As one of the most visited parks in the United States, Central Park has always been an iconic location for wedding photography. Filled with acres of beautiful greenery and stunning architecture, it’s no wonder that Central Park is the most filmed public park in the world. The only issue, however, is that with so much to offer, it can be overwhelming for most couples and photographers to try to find the best spots to set up and shoot. Having personally been in that position, I thought that I would take the time to make a short list of some of my favorite locations within the Park to shoot, as well as provide tips for shooting in Central Park in general. With all that said, let’s jump into this list!
Location #1: Bethesda Terrace
Kicking off the list is the Bethesda Terrace. Located towards the lower portion of Central Park, on Terrace Drive, this stunning piece of architecture is one of the original structures constructed within the park. The large staircases present at this location can be utilized as a beautiful backdrop with the couple or just the bride in the foreground. The intricate details of the staircase railings can also provide interesting elements to your photos. The main attraction of this location, however, is the Bethesda Terrace Arcade and its Minton Tile Ceiling. With large archways to frame your subject and rustic tile work all around you, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination! One of the easiest ways to get to this spot would be to enter the park on East 72nd street and 5th Avenue and then follow Terrace Drive until the terrace becomes visible.
Location #2: Bethesda Fountain
A short walk down from the Bethesda Terrace is the second location on this list, the Bethesda Fountain. Easily one of the largest fountains in New York, its grandeur makes it perfect for taking very wide group shots of the wedding party. It can also very easily been used for intimate portraits of a couple. The reflections and shimmer of fountain’s water, in the sunlight, create beautiful visuals for both photo and video work. They key with this location is trying a variety of perspectives and angles.
Location #3: Central Park Mall
A short walk down from Terrace Drive, you will find yourself on the Central Park Mall. Surrounded by the beauty of numerous Elm trees, the Mall has become a go to for portrait photographers. Forming a canopy-like covering over the pathway, the trees do an amazing job of reducing the harsh light of the sun, and creating a soft natural glow, the type of light that makes a bride look that extra bit more beautiful. The Elm trees are great for out of focus background elements that can really make the subject of the photo pop. Best part is that as the seasons change, so does the look and feel of the pictures! Once again the easiest way that I have found to get here, is by entering the park at East 72nd street and 5th Avenue, then following Terrace Drive. As you approach the Terrace itself make a left and the Mall will be straight ahead.
Location #4: The Pond
With a name as original as they come, The Pond is well… a pond, located at the lowest end of the park, just a few feet away from 5th Avenue. With New York being famous for its fast paced lifestyles and the constant hustle n’ bustle, The Pond has become a great little escape for people who need a break from it all. With that in mind, the calm, secluded nature of this location makes it ideal for engagement or wedding pictures of just the bride and groom. The best point of access for The Pond would be through Grand Army Plaza and West 59th Street. Follow Grand Army Plaza and then make a slight left at Doris C Freeman Place. From there just follow the path until the water is visible.
Location #5: Gapstow Bridge
Last up on this list is the Gapstow Bridge. Located on The Pond, this bridge is an incredible spot to sit and admire the iconic New York skyline. Now what sets this bridge apart from so many of the other bridges scattered throughout Central Park, is the way the plants continue to grow up and across the stonework of the bridge. As a result the bridge can be used as an additional backdrop to the pond, or you can place the focus of the picture on the bridge itself. Once again this is an area where you can let your creative mind run wild as you try different ways to compose and frame your shots. Once you are at the pond, getting to the bridge is just a matter of following the path along the right side of the pond until it becomes visible.
With all that said, I hope you’re excited and already starting to plan your wedding or engagement photoshoot. Before I wrap this post up, I did promise to give out a few helpful bits of advice that might help to make things go smoothly on the big day, so here they are:
- Permits. Contrary to what most people may think, you do not actually need a permit for a personal photoshoot in Central Park. If your shoot does not require anything more than handheld equipment and a tripod, you can simply show up, shoot and be on your merry way without a fuss. If you plan on having a much bigger production, click here, to request an approval for your project.
- Map out your shoot. If you want everything to go as smoothly as it possibly can, take the time to plan and select the locations you want for your shoot. Map out these locations and come up with most efficient way of getting from one place to the next so you don’t end up wasting the majority of your time walking back and forth between locations. Also, while you’re doing that, here’s a list of all the bathrooms in the park. Trust me you’ll thank me later.
- Time of day. With Central Parking being one of the busiest places in the state, it means there is a strong chance of other people wandering around in the background of your photos. To help cut down on this, the best solution would be to start your shoot at the crack of dawn. If you get to your first location before the sunrise can I can almost guarantee that you will have the park just about to yourself (aside from a few joggers). On top of that, the soft natural light of sunrise should be perfect for the shoot!
- Accommodation & Transport. If you plan on taking my advice and starting your shoot at sunrise, you’re going to want to take the time to think about how you’ll be getting there and where you’ll be staying the night before (especially if you live outside of the city). For me you can’t really go wrong with staying in the Plaza Hotel. You’ll be walking distance from the park and won’t have to think about waking up any earlier to make it in time for sunrise.
- Suggestions for the bride. Chances are there will be quite a bit of walking involved in a shoot like this as you go from one location to the next. With that in mind, I would highly advise packing a pair of comfortable shoes to walk around in!
- Food & Drinks. Now, like any other place in New York, chances are there will be vendors outside selling food and drinks, but it is never a bad idea to pack a small back with a few snacks and water to hold you over until you find a spot to buy food.
- Get creative! Don’t be afraid to embrace your surroundings and use them to create something that you will never forget!
As we all know Central Park has always been, and will always be, an incredible place to get breathtaking photos and videos. I hope that this article gives you a platform to start thinking about all the different places that you might want to shoot in the park and not to feel intimidated by all the possibilities. Go out there and just have fun and enjoy the moment! If you get some great shots feel free to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and tag us in them! Here’s a few more shots of the park, just in case you need a little extra inspiration!