massapequa. This is a venue I know quite well as it was the site of Jessica and Dan’s fun wedding in 2014. (Check out Rachel and Nick’s wedding photos here.)
Enjoy the photos, and if you have a little ‘staycation’ time on your hands, then definitely make a trip out to the Vanderbilt Museum!
Interested in capturing some Vanderbilt Museum engagement photos? Drop me a line and let’s chat about your photography needs.
If you would like to see more images from my engagement photography portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com