A few fellow creatives recently asked me about my favorite locations to shoot in Boston so I thought I’d put together a post on this topic. Though I don’t live in the city and don’t commute there every day, throughout the years I’ve had the chance to be here and there around town. All thanks to many friends’ recommendations and a few meet-ups! These following 7 spots are my favorite locations and I definitely have had several shoots at each of them.
Location is no doubt an important part of a photo shoot. Choosing the right place can help to make your vision come true. If you’re doing research for where to shoot next, I hope you find this list helpful. Let’s dive in!
1 – Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library is one of my most favorite places to shoot in the city. With a blend of Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture, the McKim building is magnificent and endlessly inspiring to me. I especially love shooting in front of the library (picture of Livy on the left) and inside the outdoor garden (picture of Audrey on the right).
The library requires a permit if you’re photographing an official event such as wedding/ engagement, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re just out with a friend or a model. I adore the architecture and setting of the outdoor garden in the spring and summer. The plants and water fountain make the whole area much more lively and give the photographs a touch of nature.
There are also a few chairs and tables out in the garden that you can take advantage of. Don’t be afraid to experiment with everything you see! Try having your model sat down on the ground and shoot from above (standing on a chair) or try getting low and capturing from a lower angle. You might be surprised of how the photos turn out.
2 – Back Bay
If there is one staple location for my 2016 work, it would be Back Bay neighborhood. This area is huge and you can find so many interesting spots here, but I often find myself shooting along Commonwealth Ave and Marlborough St. These two roads are a bit quieter than Newbury Street which is the reason why I prefer shooting here. The less people, the easier for you and your subject to enjoy the photo shoot.
What I love about this neighborhood is its “New York City vibe” — or at least, that’s what I call it. The Victorian and Edwardian residential architecture draws me in instantly. I especially adore this neighborhood in the spring, when the whole atmosphere is brightened up with beautiful flowers. You can have your subject standing by the edge of the pavement and capture the blocks of houses in the background, for example. Also, each apartment here has its own set of stairs and unique doors/ fences which lend many possibilities for poses.
Some other interesting spots to check out in Back Bay: Christian Science Plaza, the Esplanade, and the area near Boston Plaza Park (beautiful buildings!). There’s also Back Bay Fens, which is actually by Fenway Park.
3 – JFK Library
If you love a good mix of architecture and simplicity, this is the place to be. The surrounding area outside of the library is so unique and minimalistic. Everything is all about lines, shapes, and negative space. I would recommend to walk around, observe the building, and you might find some distinctive frames for your shots.
Also, try walking all the way to the further right of the building where you’ll find a big and open stairs, leading to a beautiful view of the water. I love experimenting with positioning my model in different poses along the stairs, which is a repeating pattern background that helps to make the model stand out.
I haven’t been inside the library or the museum so I’m not entirely sure about the interior and whether you’re allowed to photograph there. If you have some insights regarding this, let me know your thought in the comment!
4 – Chinatown
Isn’t neon light photography a thing in 2016? Because I definitely saw it all over the Internet. These beautiful, bright neon lights remind me so much of those retro hotels on Route 66 and… Vegas. And anything retro got my heart.
If you’re still into this theme or if you just simply want to try out a night-time shoot, Boston’s colorful and vibrant Chinatown is a perfect location. The busy streets in this area are full of restaurants and shops with big, bright neon signs that can add so much characters to your photos. Ideally, the best time to capture these lights and also their surrounding is at blue hour, which is 10 minutes either before dawn or after sunset.
I shot a series for Grunge’n’Art Magazine in Chinatown called “Midnight City”, featuring my favorite muse MaKayla McRae. To create a consistent mood, I made sure to include bright and colorful lights in every photograph. Night shoot has never been my comfort zone but it was fun to try it out once. Give it a go if you’re a natural light/ sunset hour photographer. It may or may not add much to your portfolio but it’ll certainly be a good learning experience.
By the way, to save you some searching time — if you are looking for a neon sign that is low enough to put your subject right next to it and capture some of the colors on your subject’s face, like this one photo, it’s at a restaurant called Bubor Cha Cha.
5 – Greenhouses
Greenhouse also seems to be a popular theme among Boston photographers at the end of 2016. I’ve seen many gorgeous photos popped up on Instagram so if this is still a thing for you, read on.
Lyman Estate Greenhouse is where I photographed Carina Allen in the series “Jungle Blue” for Damaged Digital. This is no doubt my favorite location to shoot and I’m hoping to do a few more styled session here. We were quite lucky as everything in the greenhouse was in full bloom at the time we visited even though it was mid December. Also, the location is indoor so it was warm and cozy, making it perfect for shooting in the winter.
The greenhouse is located in Waltham and is open for public every day at most hours. If you live in the city and don’t have a car, the best option is either to take commuter rail to Waltham or take the green line D to Riverside station then Uber to Lyman Estate from there.
There is another greenhouse at Wellesley College. Though I haven’t been there to give you enough helpful insights, I’ve seen many beautiful photographs taken at this greenhouse by my fellow Instagram creatives. If you’ve shot here, let me know what you think!
6 – Arnold Arboretum
When I feel inspired by nature for a shoot, I often think of Arnold Arboretum. I personally prefer this place over Boston Public Garden simply because of the quiet atmosphere and the small amount of people around. It gives a lot more space and freedom to explore and experiment. If you’re intrigued by the wonders of the outdoors and are aiming for a forest/ woods inspired theme, the arboretum will be a perfect location.
I love the great variety of different landscapes that the Arnold Arboretum offers. There are tall grasses, meadows, and numerous types of flowers that make it perfect for a spring/ summer shoot. If you have time to take your subject on a stroll around the arboretum, you might find some really unique spots for your shoot, like this photograph taken by my friend Tinghui (@thz_m).
I also want to list the arboretum here since it’s an easy one to access for those who live in the city — just an orange train ride to get there.
7 – MIT
Another interesting location for those who are searching for simplicity and minimalism in their photographs. To say MIT alone is being too broad but if you’re intrigued by the line and space game, visit the Sean Collier Memorial by the Ray and Maria Stata Center.
“The memorial is composed of thirty-two solid blocks of granite that form a five-way stone vault. Each block supports the other to create a central, covered space for reflection. Inspired by the gesture of an open hand, the memorial’s shallow stone vault is buttressed by five radial walls, which extend outward toward the campus. The ovoid space at the center of the radial walls creates a passage, a marker, and an aperture that reframes the site.” – MIT Architecture
While I was here a few weeks ago with my friends, we spent a good hour experimenting with different corners and perspectives — where to position a subject and how to compose a shot. It might look really simple and uninspiring at first but if you take your time to walk around and observe, again, you’ll stumble upon some unique frames that you might not expect.
I also recommend to visit the MIT’s List Visual Art Center while you’re in the area.
So there you have it — 7 interesting places to shoot in Boston. Hopefully I’ll get to explore the city more this year and update you guys on my next favorite spots. If you have any killer locations that you love, please do share in the comment!