Today I wanted to go through one of the most COMMON questions I get when a couple or family inquires about a photo session. Where should the session take place?
The first thing I tell everyone is that the best place to shoot is outside. While indoor sessions can be amazing, I believe that natural light from the sun, creates photographs that feel fresh, timeless, and true to you. I aim to begin all sessions two hours before the scheduled sunset, or in the early morning hours during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. The best way to figure out the perfect time for your session is to use a sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session. Then, just subtract two hours to figure out your start time. Remember, the sun sets much earlier during the winter and much later during the summer, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your session date!
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into selecting the perfect outdoor location. This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage all my couples and families to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone you know, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, country club or resort. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around – you might be pleasantly surprised with what you come up with! Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask!
If you are planning to keep your photo session local (NJ or the surrounding states), we are SO lucky that we have a ton of various location options. Here are a few of my favorite places around the state to shoot!
Sunflower Fields (Sussex County Sunflower Maze – Sandyston, NJ)
I find that fun-loving couples and families LOVE sunflower photos. Sunflowers are a perfect backdrop for any photo session! They are bright, vibrant, and romantic. There are a number of awesome sunflower fields in NJ, and one of my favorite is Sussex County Sunflower Maze. They have such great variety, and the field stretches on as far as the eye can see. It truly is a magical place, and definitely a fun and unique option for a session. The peak sunflower blooms are towards the end of August and throughout September, so if you are planning an early fall session, this could be a great option!
Cherry Blossoms (Branch Brook Park – Newark, NJ)
Looking for a super romantic or whimsical feel to your photos? There is nothing more magical than beautiful cherry blossoms. Luckily, NJ is home to some of the most amazing locations with TONS of cherry blossom trees! Branch Brook Park is home to over 5000 cherry blossom trees. They have a cherry blossom festival each spring, and people from around the world come to see the entire park in bloom. It’s breathtaking to see soft pink and white flowers in every direction. It’s perfect for a dreamy engagement session, or as you will see below, it was a perfect backdrop for a feminine sister session. The cherry blossoms are in bloom mid-April, and only last a few weeks – so if cherry blossoms are your goal it’s best to secure a spot early!
College Campuses (Princeton University – Princeton, NJ; Fairleigh Dickinson University – Teaneck, NJ)
NJ is home to a number of college campuses – many of which have intricate architecture. A great way to have a more formal session is to choose a college campus. Many of them have stunning arches, marble staircases, and beautiful landscaping. They provide great variety in photo galleries because you can typically get a little bit of everything. Two of my favorites that I have photographed couples were Princeton University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University, as you will see below. The College of New Jersey (alma mater!) is another awesome location, though, and would love to have a session there in the future!
City Streets (Hoboken, NJ)
Hoboken has a sophisticated feel to it, and is great for more formal photos. It has beautiful city streets and a gorgeous waterfront with the New York City skyline in the background. It’s ideal for if you’re looking for a more formal session.
Beach (Long Beach Island, NJ)
Who doesn’t love photos on the beach? NJ has amazing beaches – and they are a ton of FUN! They are honestly perfect for any type of session because kids can have fun playing in the water, yet you can get stunning couples photos with the water as a pretty backdrop. Beach photos come out best just before sunset. Typically there is little to no shade on a beach, but just before the sun sets, everything becomes glowy and dreamy. When picking the perfect beach, I love places that also have a bay or an area where the sun will set over the water. In NJ the sun typically rises over the ocean – so if you want the sunset/sunrise colors over the water, your best bet is either a sunrise session, or a place such as LBI or Cape May that has a bay where the sun sets behind it.
Open Fields (Vineland, NJ)
NJ is such an interesting state, in that it has mountains up north, and completely flat fields down south. Wide open fields at sunset are one of my favorite session locations. It allows the focus to be on the couple or family, and provides a clean and beautiful backdrop. I grew up in Vineland, NJ, and was surrounded by fields. The beauty is that there are no shortages of fields throughout the state, and you don’t need to pay a permit or fee. These photos, for example, were shot in my parent’s backyard!
Gardens / Greenery (Morristown, NJ; Deep Cut Gardens – Holmdel, NJ)
Last, but certainly not least, NJ is the Garden State. You can’t go wrong with one of the many parks or gardens across the state. The flowers and leaves make for a fresh backdrop, and you can almost always find a park or garden close to home! Perfect for a family session with little kids who will get cranky on a long drive! I absolutely love Morristown’s parks, and Holmdel has stunning gardens (Deep Cut Gardens) that made for some gorgeous couples photos, as you will see below!