Washington Square Park is one of the most scenic retreats in New York City. With things changing on a daily basis, the calm beauty of this park remains steadfast. That said there are changes in the neighborhood that you should be aware of before planning your shoot. I have all the details from a recent Washington Square Park family portrait session so let’s dive in with today’s blog post.
Current Issues in the Park
If you will recall the period of unrest earlier this year, the magnificent arch in Washington Square Park was hit by graffiti. Thanks to the vandalism suffered, the arch is now guarded 24/7 by police officers and is lined with unsightly fencing. As a result, you can no longer get a clean shot of the arch either underneath or very close to the structure. Instead, your best bet for a photo of the arch is to shoot from inside the main patio in the park looking uptown. I found it best to shoot from the ground up and use your clients to block out any other visitors from your line of sight.
And what an interesting group of visitors it is. Unfortunately, you should know that there is a big problem with drug use in the park, specifically in the northwest edge of the park. Mind you, I was never accosted and the unseemliness seems to be relegated just to this corner, but I recommend you relegate your session to the southeastern section of the park.
A Washington Square Park Family Portrait – Session Details
So with that bit of current news out of the way, let’s focus on Mark, Mike, and their precious daughters whom I had the pleasure of photographing last week. We started our session by a bench in front of a large bush of yellow daisies at the end of the first pathway. All of the plants were in bloom, and the stunning flowers offered plenty of fun distractions for the little girls.
With a few solid family group shots under our belt, it was time to move on to individual photos of the children and photos of Mark and Mike alone with each respective child. I found the perfect blank background in a grassy area just behind the playground. It’s a bit tricky to find an area in Washington Square Park with consistent lighting away from the harsh rays of the sun, but this little patch of grass has a wall of blooming hydrangeas behind it. In addition to being fully shaded, the hydrangeas act to block out the rest of the park visitors.
From the grassy area behind the playground we then moved to the main patio in Washington Square Park to get the prerequisite shot of the family in front of the arch. The fountain was not working during our session. Using my clients to block out the other visitors, I was able to blur the background enough to avoid both the surrounding ambience and the fences lining the arch.
Picturesque Spots Outside the Park
We ended our session on the steps of a nearby brownstone on Waverly Place. The steps of the homes in the neighborhood are absolutely beautiful, and they beg for a big family portrait. Bear in mind, however, that most of these brownstones are used as NYU offices or personal homes, so keep your portrait session on the steps to a minimum and avoid any staircases that specifically say ‘no sitting.’
And while Mark and Mike’s children didn’t have the energy to extend the shoot a little more, I sincerely recommend you also include Washington Mews on your shot list. This is a precious little street of NYU offices that seems to have been transported to NYC directly from old world Europe. There are always beautiful flowers in bloom, and each doorway is unique and positively picturesque. The street is even paved in cobblestone. (You can view two of my Washington Mews portrait sessions here and here.)
Finally, if you have the time and some comfortable shoes, I suggest you get lost in the surrounding small streets of the West Village. This is my favorite neighborhood in New York City. The area retains all the charm of Edith Wharton’s world and is wonderfully quiet and peaceful.
A Washington Square Park Family Portrait – Final Tips
Washington Square Park is a relatively small park, and it can get crowded quickly. My recommendation is that you get to the park early in the morning to avoid the crowds, especially on the weekend. Mark and Mike’s session happened at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday, and the crowds were much heavier when we left at 11:00 a.m. Furthermore, early morning is best because the benches in front of the daisies will be in shade.
Finally, this park is commonly used for protests and is always busy with NYU activity. Check the news ahead of your session to make sure you are not going to be trying to take family photos in the middle of a protest.
Enjoy the photos, and if you have a little ‘staycation’ time on your hands, why not book your holiday portrait now? 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