bella wang photography

Choosing the best hotel in Boston

The most important thing when choosing a hotel for your wedding is to ensure it makes sense logistically. You should choose a hotel that minimizes the travel time to your venues (both ceremony and reception). If parking is important for you then ensure you confirm parking cost and availability when booking. Often many Boston area hotels have limited parking, or the lot is far away and you need to valet your car.

The Ritz Carlton hotel in Boston
The Ritz Carlton hotel in Boston

Getting Ready in a Boston hotel

Getting ready inside the Ritz Carlton Boston hotel
Getting ready inside the Ritz Carlton Boston hotel

Often times brides and grooms choose to get ready and prepped in a hotel. This minimizes the number of locations people have to travel to, including your vendors. It also makes it easy so you don’t have to clean your place and get it photo ready. Now with COVID19 concerns, it’s better to not have too many guests inside your home to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Wedding Prep inside the Bostonian Hotel in Boston
Wedding Prep inside the Bostonian Hotel in Boston
Groom prep getting ready in The Bostonian hotel Boston
Groom prep getting ready in The Bostonian hotel Boston

Things to consider

Room size

Room size is very important and each hotel offers something unique. Many hotels have special bridal suites or presidential suites for couples getting married. Inquire with the hotel to see if those rooms are available. Check out the price too because those rooms are usually not cheap ($$$!).

Getting ready inside the Ritz Carlton Boston hotel and first look with father
Getting ready inside the Ritz Carlton Boston hotel and first look with father

The suites generally have a separate bedroom and living room so that you have a nice clean open area to do things like a first look with your bridesmaids or your dad in the main living area. With COVID19 concerns being able to separate certain rooms will make it safer for everyone as well in keeping the bride and vendors in one space and having the large wedding party in another room behind the door until they are invited in for photos.

Ritz Carlton Boston hotel room
Ritz Carlton Boston hotel room and suite

Room Style

Historic style of Boston Hotel

Boston is a very historic city so it’s blessed with a lot of vintage hotels like the Fairmont Copley Plaza, or the new Newbury Boston rebranded in 2020 from the old Taj Hotel. The Lenox shouldn’t be overlooked as an option and isn’t quite as well-known.

The Fairmont Copley in Boston hotel
The Fairmont Copley in Boston hotel

Classic Contemporary style of Hotel in Boston

Classic Contemporary options include XV Beacon right in Beacon Hill next to the Boston Commons and Public Gardens, The Colonnade Hotel right near the Prudential Center, or the classic Four Seasons Hotel right across the Boston Commons/Public Gardens. The Ritz Carlton is another relatively new option. If you’re looking for a spot near Harvard, then The Charles is a great hotel. The Intercontinental has a great and unique skyline and is near some scenic areas by the waterfront and Seaport District. You cannot go wrong with the uber-fancy and expensive Mandarin Oriental. It’s situated right by the Prudential Center and defines luxury.

Ritz Carlton Lobby area
Ritz Carlton Lobby area
The Langham Hotel room
The Langham Hotel room

Modern hotel style in Boston

If you’re looking for something more modern, The Verb Hotel is a great choice near Fenway. Also near Fenway is Hotel Commonwealth. YOTEL Boston is a budget-friendly choice with a rooftop bar located in the Seaport District. The Residence Inn by Marriott in the Seaport area has great exposed brick if that’s something you’re looking for. The Envoy is another great choice and is part of the Autograph Collection by Marriott as well. The Envoy is located in the Seaport District, so a bit further away from the downtown core.

Closer to the Public Gardens and Chinatown is the new Moxy Hotel (an offshoot of Marriott brand hotels). The Whitney Hotel is another great option in the Beacon Hill area if you’re getting married right downtown. Godfrey hotel is a great option in the Downtown Crossing district (not far from the Boston Commons and Chinatown). The Kimpton Nine Zero is a really cool design-focused hotel. The Langham is another suggestion of mine that has a great vibe to it. Further afar in South End is the Revolution Hotel.

Modern style hotel room Moxy Hotel in Boston
Modern style hotel room Moxy Hotel in Boston
Getting Ready in the Moxy Hotel Boston
Getting Ready in the Moxy Hotel Boston

Unique hotel in Boston

If you’re looking for something unique then The Liberty should be looked at because it’s an old converted jail. This is located at the border of Cambridge and Boston/Beacon Hill right by MGH.

The Liberty hotel for an engagement session in Boston
The Liberty hotel for an engagement session in Boston
The Liberty hotel for an engagement session in Boston
The Liberty hotel for an engagement session in Boston

Prep Photos in your hotel room

These are important to a lot of couples and the room can either help or hinder these photos. I can adapt to any circumstance, but please be realistic. If there are no windows and the space looks like a bomb went off in it, there’s only so much I can do.

Prep photos in the Langham Hotel for a wedding
Prep photos in the Langham Hotel for a wedding

However, if planned properly, I can make a simple Hampton Hotel room look like this:

Getting Ready in your Best Boston Hotel room
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography

The air-conditiong unit is being blocked by the bridesmaid on the left side of the photo. You can see a touch of the bed on the right bottom. I shoved them RIGHT up against the window that had a sliver of light coming through it to hide the rest of the room.

If the space is empty and gorgeous then I shoot wide and open like below at the Taj Boston hotel.

Taj Hotel in Boston now The Newbury Hotel
Taj Hotel in Boston now The Newbury Hotel

Or like in this bridal suite in the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel.

The Copley Plaza Hotel Boston
The Copley Plaza Hotel Boston Suite

First Look in a Boston hotel

First looks are sometimes a big part of the wedding day. Personally, I like to tell couples to have a backup plan in case it rains. Outdoors is a great option too, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you need a backup plan. Depending on the hotel, if you book a nice enough room they may allow you access to the common spaces that aren’t being used by their guests. Please arrange this with your hotel and speak to them about your plans. I make no claims about their policies for first looks inside a hotel.

First touch in the Bostonian Hotel in Boston
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography
Langham has this cool hallway for a first look during a wedding I think!
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography

Generally what I look for in a great First Look location are great windows. This allows me not to rely on flash during an intimate moment such as a first look. If you choose a dark stairwell, I will have to employ flash to light the scene properly. An empty ballroom or even a hallway could be perfect for a first look.

The below image was taken in a dark unlit stairwell so I used flash to light the scene.

Ritz Carlton Boston First look during wedding
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography

The rooftop bar or rooftop patio are also other options for a first look depending if your hotel offers those options. It’s best to scope out their websites ahead of time and see what unique aspects they have to offer.

First look on the Bostonian hotel in Boston
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography
First look on the Bostonian hotel in Boston
First look on the Bostonian hotel in Boston
First look at the top level of the Moxy
First look at the top level of the Moxy
First look at the top level of the Moxy
First look at the top level of the Moxy
The Liberty hotel for an engagement session in Boston
Photography by Bella Wang Photography

Summary of the top hotels in Boston

These are some of the top hotels in Boston I’ve had the pleasure of photographing in for weddings during prep, first looks, ceremonies and receptions. Pick the right vibe for your style of wedding. match the colour to your wedding colours even! There are so many options.

  • The Fairmont Copley Plaza
  • The Newbury
  • The Four Seasons Boston
  • The Ritz Carlton Boston
  • Hotel Commonwealth
  • The Whitney Hotel
  • The Eliot Hotel
  • The Liberty Hotel
  • The Charles Hotel
  • The Bostonian
  • Boston Harbor Hotel
  • The Envoy Hotel, Autograph Collection
  • The Colonnade Hotel
  • XV Beacon
  • The Langham

Hope this will help you find the right hotel of the Best hotels in Boston.

Some recently blogged weddings:

Hei La Moon + Alden Castle Wedding

Boston City Hall Wedding

Most recent blog posts

Getting Ready in your Best Boston Hotel room

Coronavirus Concerns

With big events being postponed due to government restrictions and safety concerns for family members, 2020-2021 weddings will look very different from prior years. The mandates put forth are constantly changing. For the most up to date information, please see MassLive. Per Governor Baker, Phase 3 will stay in effect until a vaccine is found. It’s an interesting time for weddings during Coronavirus.

The guiding principles set forth by the CDC can be found HERE. Gatherings have always been of concern because they could be super-spreader events. Since weddings are with large groups and for prolonged periods of time in close proximity, it is important to stay prudent and cautious in these times. Findings about the spread of the Coronavirus seem to indicate viral load as the main determining factor in infections. Viral load is the amount of virus a person is exposed to. This can come from the amount of time the person is exposed to an infected person while simply talking, as well as something like a sneeze or cough whereby a large amount of virus is projected at once.

Unique Ideas to Help

I can’t wait to share what the bracelets will look like for my first big wedding in 2020, but I saw an idea twirling around the interwebs showing coloured silicone bracelets indicating comfort levels of those wearing the bracelets. I think it’s a great idea to use for any weddings during coronavirus.

So for example, Green might mean I live with you so we can hug it out. Yellow is I’m friendly and OK with taking a group photo and waving at you from a slight distance. RED might mean.. keep your distance and I’m OK without being in group photos, but I just want to be here to support you because I love you!

Everyone feels very differently about the virus and this way guests don’t have to ask or feel each other out and can wear it on their sleeve. Another option my bride was considering was coloured ribbons so that they wouldn’t be as unattractive and would also be at eye-level. I can see guests struggling to safety pin this on though, so plan accordingly.

This way everyone can feel comfortable that they are being respected at your joyous event!

Healthy Practices for weddings during Coronavirus

  • Have an outdoor ceremony + reception
  • Wear masks inside churches
  • Provide hand sanitizer for guests near all entrance-ways and bathrooms
  • Open all windows and have as much circulation as possible
  • Keep prep room clean by keeping refuse away from the windows, artwork, sofas and beds
  • BWP will not be touching items of the client’s to keep everyone safe.
  • Have a helper for dress/hair/accessory adjustments
  • Make announcements/have signage visible to guests about masks, safety protocols and other protective measures you may be enacting for your wedding
  • Modify layouts
  • Zoom weddings
  • Makeup artists / hair artists

Keep things outdoors

Keeping wedding events outdoors will minimize the potential for spreading an infection. Since New England’s weather is unpredictable, the best thing is to plan for rain with tents as backups for ceremonies and receptions.

Wear a mask

If the ceremony is to take place in a church, ensure that people are safely distanced from one another and are not required to congregate in areas awaiting to be seated or for any other reason. Masks should always be worn when indoors to lower the risk of transmission. I know that accommodations are being made for the procession to be mask-free for those in the wedding party and for the bride and groom. If the rest of the guests can protect the wedding party members by wearing masks, we can still enjoy a beautiful ceremony in comfort knowing we are keeping our loved ones as safe as possible.

Hand Sanitizer at least 60% alcohol

Hand sanitizer should be made available at entrances and bathrooms so that guests can easily sanitize when entering the room, or after using the toilets.

Coronavirus Covid-19 Prevention

Have all windows and doors open

Good practice is to have windows and doors open to the outdoors to allow for as much fresh, clean, outdoor air to circulate indoors as much as possible.

No Touch

Prep rooms will look different in 2020/2021 until a vaccine is found. When I used to enter a hotel room, it would be filled with empty plastic bags, hangers all over the bed, makeup bags and bras tossed about. I would quickly clean things up to make sure the photos would look their best. However, due to COVID-19 I can no longer clean up a space. Please do your best to throw all of the unneeded items against a wall furthest from the windows or any features of the room (such as a nice sofa, the bed, or artwork). This will also ensure photos with everyone in enclosed spaces will take place as quickly as possible to minimize exposure. A little bit of prep can go a long way for weddings during Coronavirus.

Have no-touch trash cans to gather used disinfectant wipes, tissues and empty bags easily.

Please note that prep room photos must be discussed ahead of time with BWP to ensure this can be done safely. If masks aren’t being worn, other vendors will be present and the room is anticipated to be packed, BWP will photograph other parts of the day and wait for the space to be less busy so that social distancing of 6′ can be safely achieved. Exposure in the prep room will be kept at a minimum in 2020/2021 but I’ll get creative by taking objects out of the room to photograph. Have your wedding invitations ready, shoes, jewellery, and a friend to hang onto your wedding rings so that you always know where your valuables are! These will be taken to a safer area to photograph that is further away from the crowded room.

Once the room has emptied a bit and it has been cleaned up, I’ll pop back in to take the classic prep photos, bridesmaid robe photos, mother of the bride zipping up the back of the dress photo, etc. These images and what you want will be discussed ahead of time so that I can get them as efficiently as possible and not miss any of your ‘must-have’ photos! Nothing has to be sacrificed with enough planning and communication ahead of time.

For more information on my safety practices, please click this to this BLOG LINK.

Helper/Adjuster for safety

Since I will no longer be able to touch my brides and grooms, please have a friend to be your helper that day. Just have them adjust the train of your dress, straighten your necklace and tuck your hair correctly if it comes down as needed. I’ll point out where I need adjustments made as well. Please choose a friend that is in your household or someone that will wear a mask near you so that you stay as safe as possible.

Modified Layouts for weddings

Talk to your venue and caterer to modify your layout. One of my brides is installing a second tent at her wedding venue to allow for social distancing. Tables will be spread out further and only those living together will be sitting at tables together. Ensure seats are blocked off to space people out at least 6′.

Formal family photos during wedding at reception barn
At the barn before the guests were let in.

Livestream/Zoom your wedding

Another thing to consider is to livestream your wedding so your guests can enjoy the ceremony virtually! Have someone set up a phone or iPad somewhere to live stream the ceremony. Maybe improve the sound by adding a mic for quality.

Makeup and Hair Artists

Hair and makeup artists (MUAs) should already have their own safety practices in place. I have seen many post about new certifications they are earning in order to prove they can practice their craft safely. This isn’t my wheelhouse, so I’ll leave it to them to inform you of their safety measures. Ensure you ask any questions you might have so that you feel safe. Ask about how they are sanitizing their makeup, their tools and using as many one-use items as possible to decrease the risk of cross-contamination.

Wedding preparation with Makeup Artist
Wedding preparation with Makeup Artist – Yin Tom

Places not to overlook as spots for gathering

Don't have sign-in books, but rather individual cards for weddings during coronavirus
Don’t have sign-in books, but rather individual cards

Sign-in books

Guest sign-in books have always been popular. It’s a good thing now instead to have cards at each place setting that guests can fill in (have them bring their own pens to the wedding so you don’t share!) and then drop them in a basket so that you can enter them into the guest book after the wedding is over. Make sure you quarantine the cards for at least a few days just to be safe!

Sign-in stations should be reimagined in 2020/2021. NO guestbook
Sign-in stations should be re-imagined in 2020/2021

Bar

wedding bar no go weddings during coronavirus
Bars unfortunately are a no-go in 2020/2021

Bars are generally not allowed anymore specifically because this is where a lot of guests will gather and linger. I believe most venues are now requiring table service and no longer offering bar service. Please double check with your vendor team and caterers.

Buffets

No buffets for weddings during coronavirus.
So sad! No more gorgeous dessert spreads!

Same goes for buffets unfortunately! The safest bet is for plated meals. No need to provide a meal for the team of BWP in 2020/2021 as we will be bringing our own meal to weddings this year just to be overly cautious. We want to control as much of what we’re exposed to as possible so that we can stay healthy to keep photographing weddings for all of our couples! Bonus – you save $$$!!

Restrooms

Talk to your venue about restrooms and how that will be managed. You should consider limiting the number of people in the restroom. You should also prevent lines from forming outside if possible. Another thing to consider is higher-risk guests. Perhaps designate one bathroom for them so that they aren’t put at risk of exposure to the rest of the many guests in attendance? Again, it’s hard to segregate people since many can be asymptomatic carriers. It’s best to limit restroom usage if at all possible. If you need additional advice or considerations, feel free to reach out to me as this is a more private matter, but I have other suggestions.

Please talk to the venue to ensure that high-touch surfaces such as faucets, countertops, diaper changing tables, toilets, stall doors and doorknobs will be wiped regularly. Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in the restrooms and wipes to open the door with if possible. Maybe they can hire someone to just clean the bathrooms after each usage/every 15 minutes and you can talk about what that would cost. I can’t imagine a venue wouldn’t be willing to sell you an extra service! This way your guests can feel safer too.

Entering the church or reception space

Talk to your friends to help, or the venue space to have staff guiding guests by making an announcement ahead of time about staggered seating times. By staggering arrival times of guests you can space people out so that people aren’t gathering at once at single entrances. Another option is to have multiple entrances to allow guests to enter a space. Ensure guests know ahead of time which entrance they should be using to eliminate congestion. This is a great way to minimize exposure at weddings during Coronavirus.

Ride-Share / Party-bus

Limos, trolleys and just Ubers have been great ways of moving large numbers of guests between venues. However, due to COVID-19, it’s safer for guests to travel individually to their destinations. I can definitely grab a photo of the wedding party in their limo/trolley but then hop into my own car for transportation between locations.

Group Photos

This is going to be tricky. It all depends on how comfortable you feel personally with your guests and how comfortable they feel with you. These should be taken outdoors regardless if at all possible. Groupings should only be made with immediate family that live together, or if they are mixed groups, consider masks for the photos. If you want mask-less images, please tell guests to leave on their masks until everyone is situated properly. I will give a countdown and instruct people to lower their masks for the photo only. Then instruct everyone to put on their masks again. This will be discussed with you during our week-of the wedding consultation.

I will require a photo-helper for this portion of the day. The most organized way of doing this would be to enumerate every group photo that you need. Then tell the guests which numbers they should be present for. That number will be announced and they should be ready to be next for their photo. I have a longer post regarding stress-free family photos HERE, but I will update it with this new idea ASAP.

Safety/COVID-19 Point of Contact

The CDC recommends that one person be designated the point of contact for COVID-19/Coronavirus concerns. I think this is a good idea. Guests should be informed who this person is ahead of time so that they can bring up safety concerns to them throughout the day. This person should be allowed the authority to handle any issues so that the bride and groom aren’t pestered throughout the day.

Communication

The most important thing is communication. This will be with your guests, your family members, friends and vendors that you will be working with throughout your wedding day. Ensure that everyone keeps you up to date (or your designated COVID-19 Point of Contact) about any health concerns leading up to your wedding day. If anyone is concerned with exposure, or has come into contact with someone who has since tested positive, please instruct them to quarantine for 14 days in accordance with health regulations. Anyone with symptoms should be told to enjoy the event via Livestream. If there will be guests of a diverse range of languages, please provide signage in multiple languages.

So what if someone feels sick the day of?

The CDC recommends that the person immediately be isolated and taken home or a healthcare facility for testing, depending on how severe their symptoms are. Individuals who have come into close contact with that person should be informed immediately so they can take the necessary precautionary steps. Any areas the sick person has been in contact with should be immediately disinfected and cleaned. It’s better to be safe than sorry so that everyone can rejoice in future happy family celebrations together.

Need Masks?

So I’ve been doing a lot of research and I have a lot of clients that are doctors. They gave me a huge list of resources. I have linked them all at the bottom of this BLOG. Click through to purchase masks for your friends and family, especially those at higher risk. There’s even a link to an N95 (not surgical, so not to worry that you are taking away PPE for medical personnel) which needs 3 weeks turnaround to ship to your door. If you’re a BWP bride, I have some Halyard600 fabric and can make you a mask or insert for a pretty bridal mask. Just reach out.

If you just want something pretty and not necessarily top of the line for protection, then click into these bridal mask options.

Guest sign-in table

Where to have your Boston-area photoshoots

This has been a topic I’ve meant to do a big write-up on for the longest time. I guess it took a pandemic to make time for it! With people wanting to safely social distance during photoshoots, I recommend heading a bit out of the city for some reprieve from the crowds, joggers, dogs and bikers. Here is a list of some of my favourite locations photoshoots I’ve photographed in.

This is not a definitive list. I can honestly make any location work. I photograph in people’s homes 85% of the time and I have never set foot in their homes before the session, and I always have to make it work. That training over the past several years has helped me hone into what’s important to include in my frame of an image and what to crop out. If you stay until the end of the blog post I will show examples of some small parks and parking lot photo sessions. I keep forgetting to take more behind-the-scenes images, but when I get more, I will add them to this post. Just know you don’t have to go to the Public Gardens and that’s actually my least favourite place to photograph in the Boston area. Here’s my list for locations for photoshoots.

Locations are a personal preference

I had a PDF that I used to email to everyone when they asked for location suggestions. I tell them that they have to make sure they love it because a location is very much a personal preference. I love street art, derelict buildings, muddy puddles, splashing in the lake, and hikes up mountains. I can confidently say that 99% of my sessions do not include any of those items.

The things I tend to steer away from include iconic locations where you HAVE to photograph in this one spot from a specific location or there’s no point for that spot. Given the pandemic, I do not want to be lining up for a location, or having to cluster near a feature. Even if there wasn’t a pandemic, I follow the light and I love texture. When some landscape designers install a bridge or a gazebo, they don’t have the light in mind. Just because it’s there, I won’t necessarily use a bridge or gazebo unless the light is perfect. As a photographer, we see the world with light and shadow. It’s hard to convince someone unless they’ve had the training, but that’s why you’ve hired me – because you want me to make those choices and direct you to gorgeous backdrops.

If there is a location you have to have as a backdrop, please ask me during your consultation and make that abundantly clear so I can tell you how feasible it is. I want to make you happy, but that sometimes means changing the time of the session, bringing artificial lighting, or sacrificing the posed nature of the image captured there (because children will not hold a pose for a lighting setup). It’s a very technical decision sometimes, but I can make it work if that is the key image.

Summary of suggested locations for photoshoots

I provide examples for almost all of the following locations. I have been all across Boston and the greater Boston area. New locations don’t phase me. Under each location I give more tips on parking, things to consider, etc as well as the city these spots are located in.

  1. Boston Public Gardens
  2. Charles River Esplanade
  3. Boston Commons
  4. Christopher Columbus Park
  5. The Fens
  6. ICA / Seaport District
  7. Davis Square / Trolley Square/ Powderhouse Circle
  8. Tufts Campus
  9. Fresh Pond Reservation
  10. Alewife Brook Reservation
  11. Danehy Park
  12. Christian Herter Park
  13. North Point Park
  14. Menetomy Rocks Park
  15. Tobert MacDonald Park
  16. The Fells
  17. Beaver Brook Reservation
  18. Rock Meadow Conservation Land
  19. Minuteman National Park
  20. Wellesley College
  21. Lynn Woods
  22. Lower Commons, Wakefield
  23. Breakheart Reservation
  24. Larz Anderson Park
  25. Arnold Arboretum
  26. Fort Sewall, Marblehead
  27. Crane Beach, Ipswich
  28. North Shore Beach
  29. Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
  30. Backyard
  31. Park near you

Downtown locations for photoshoots

I will no longer be photographing any locations downtown (this includes the Charles River, Boston Public Gardens, Boston Commons, Christopher Columbus Park, any South End park) unless the session ends by 7:30 am. The sessions last about 40 minutes, so we would need to start by 6:50am at the latest. If this is too early for you, please consider a location out of the city. Ending by 7:30am is what I consider a ‘sunrise’ session (“sunrise for safety and OK light”). True sunrise for beautiful light is when true sunrise is according to this website.

If you are willing to consider a sunrise session, these are some visual examples of those locations:

1. Boston Public Gardens Photoshoot

Sunset and dad, mom and child at Boston Public Gardens
Sunset lasted for 2 minutes so we did a sequence to make the most of it. (I will not longer be photographing sunset at the public gardens)

2. Charles River Esplanade Photo Session

Boston Maternity session by the Charles River with prudential center in background
They just pop against the skyline don’t they? (sunset)
He bent down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage
Sunset over the Charles River with boats in the background and city skyline, the couple in the foregraound
The sunset that evening was surreal. If you’re a local to Boston, you know these sunsets aren’t a regular occurrence. (I will not be photographing sunsets at the Charles in 2020)

3. Boston Commons for a maternity session

Boston Commons Maternity session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Boston Commons Maternity session (this is sunset)

4. Christopher Columbus Park

Christopher Columbus park family photography session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Christopher Columbus Park (this is sunset)

5. The Fens

Near Fenway is another cute spot that has great landscaping. Please note that most of this land is made up of small patches of community gardens. I love it though!

Maternity photography Boston | locations for photoshoots
Maternity photography Boston | The Fens
Engagement Photos at The Fens in Boston
Engagement Photos at The Fens in Boston

6. ICA / Seaport District

Sunrise option available if you love the downtown landscape! If you want a city feel away from the crowds, I love the seaport district near the Childrens museum and the ICA. They recently renovated the waterfront to have some great new features.

Boston Childrens Museum
ICA Boston Downtown

The following images are more creative (so not available for sessions with younger children). It requires flash and posing so it would work really well for engagement and senior sessions.

Bella Wang Photography, LLC
The bottom photos on the set above are natural light (sunset).
Dancer in front of skyscrapers in Boston Seaport District Boston senior session
After the ICA we wanted some backdrop variety so we did an outfit change that matched the setting perfectly. | Seaport District
Dancer at the ICA in Boston
Senior session at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston’s Seaport District
Sunrise over the ICA Boston with dancer in foreground
The soft glow of light and the gentle outline of her dress really makes this shot come together
Dancer in front of skyscrapers in Boston Seaport District

Somerville / Cambridge for photo sessions

7. Davis Square Powderhouse Park / Trolley Square| Somerville, MA

Let’s say I live in Davis Square so I shoot at these locations ALL the time. I come almost weekly to these spots because of my Davis Square location discount. Many of my clients also live in the area!

Davis Square suggested Locations for photoshoots
Trolley Square. Caveat: It’s on the Minuteman path so there are bikers/joggers. This is a sunrise only location.

This is the same family! We have been seeing each other since she was still inside her mama’s belly. We haven’t left the square yet! So many choices and you don’t have to go far.

Tufts Powderhouse suggested Locations for photoshoots
Davis Square – Powderhouse park

8. Tufts Campus | Somerville MA

Lots of spots around campus. I should note that campus is reopening in the Fall so there may be some tents set up closer to the start of the Fall semester.

Bella Wang Photography, LLC
Tufts University campus | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Tufts Campus. Depending on the season, the campus has different features.

9. Fresh Pond Reservation| Cambridge, MA

This area is near the newly constructed playground.

The caveat for the above location is that part of it is a playground. I am not sure if it will be closed or how comfortable your family is in a playground setting with regards to Coronavirus. Parking in this area is also tricky if you are not a Belmont or Cambridge permit holder.

The below area is also nearby but easier to access via parking near the Trader Joe’s at Alewife Brook Parkway.

Fresh Pond Reservation Family photography session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Fresh Pond Reservation

10. Alewife Brook Reservation

Just around the bend from there is another park that I love. It’s a thoroughfare that connects Belmont to Cambridge. It’s called Alewife Brook Reservation. It’s just off the T line from Alewife station. Parking here is incredibly hard to find unless you park at the T.

suggested Locations for photoshoots | Alewife reservation
Alewife Brook Reservation

11. Danehy Park | Cambridge, MA

I shoot at Danehy park a lot! I love it there. There are a lot of choices in the massive city park. We can easily move from place to place when people come around. I actually convinced one family to stay close by last year for their family session and they were happy I talked them out of heading further out.

Danehy Park family photography session
Bella Wang Photography, LLC
suggested Locations for photoshoots
Danehy Park sunset session in the fall
Bella Wang Photography, LLC
Danehy Park family photography session: suggested Locations for photoshoots
Danehy Park family photography session

12. Christian Herter Park | Cambridge, MA

One of my favourite parks because it has easy parking! The water is steps away from the parking lot. I do have to note that this is a busier park because it’s by the Charles River. There are a lot of joggers and bikers along the water. If you are ok not being by the water, we can find a quieter patch to photograph in.

Locations for photoshoots : Christian Herter Park
Christian Herter Park
Christian Herter Park
Christina Herter Park Cambridge, MA | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Christian Herter Park Cambridge, MA
Christina Herter Park Cambridge, MA | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Christian Herter Park Cambridge, MA
Family session just after the rain with puddles | suggested Locations for photoshoots
puddles add a really great dimension to photos and check out that sky!

13. North Point Park | Cambridge, MA (sunrise only)

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, so if you want to see a whole bunch of photos taken at North Point, click HERE to see the blog post. I’m calling this a sunrise only session location because it’s right in the city and sometimes quite busy. Parking is also a huge pain here.

Trees in North Point Park in the Summer | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Trees in North Point Park in the Summer
Fall Foliage at North Point Park in Cambridge
North Point Park in the Fall
The girls are having so much fun!
Playground at North Point Park
North Point Park, Cambridge, MA
Locations for photoshoots : North Point Park

Arlington / Medford / Belmont / Concord for photo sessions

14. Menetomy Rocks Park | Arlington, MA (sunrise only)

I love this park in Arlington. Parking is found all around the park, so make sure we agree to meet in the right area. The most ‘iconic’ spot is the pond right in the center. I love this location for photoshoots. I am willing to do sunsets if you are flexible with location choices. We just have to dance around the many walkers/bikers/dog walkers. It’s pretty popular with off-leash dog walkers, unfortunately.

Menetomy Rocks Park arlington Family photography session
Menetomy Rocks Park Arlington Family photography session
Menetomy Rocks Park Arlington Family session
Menetomy Rocks Park Arlington Family session
Menetomy Rocks Park arlington Family photography session
Menetomy Rocks Park Arlington Family photography session

15. Tobert MacDonald Park| Medford, MA

The parking lot for this park is right by the Police station. Have you noticed how much I love easy logistics? It’s from years of running between back-to-back sessions and having families rush to a location because of a throw-up, I know how important it is to find easy parking. I always tell parents I can make any location work. The main thing is if they can get there easily and not be late. Sunrise is sunrise and sunset is unforgiving. We cannot argue with Mother Nature!

Tobert MacDonald Park in Medford, MA
Tobert MacDonald Park in Medford, MA

I photographed this family at another nearby park across from the Costco shopping center and LOVED how that turned out as well. There are so many options.

16. The Fells | Medford, MA

I adore the fells. I was actually there hiking this morning. When it has just rained you can smell the fresh wood. I have been going there for years. It’s for the more rugged families that are used to mud and muck. You have to dress properly and expect dirt and exploration. Basically, this isn’t a place for heels and dresses. If you love nature like me, this is a great suggested Location for photoshoots.

The Fells Family session photography
The Fells Family session photography
The Fells Family session photography
Time for exploration

17. Beaver Brook Reservation | Belmont, MA

The little guy below had almost his entire session at this one park. It was easy as it was just down the street from his house. They often walked their dog Hattie here so it was sentimental to them. Locations aren’t the focus for me. It’s all about the light, interaction, emotion and expression.

Beaver Brook Reservation Belmont
Beaver Brook Reservation Belmont

During his 6 month photo session, we really lucked out with the most stunning sunset in the PARKING LOT. Have I mentioned how many of my images are basically created by a parking lot?

Beaver Brook Reservation, Belmont
Belmont Family Photography

This was the epic parking lot photo we got after sunset as we were all walking back to our cars:

Belmont sunset during family photography session
Belmont sunset during family photography session

18. Rock Meadow Conservation area | Belmont, MA

I’ve done a blog set on this location, so again, I’ll direct you there to take a look at the landscape (BLOG POST)! I’ve photographed there often. I do have to make a note that it has become VERY popular. It’s more of a sunset location just because of the direction of the light/sun. This would not be suitable for a weekend location.

This session took place on an overcast and almost storming day:

Belmont Rock Meadows Reservation
Belmont Rock Meadows Conservation
Belmont Rock Meadows Conservation
Belmont Rock Meadows Conservation
Belmont Rock Meadows Conservation
Belmont Rock Meadows Conservation
Family play photography session in Belmont
My favourite image of the session. It captures the nature and essence of this family at this moment perfectly.

19. Minuteman National Park | Concord, MA

I wouldn’t expect us to get a bridge photo as it’s a main thoroughfare, but it’s a great sprawling park with a lot of scenery. Lots of things to climb on and explore! It’s massive and a place for the kids to run wild.

Minuteman National Park Concord Family photography Session
Minuteman National Park Concord Family photography Session
Minuteman National Park Concord Family photography Session
Minuteman National Park Concord Family photography Session
Bella Wang Photography, LLC
Minuteman National Park Family photoshoot photography
Bella Wang Photography, LLC

A bit further out / Wellesley, Lynn, Wakefield, Saugus for photo sessions

20. Wellesley College | Wellesley, MA

Wellesley College Family session
Wellesley College Family session
Wellesley College Family session
Wellesley College Family session
Wellesley College Family session sunset
sunset

21. Lynn Woods | Lynn, MA

I haven’t photographed or been here yet, but I do a lot of my scouting online before a session using just Google maps. If you want to read more about it, click on TripAdvisor.

22. Lower Commons, Wakefield MA

This was chosen by a Baby 1 Year family because they lived in Wakefield. It had a great green space, water and a gazebo for some interest. The parking lot was right there as well. I wouldn’t say this park is special, it’s merely an example that I can photograph any location and I don’t need to scout it out ahead of time. I just need cooperative subjects and good light.

Lower Commons Wakefield, MA family photography session
Lower Commons Wakefield, MA family photography session
Lower Commons Wakefield, MA family photography session
sunset
Lower Commons Wakefield, MA family photography session
Lower Commons Wakefield, MA family photography session

23. Breakheart Reservation | Saugus, MA

This is another location that looks great on Google Maps. Check out the town website for details. I would definitely put this on a list of photogenic locations to check out.

OK so I checked it out on July 5th and it’s a beautiful place. I don’t know if I would recommend it for little children, but definitely for older kids, maternity or engagement sessions. The space is beautiful and if I can control where people stand and how they pose, I’ll likely be able to create epic images. With toddlers, I likely wouldn’t think it’s ideal unless parents are OK with purely documentary/exploration style. I would need to employ flash/lighting techniques to really bring out this location and unfortunately, with little ones, there’s no way that will happen.

breakheart reservation location photos
Breakheart reservation location photos

It was a beautiful, foggy, overcast day when I went. These are just some iphone snaps I took, so the finished ‘real photo’ effect will be very different.

24. Larz Anderson (sunrise only)

Classic Family Photo in Brookline
The money shot in my opinion. This was the last 5 minutes of the session when the toddlers were worn out and I had a moment to create this. I never know when this moment will happen. It could be the first 5 minutes, or the final 5 minutes. I am so pleased with the outcome!

I’ve covered Larz Anderson park extensively. I was bored of the Public Gardens a few years ago and suggested this park as an alternative. It’s located in Brookline. I will direct you to some full blog posts on this suggested location for photoshoots.

Boston family photographer Fall foliage
Larz Anderson Park on a rainy day

Family Session at Larz Anderson Blog Post # 1

Family Session at Larz Anderson Blog Post # 2

Family Session at Larz Anderson Blog Post #3

Larz Anderson Family photography session
Larz Anderson Family photography session 2019

25. Arnold Arboretum (sunrise/sunset only)

Parking is tricky here because people tend to not expect the parking is just along the side of the road. Then they are usually late and roar right past it and then it’s about 15 minutes to circle back and park. I send parking instructions with every session here, but each time it’s still a fiasco for the uninitiated. If it’s your first time, I would recommend going once beforehand or leave an extra 20 minutes for parking. The Arboretum is one of my favourite locations for photoshoots.

Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session
Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session

I love this grand park in Jamaica Plain. There are so many spots to photograph here and we can avoid crowds by going off to the side.

Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session
Photography by Bella Wang Photography
Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session
Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session
Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session
Arnold Arboretum Family photography Session
Arnold Arboretum maternity photography Session
Arnold Arboretum maternity photography Session
Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session
Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session
Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session
Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session

By the Coast / North Shore for photo sessions

26. Fort Sewall| Marblehead, MA

Boats coming into the harbor in Marblehead, MA
Boats coming into the harbor in Marblehead, MA because the tide was coming in and the sun was setting.
Sunset engagement photos on the ocean
But I am opportunistic so I stole a couple of minutes to get these dramatic photos before we ran off.

I’ve been here 3 times and each time it looks different! For the full engagement session, please click HERE.

27. Crane Beach | Ipswich, MA

There’s paid parking at this beach so fees do apply, but you won’t find a more beautiful beach on the North Shore. We can easily social distance from people at sunset/sunrise on the weekdays. It’s that massive. I do not recommend weekends as it’s an absolute madhouse. Please also note greenhead season in July/August. We don’t want to be eaten alive there.

I should point out that there are restrictions currently at Crane Beach and that you have to secure a spot. Please reach out to them directly for the latest information about a sunset/sunrise session. I want you to feel confident you got the info right from the source. Online info HERE.

Crane Beach Family session photography | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Crane Beach Family session photography
Crane Beach engagement session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Crane Beach engagement session
Crane Beach engagement session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Photography by Bella Wang Photography
Crane Beach engagement session | suggested Locations for photoshoots
Crane Beach engagement session

28. North Shore Beach

Somewhere along the North Shore is another rocky beach where these elopement wedding images were taken. It was empty when we went. I forget where it was, but if you are interested, reach out to me.

North Shore beach elopement wedding photography | suggested Locations for photoshoots
North Shore beach elopement wedding photography

29. Wingaersheek Beach | Gloucester, MA

These were photographed at 8:30am when the parking lot opened. The beach is very tricky for photography and I highly recommend sunset or sunrise because you will have a warmth to the images and it won’t make you squint in all of your photos. If you know yourself and know you wear sunglasses at the beach, please plan to have a sunset/sunrise session. If we can figure out a weekday sunset or sunrise without parking issues, this is one of the great beach locations for photoshoots. Keep in mind, greenheads are also an issue here besides at Crane from around Mid-July to Mid-August. I will point out that many beaches are closed to non-locals on weekends. Please verify.

Wingaersheek Beach family photo
Bella Wang Photography, LLC
Wingaersheek Beach family photo boy running through water black and white
Wingaersheek beach
Wingaersheek Beach family photo
Wingaersheek Beach family photo

I still remember losing my 85mm lens to the ocean during this session!

Also, consider nearby for photo sessions

30. Backyard or Apartment Common Area | Locations for photoshoots near you

I can make a simple location look beautiful just through choosing the lens, knowing the light and cropping intentionally. I just need to know what the space looks like that I will be working with so I can consult with you whether or not it will work.

Newborn session in apartment backyard pool area

More suggestions to make your backyard work in this BLOG POST.

sprinkler at home family photography
I love sprinklers in the backyard
At home family photography session Newton
At home family photography session Newton
At home family photography session Newton
At home family photography session Newton

Families are always shocked when I can make a simple space they may have overlooked into something magical. The following was taken in their apartment parking lot.

family photos at home in a parking lot. Unexpected Locations for photoshoots
family photos at home in a parking lot

31. Nearby Park | near you

I can make a small patch of greenery or florals look lush. You don’t have to travel far. I can do an entire session within 40 feet of the parking lot. I do a lot of scouting using Google maps. The only thing I cannot tell is if there is seasonal foliage or florals or construction. Those need to be verified closer to the date.

Photography session in nearby park Waltham. Unexpected Locations for photoshoots
Photography session in nearby park Waltham

They go walking here all the time with their baby girl, so we had our session here. These images were taken back to back (one with my camera, and the other with the phone- ha! Guess which is which?). What you see and what I see may be quite different.

watertown dam
watertown dam

If you have some place in mind

Send me a pin and send me some panoramic photos! I prefer you take the photos when you plan to have the session, but just let me know what time you took the photos and if it’s a pano, I can extrapolate the information I need. If you just take a snap, I cannot tell where the sun is in relation to the landscape. The pin on google is important so I know where to go!

Some examples of photos that I’ve taken as ‘research’ photos to give me a sense of the space:

mystic-valley-parkway
mystic-valley-parkway

The way I photograph a location for my own reference is different than how I would want images from you. Panoramic photos will give me context. I cannot always shoot with the lake as a background. I will have to use artificial lighting to make you pop otherwise it will be a silhouette. These flash photos will only work with adults or kids over 10.

If you can also send me the information on direction of the sunset/sunrise that would be optimal. Otherwise, tell me what time the photo was taken (taking a photo between 11-1 will not give me any information since it’s just overhead). I use an app on location to give me a sense of the lighting of a location as well. These are just the everyday little things I do for planning and why you hired a professional, so please take my advice for planning purposes. Again, I ask for photos and timing so that I can help with information and planning. Sending photos randomly without context at noon will not give me any information. I really just have to make that clear so that I don’t come back to ask additional questions. I want this to be as easy as possible!

Search Results Web results  The Photographer's Ephemeris
This app is called TPE: The Photographer’s Ephemeris

You don’t have to take any of these photoshoot location suggestions. These are merely a jumping-off point. I hope they will help you plan your socially distanced photo session. There’s no need to stress about finding the ‘perfect’ spot.

You can always just let me choose a location, but I do want families to know themselves. If you are easy-going then any location I pick will be great. If you know you only like manicured gardens then please don’t ‘trust me’ and be disappointed when I choose someplace more natural. I always ask people to verify the location is to their expectations before a session because I don’t want them to hate it. I love abandoned buildings, alleyways with graffiti, climbs up mountains, giant mud puddles. I also love modern architecture, clean lines and harsh shadow/light play. I would say that I typically only work 99% of the time in places NOT as described above (I’m at the Public Gardens 5 times a week typically). So be honest with yourself. I can make any place work.

When I first started, parents cared so much about locations and drove 45 minutes to a spot only to have their toddler meltdown because of the distance traveled. The session isn’t up to us. If you have older children, then we can head further out of town. Just know your children.

Things to keep in mind include parking, when parking lots open, permits and fees related to shooting locations and closures due to construction, COVID-19 or pests (such as horseflies at Crane beach). Washrooms are also something to keep in mind as many places are closed and personally I am avoiding public washrooms.

For at home sessions, I ask for panoramic photos and a questionnaire to be filled out asking what your favourite aspects are of your yard (and areas to avoid). This will all be sent to you when you book your photo session.

There are a tonne of other locations I’ve photographed at, but this blog post is getting a bit lengthy. If there’s some place else you’d like me to cover in this post please reach out and I’ll dig up some examples.

I hope this list helps you find the best locations for your photoshoots

If this resource is helpful, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be adding more tips and advice for planning sessions in the coming months. Once those blog entries are available, I’ll send you a notification right to your inbox. You can unsubscribe any time. I won’t spam you. My goal is to gather a couple of entries before I send off a newsletter maybe once every 1-3 weeks depending on the season. You can sign up below.

Best Boston photoshoot locations | where to have your photography session
Arnold Arboretum engagement photography Session

Stress-free formal family portraits

Formal family portraits are an incredibly important part of a wedding day. You may have noticed I don’t typically share too many of these types of images on my website, blog or social media, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take formal family group portraits. So many couples reach out after their wedding and comment about how I am so incredibly efficient and effective at grouping family portraits. I’m here to make your day run as smoothly as possible. I take command during these parts of the day and couples have raved that I had a lot of the stress off of their day I love this kind of feedback! My goal is to remove as many stress points as possible so that you’re free to enjoy your party.

Gorgeous and Efficient Family Group Photos

Family photos can be as formal as you want them. It really depends on the couple. Below are some selections from past weddings I have delivered. If you are taking photos at a church, they will be formal. If you are open to other locations, I can just vibe off you two and allow you to set the tone. Photos don’t have to be painful if you don’t want them to be. Communicate to me your goals and I’ll just go with the flow! I am fast at adapting and this wedding is about you, not me.

1. Decide when/where you want to do family formals and if you want to space them out between different parts of your day

Formal family photos during wedding
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography. These were taken at the prep hotel. These images were taken indoors in a dark lounge. I employed flash to get a beautiful portrait.
Formal family photos during wedding during reception
Family photos at Reception. Since it was indoors, I used flash again.
Formal family photos during wedding after ceremony
These were taken after the outdoor ceremony
Formal family photos during wedding at church
At the church right after the ceremony is a classic location.
Formal family photos during wedding informal
Things can be informal. These were taken after the first look. Since this was outdoors and the light was great, I used natural sunlight.
Formal family photos during wedding at reception barn
At the barn before the guests were let in. These images were taken using flash photography.
Formal family photos during wedding at ceremony
This was after the ceremony at their backyard wedding. (Flash)
Formal wedding photos that are fun
(natural sunlight)

As you can see, there’s no one place to take family portraits. It’s most efficient to take them back to back, but if time doesn’t allow for it (for instance, some churches require you to exit within 30 minutes of the end of your ceremony), we can finish your list at another location. The following locations are great for family portraits depending on when your family will arrive:

2. Family photos can be informal or dramatic

It’s your wedding so do it your way. You know your family dynamic best. If fun family photos is what you want, I can make that happen. I’ll just follow your flow.

Informal Formal family photos during wedding
Again, just have fun with it! All sunlight/natural light.
Formal family photos during wedding at hotel
Dramatic with artificial light (flash) at the prep hotel in the lobby/lounge
Fun wedding group portraits
Reception fun. (Flash)
Fun wedding group portraits
Wedding Portraits by Bella Wang Photography. (Flash)

3. Do a first look

Doing a first look takes a lot of pressure off the wedding day and frees the timeline up to do things out of the normal order. It makes things more flexible since you can do family portraits before the ceremony. I understand 100% if you want to keep things traditional without a first look (when we got married 14 years ago, we never had even heard of a first look).

If you are willing to do a first look:

  • At the prep location
  • In the lounge of the prep hotel
  • At a nearby park / outside the prep hotel

No first look:

  • The church itself after the ceremony
  • Ceremony location
  • Cocktail hour
  • The reception space
Group photo during cocktail hour
Cocktail hour for more informal groupings.

4. Provide a Photo List

At least 4 weeks before the wedding, I request that a final list of family photos be provided. If you provide it after that point, it is 100% OK, but I won’t be able to give you feedback in case we need to add time to your timeline, or trim any of the 40+ combinations you might have on your list.

The important part of this process is to think of all the important people in your lives. List them in a shared spreadsheet in Google Drive, word document, email, Evernote, etc. so that it’s in one place. Ensure your family has feedback. The worst thing is that you find out your mother wants to add 30 combinations at the wedding and we didn’t plan time for it so you use your cocktail hour taking endless family combinations. Have the conversations ahead of time so that you will not have additional stress on your wedding day. Make sure your family knows to stick to the agreed-upon plan and ask them to ward off any pushy extended family members that may try and hijack your day. Your family will know if these people exist and hopefully, you will be forewarned!

Considerations for your group photo list

I suggest to have 30 groupings or less, but I understand if your family is big. Please just note that time has to be allotted for family photos if you have a lot of groupings. See below for timing.

The best way to organize the list is to start with one side of the family first. Start with the largest group and then whittle the grouping down from there. This minimizes the movement between groupings and ensures fewer people are lost along the way.

If there are any difficult dynamics in the family, now is the time to plan ahead and ensure that there is enough space given to those that need it.

Provide a copy of this Photo List to your Photo Helper.

Timing

I tell couples to allow 3-4 minutes per grouping, depending on the size. If the grouping is smaller than 5 people, it should only take 2-3 minutes. Larger (20+) take about 6-10 minutes. This is true only if you have a helper on each side of your family. If you have 30 groupings at 3 minutes per group, then that’s already 90 minutes or 1.5 hours of your day optimistically-speaking. So be realistic in your expectations. Otherwise, you’re planning for a high-stress day.

5. Have a Photo Helper for formal pictures

At the beginning of formal family photos, an announcement should be made to your guests to have them stick around. I request that each couple designate one person on each side to be their “Photo Helper”. Since I won’t know your family members or friends, this person will be in charge of rounding up the guests on your photo list. Choose someone VERY aggressive and loud. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from photographing weddings for over 7 years, it’s that people tend to wander off during family photos. I’m not quite sure why. The more people that wander away, the longer it will take to get through your combinations. If you want things to be efficient, I suggest some guards at the exists to inform the necessary parties to stay behind for photos.

Once you have finalized your photo list, please provide a copy to your Photo Helper. This Photo Helper will also be in charge of The Announcement.

The Announcement

Here are some pointers when announcing family formals:

  • Make an announcement when you have everyone’s attention telling them where to meet for family portraits and also the timing. I need about 10 minutes to set up lighting after the ceremony.
  • Have your photo helpers start gathering the first 2-3 groups.
  • Have your guards ensure people that are important don’t start wandering away
  • Request that any purses, glassware, sunglasses, jackets, etc. that they don’t want to be in the photograph to be put on a side table/chair before they head up for their photos. This often takes people a lot of time and they always take all of their belongings with them. If you are OK with the clutter, I am fine taking the photo that way. If it bothers you, then just ask that items be left next to a designated guard/friend.
  • As each group heads up, ensure your photo helpers keep moving down your list.

Sample Group Formal Photo List

FIRST FAMILYformal family portraits

– Couple + Parents, Siblings & Grandparents (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents & Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents (comma separated names)

BOTH FAMILIESformal family portraits

– Couple + both sets of Parents & all Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + both sets of Parents (comma separated names)

SECOND FAMILY– – formal family portraits

– Couple + Parents (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents & Siblings (comma separated names)
– Couple + Parents, Siblings & Grandparents (comma separated names)

This template is organized to be the most efficient for moving people in and out. Please adjust it for your own family dynamics.

Remember: the two of you are in all of the photos, so you only need to list the first names of the other family members in each photo. They should go inside the parenthesis, matching the style below:

– Couple + Parents (John, Mary, Peter, Paula)

Wedding planning sources such as The Knot include planning guides for photo groupings as well.

Family formal portraits

Final thoughts on formal family portraits

In order to lessen the pressure on you two, plan for fewer groupings. This is your day and feel free to allocate as much time as you want for these photos if they are important to you. Ensure that you are realistic though (i.e. allowing 20 minutes for 40 groupings after the church ceremony is not realistic and will only lead to disappointment when we are being rushed out the door after the ceremony has run late and the church lady is leading us out).

Think about the mood you want for the formal family portraits. My default is just classically posed family group portraits. If you want something else, just let me know. I can also easily read you at the moment and I will adapt.

Group formal photos during wedding

If you want to just get one giant group photo, I just need a higher vantage point to get the photo for you all! This is a fun way to just do a single image in less than 20 minutes so you can enjoy the rest of the day. This is usually done right after the ceremony when everyone is still together.

Giant group wedding photo
Giant group wedding photo

Additional Tips

If you would like a free 12-month wedding planner, please subscribe to my newsletter below, or head over HERE for the LINK.

I’ll be adding more wedding planning tips in the coming months. If you have any suggestions for what I should write about, shoot me an email.

Formal family photos during wedding at church

Concerns about Covid-19

I am sure many of you are as concerned about Coronavirus as I am. I have been following it on the news and seen it impact so many people around the world. Call me naive, as I never saw it impacting our world as much as it did. I have closed my business since the 3rd week of March and have been staying at home to do my part to flatten the curve. By limiting my activities outdoors I am hoping to decrease my exposure and risk. Only in recent weeks have I ventured outdoors for quick walks around the neighborhood. My main concern since the beginning of this was to figure out what was a safe balance between my small business and the pandemic. How can I ensure my photography business is safe during Coronavirus?

I may be more cautious than most, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I have been ordering grocery delivery/curbside pickup from a nearby grocer (As a side note: If you’re in need of a local fish monger, check out Hooked fish shop. They deliver to many areas around the greater Boston area, including: Cambridge, Somerville, Charlestown, Belmont, Brookline, Chestnut Hill and Newton!) and I am not getting takeout either just in case. Though I will admit to having really intense cravings for Korean, Middle Eastern and Japanese food as of late!

For mask purchases, information and resource links, scroll down to the bottom of the post. You can purchase these items for your family and the research so far sounds very promising!

I have just updated this post with my reviews of each mask and my recommendation below.

Precautions Undertaken

Coronavirus Covid-19 Prevention for photography sessions
For a longer blog post on safety, see here: BLOG POST

In order to minimize any possibility of me getting Coronavirus, I pledge to not grocery shop or head into public service areas (stores, restaurants, cafes, etc.) for the foreseeable future. I will delete this line if I change my mind. However, I do not foresee me changing my outlook on things. The only reason I would head out now is to pickup curbside groceries, get gas for my car to get to sessions, or go for walks. I don’t get completely out of shape and forget how to walk! I will not be taking public transportation, going on any trips or otherwise doing unnecessary travel. The current sessions I am booking are pre-screened with video chats and safety releases/affirmations.

To lighten the mood of this post, I’d love to tell you about my fancy new bread machine! I used to have an old one, but just never bothered to use it for YEARS. I ended up donating it last year. When the pandemic hit, I of course had to jump on the bread-making bandwagon. Along came this handsome fella. I’ll try to do a photoshoot for him later, but I highly recommend this for easy bread-making at home. I have made 3 types of bread, pizza dough and next I’m going to be making cinnamon buns. When this pandemic ends and it’s safe to head out again, I am immediately heading out to get SUSHI at my fave local joint, EBI. If you haven’t tried them, you NEED to.

Safety releases for photography

In order to ensure I do not Coronavirus during any of my photography sessions, I am asking all of my clients to be as cooperative and communicative of their health status as they can. I am requesting a release form related to Coronavirus to be signed prior to each session affirming no one in the family is/has been sick for the past 14 days with the typical symptoms of Covid-19 listed below:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Sudden loss of taste or smell
  • Pink eye

I am also asking people to affirm they have not traveled domestically or internationally in the past 14 days prior to their session.

There is a long list of requests included in my documentation that I am going to send out to everyone. I will be adding another blog post on planning and considerations regarding the session itself. That post is now LIVE. On top of this, I am scheduling preparation video calls with families so that we can develop a plan for the session. This way, we will be prepared before the session and be on the same page. My preference is to just allow kids to be kids and for the sessions to take place away from city parks.

The measures I will take to try and minimize Coronavirus contamination during our photography sessions are also outlined in a post I made in March. Please have a read through this BLOG POST. Clients have the right to cancel / postpone their sessions if they feel they may be sick. I also retain the right to cancel if I feel sick so that I don’t get anyone else sick.

Location Limitations due to Coronavirus

Willows at Boston Public Gardens and family
The ever beautiful, and busy, Boston Public Gardens

For the foreseeable future, I will not be photographing in the Boston Public Gardens, or any other high-traffic parks. Likely I will be avoiding most downtown locations unless they are done at sunrise. I will be putting together a list of recommended locations with samples. This list will be posted on my blog for easy access by everyone. Anyone on my mailing list will also get a notification once this item is published. I highly recommend a sunrise, weekday location if you want to keep your session closer to town. If you are interested in something specific, please reach out and I can let you know. Each location may be a unique decision.

I should also note that I intend to only do outdoor photography sessions for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021.

Sunset over the Charles River with boats in the background and city skyline, the couple in the foregraound
The sunset that evening was surreal. If you’re a local to Boston, you know these sunsets aren’t a regular occurrence.

Mailing List First Access Notification

I am also putting together a mailing list to get all of the planning information to you in the easiest manner possible. With the current state of the world and social media, it no longer has the reach it used to have in order to keep everyone informed. If you would like to receive the most up to date information, location information, preparation information, please sign up for my mailing list. I will add a link below.

Please check spam if you don’t get instant notification for mailing list confirmation.

You can also always subscribe from my homepage. Sessions will be booked on a first-come first-served basis. I will have very limited weekend dates available. Those dates will likely only be opened to families that have a yard that they want to use for their session. If there was something very isolated that you had in mind, please reach out. Weekends tend to be very busy now that many stores and typical forms of entertainment are closed.

Phased reopening plan for Coronavirus

I am currently accepting bookings for my Baby 1 Year families. I was very torn about closing and reopening knowing that my choice would impact those families that trusted me to document their baby’s very first year of life. My June calendar is now open to those families. I have sent out emails as well as posted on social media. If I somehow missed you, please reach out. I am taking Coronavirus VERY seriously during my photography sessions.

After those families are booked, I will be opening my calendar to families that reached out since March when I officially closed. Those on my waitlist are welcome to book a session in June.

The post on my reopening plan can be found HERE.

Mailing list first access

Starting June 10, my calendar will open to Mailing List subscribers. This will be more organized than my current scribble in my notebook. This way I won’t miss anyone and the mailing will go out to everyone at the same time. I will make an announcement June 9 on social media to that affect. I want to reach as many eyes as possible. Again, since the reach is so low these days, the most reliable way for me to inform everyone of my phased opening plan would be to notify everyone via a direct email.

I will be closed for the month of July to assess how the sessions in June went. I plan to put in new measures to ensure sessions are as successful as I can possibly make them. The announcement for my August dates for bookings will go out early- to mid-July via the mailing list. If my June sessions go off without a hitch, I’ll open up August for my mailing list clients. I just want to ensure that the families that I will be working for are “screened”. By reading my posts and being knowledgeable of my goals for each session and safety measures, I believe we can work together to make this safe.

I will be taking one month at a time, seeing how well I can photograph people while socially distanced. I will also be taking in the new health data as well as seeing if and how schools will be reopening to determine if I will be open in September. Right now I cannot guarantee I will be open for September. I will have to wait for the numbers and the decisions by our government regarding safety measures. If no one in your household will be in a higher-risk position by September, then please let me know when reaching out to book.

Planning for your photography session

I will be making another post about the necessary planning for sessions going forward as well as describing how 2020/2021 sessions will be going forward. [UPDATE: The post is now LIVE] I firmly believe that by planning, we can make the session fun and less stressful for everyone. Since I want everyone to be on the same page, it’s best to determine your goals ahead of time. I will be sending over a questionnaire to all of my families as well as scheduling a 10-20 minute video chat the day of/day before our session on top of my usual emailing back and forth for planning purposes. The new contracts will have specific verbiage regarding safety measures. Thank you for understanding my need for information and communication during these strange times of photography during Coronavirus.

Thank you again for reading through this entire post. I hope I haven’t scared you away, but instead built a stronger bond of trust based on shared values. Be well and I hope to meet soon.

Mask Resoures

One of my doctor families has been so kind in sharing some resources with me. Currently, Halyard 600 fabric is the gold standard for making your own masks at home. The link to a homemade tutorial can be found on the University of Florida mask website HERE.

Another incredible doctor has shared information on KN95 masks. They are not certified N95 masks, but they are the Chinese-standard. You can read more about the mask differences HERE. She also shared some wonderful resources that I am linking to as well. THIS MASK is certified to be N95 and has an excellent ‘gel’ seal. I have ordered some to see if they are comfortable and I will report back once I try them out. The difference between a surgical and non-surgical N95 is explained HERE. Basically, surgical masks are built to withstand squirting liquids, whereas regular N95s do not. By purchasing these you will not take away from medical professionals since they cannot use them as a medical mask. Another option is this N93 (not certified by the FDA, but tested by Nelson Labs. You can see their certification HERE and the link to purchase can be found HERE. I have also purchased double-sided tape to get a better seal around the edges of the mask.

UPDATE: I have now tested all masks for a few weeks now. My favourite mask is the N93 mask because the fit is very good. It is thick but I feel protected. Cons include it’s hard to breathe in, gets hot, and muffles your voice. None of that really will make me not highly recommend it. The N95 is great, but made for people with high-bridged noses. As a flat-nosed Asian, there is quite a big gap in the nose area for me. If you have a bridge, then it’s a great choice. KN95s are easiest to breathe in. The cons are that they slide more than the N93 mask and the ear gets a bit irritated as does under my chin area because the fit isn’t perfect for my face shape. Again, everyone will have differing experiences. This is my experience with the mask usage based on my face shape. Hope this helps!

I hope you can find these resources helpful! Please feel free to share this information with friends and family.

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Coronavirus Covid-19 Prevention

Top clothing tips for a photo session

You’ve booked your family photo session. Now you start to worry about what to wear for a photoshoot. Don’t feel overwhelmed because I will share some tips on Do’s and Don’t’s to help you prepare for a successful photoshoot. There are basically two types of people booking family photography sessions: Those that just want to capture life in an unfiltered way; and those that have minor panic attacks even though the photoshoot is over a month away.

Your clothing should match your family’s vibe and help to convey that feeling. If you are booking a celebratory session to mark a special occasion, then go all out and dressed up to the nines. If you want to document your family in their pyjamas making breakfast on a lazy weekend, then there’s no need to run out and get new outfits because you just want to remember your child’s messy hair and favourite PJs just as they are. The most important thing is you want to look back on these and have warm memories and be able to recognize who those people are in the frame.

What to wear for a family photoshoot
What to wear for a photoshoot. How cute are they? I love that red coat!

Type of photo session you’ve booked

I specialize in couples (for engagement sessions, elopements and civil ceremonies, etc.) and families, so that will be the focus of my blog post. However, there are many types of photoshoots, and you need to keep that in mind when planning your outfits. Here are some types of photoshoots and what to consider:

The family unit tips:

  • Family: Make sure you are coordinated, but not identical (some tips include picking a theme like jewel tones, earth tones, shades of blue, preppy-inspired, boho textured fabrics. Avoid things like everyone dressed in plaid, everyone wearing white shirts and jeans… but definitely do matching PJs if that’s your family’s style! Rules are sometimes made to be broken)
child playing in harvard. What to wear for a photoshoot
  • Just the kids: I know a lot of parents love matching their kids like twins. This can work for some families, but this isn’t the only way to dress your kids. The theme and vibe of their outfits should generally always be the same. That said, you want to be able to show off their own personalities with a different hairstyle, different coloured dress, different outfit length, non-identical layers, or differing accessories. It’s OK to match, just be careful about matching them identically. Conversely, don’t have them clashing in multiple patterns and colours. More advice below under Patterns and Colours.
brother and sister playing in the park in fun outfits that are color coordinated
Siblings in creatively coordinated outfits
  • Newborns: Is it just me or do babies look best when styled minimally, or even just naked? Don’t overthink your newborn session. They are so tiny that anything can easily overwhelm them. A giant bow can easily distract from your baby’s delicate lashes, which is what you want to remember in your newborn’s images anyway.
  • Family reunion: Each family unit must look coordinated within their own immediate family unit while maintaining a cohesive look with the larger overall family. This can be challenging mostly because of the many personalities coming together to decide on one theme for everyone. You can select certain themes such as coordinated patterns or colours, matching hairstyles (loose and relaxed vs manicured and all in place), or similar comfort levels (one family can’t be in heels, while another one in sneakers).
  • Lifestyle at home sessions: These are so relaxed and informal so just stick with what you love right now and what you already own. That’s the whole point anyway.

Solo sessions tips:

Dancer taking to flight during jump. A sari to illustrate the movement I knew we would get from her dance-inspired senior session.
Dancer taking to flight during jump. This was a last-minute idea I had to incorporate a sari to illustrate the movement I knew we would get from her dance-inspired senior session.
  • Senior/Activity-based: Personality should be conveyed during these sessions. This can be achieved through outfits that express a highschool or university senior’s style. It can also be shown through a prop such as a musical instrument or the senior performing tricks or their talents for the camera. The outfit should enhance the storytelling aspect of the session. Who is your senior? What do they love right now? What are they proud of? These are questions you should be asking and not just figuring out what’s on-trend for outfits right now.
Corporate headshot for ReadCoor Employees in Cambridge, MA. What to wear for a photoshoot
  • Corporate headshot: Your clothing should convey your intention with these photos. If you want to look professional and a leader, then wear a suit or outfit that helps you project that. Your clothing often dictates how you feel, which then translates in how you come across in your photos. If your office is more laidback, then your shirt should possibly be unbuttoned, and definitely don’t wear a tie and jacket.
  • Branding headshot: Your clothing needs to say who you are and what you do. Clothing related to personal branding is so important. If you have the budget, perhaps even consider a consultant. They will plan your hairstyle, shoes, makeup, accessories, colour scheme and even pick out your props. So many elements need to come together to define who you are with a simple image. You definitely have a lot to consider when deciding on what to wear for a photoshoot

Style tips for what to wear for a photoshoot

Choose your location

It’s funny how clothing choice isn’t the first thing I’m going to talk about when choosing outfits, isn’t it? Location, location, location. If you’re having a city/urban photo shoot, don’t plan on wearing pyjamas to the photoshoot. If you’re going out to the beach for your family photo season, don’t wear high heels and a sequined gown with pearls on. The location sets the tone of what to wear for a photoshoot. So many times families would ask me what to wear without even deciding on location first. Outfits are not the most important part of the photoshoot. They should complement whatever location and vibe you’ve chosen for your family or session.

Dancer in downtown Boston streets. Choose your outfit to match your location. What to wear for a photoshoot.
During a quick walk signal, we made this image.

Determine the weather conditions

Ahhhhh frozen baby popsicles! Pinterest is a great source for outfit ideas for what to wear for a photoshoot. The main thing to keep in mind is that a great winter outfit for Arizona isn’t going to work for a New England/Boston-based photo session. Check out the forecast highs and lows for your region when determining what you should dress for. And plan for the worst conditions possible. You can leave layers out of your outfit, but you can’t run out and grab something to layer on top if you’ve planned for balmier weather. If you need Highs and Lows, check out the US Climate Data Website. For weather tracking, I use 3 apps and take the average. The apps I use are Weather Wunderground, Dark Sky and MyRadar. Please note that I use the app versions of these programs on my phone.

Choose your vibe

Go with what suits your family. Is your family the type to always be in rough and tumble clothing? Good luck trying to dress your toddler in tulle or a bow tie that makes them uncomfortable and scratchy then! Just know your outfit is dictated by the weakest link. If someone isn’t willing to a beautiful lace and tulle gown you bought them, likely your dreams of a formal family photo isn’t going to work. Forcing your kids to wear something they hate is a sure-fire way to guarantee a disastrous high-stress situation.

So select something that might be a compromise to your dream. You can have them wear a favourite ‘special occasion’ outfit of their choosing that you can keep in a special area for a special photo session if you wanted to make something happen. Just now on the day of the shoot, you’ll likely have to keep their other favourite outfits hidden because you KNOW they are going to pink that hot pink paw patrol Skye tutu.

With older kids, or no-kid sessions, you’ll be able to get more creative and execute a vision. In this case, consistency is key. There are a lot of things that are involved with consistency, such as colour, textures, fabrics, shape, accessories chosen, hairstyles, and more. Just ensure your outfits speak to who you are.

Classic Family Photo in Brookline. Best coordinated outfits featuring jewel tones.
The money shot in my opinion. This was the last 5 minutes of the session when the toddlers were worn out and I had a moment to create this. I never know when this moment will happen. It could be the first 5 minutes, or the final 5 minutes. I am so pleased with the outcome!

Choose your palette

I love it when families are inspired by nature. Mother nature has been at it forever, so why not pickup some of her tips? Jewel tones and fall colours set the tone for the above example. If you’re going to have your session in a field then maybe minimal, monochromatic tones are best. Or you can choose to pop out from the background with something in a complementary shade. Look to your location for inspiration which was my top tip above!

Another thing is to shop at your favourite store. What are they featuring this season? What are your favourite influencers wearing right now? I’m not saying go trendy, I’m asking what speaks to you that you love and would enjoy trying? If you have a favourite shop, then they will likely have already done the hard work for you. Check out their store displays to see what their mannequins are wearing. They hire the best of the best stylists, so I say make use of that service! Some great brand stylists include Anthropologie, Zara and H&M for fast fashion. You can also find local brands using resources like Boston Magazine for best local shopping. My personal fave is Kodomo for kids. I also have great luck on Etsy (with enough lead time for handmade items coming from overseas).

Bella Wang Photography, LLC

Choose your textures

I’m a sucker for flowy fabrics. They are the easiest with movement. When you are working with kids, you want to make sure you’re comfortable and don’t have to worry about tucking in shirts and pulling down your skirt. Keep things covered and just have fun! It’ll make things less stressful for sure. My favourite textures are linen and more natural fibres. Those are my suggestions for determining what to wear for a photoshoot.

If you want something cheaper, then go with viscose or rayon. Just know that these will likely fall apart quickly and not wash well (yeah… I don’t hand wash or dry clean). They look fabulous for one-time usage photo sessions, but I usually buy natural fibres if I want to add it to my closet. Technology is getting better so I wouldn’t rule out man-made fabrics, I would just say be careful and read the label. Most beautiful dresses these days are made of rayon or viscose for mass-produced lines because they are budget-friendly.

What to wear for a photoshoot
Bella Wang Photography, LLC

Why don’t I like boxy, stiff fabrics? Because they mostly look great when you’re sitting still, or standing and have made all necessary adjustments. As soon as you throw a kid on your hip, toss someone in the air, grab them in a bear hug, everything bunches up in a weird way and you have gapes where you don’t want, necklines that bunch up too high, or skirts that ride up and threaten to show too much.

Glare / colour shifts in glasses

Glasses are a nightmare for photos. The main things to keep an eye out for are transition lenses, dirty plastic /scratched lenses, or blue-light eliminating glasses. Transitions obviously turn into sunglasses when exposed to UV light (outdoor photos, or photos by the window), dirty glasses, or scratched lenses will obscure your eyes (which are the most important parts of an image/portrait!), and blue-light has a violet hint over your eye area. Contact lenses are great for sessions, but only if you’ll recognize yourself. If you always wear glasses just make sure you choose a set that doesn’t have transitions, scratches or things that will obscure your eye area. When in doubt, stand in the lighting condition you’ll be photographed and look at a mirror/take a selfie/ask someone.

Pros and Cons with accessories

I used to love accessories, but I have an allergy to nickel and certain metals that I can’t identify, so I have just gone au natural and stopped buying accessories. Since I am minimalist as a result, I am very aware and critical of each piece of jewellery you have on. If your partner is wearing a Fitbit, just make sure you want it to be there for the photos. If you have giant hoops, make sure your child doesn’t have a habit of trying to rip out your earrings. With a tricky neckline, don’t wear a necklace that doesn’t suit the shape of your neckline. These are all things to consider when deciding on what to wear for a photoshoot

The key is to be intentional. Accessories are sometimes the POP you need to add interest to an outfit and to express your personality. Just choose wisely and always edit what you present.

Wind + Hair = Disaster?

The dream is perfectly wind-swept hair. Just know sometimes that just isn’t how our hair works or looks in the photo. I am all about embracing what we’ve been given. Just ensure you are easy-going with that as well. You can easily sense if someone pretends they are boho, but is constantly adjusting and fidgeting. It just loses that effortlessness that is necessary for the images to translate. If you know you aren’t carefree, then try to ensure you have hair under control. Make sure you use styling products, get a blowout, have barrettes in the hair (long before you show up to the session. Last-minute fights and tantrums do not make for good photos) and comb hair to look as you intend it to.

Be careful with

After photographing people for years, there are a few traps to avoid in deciding what to wear for a photoshoot. Easy things to avoid include full pockets, too many bags being lugged around, outfits that just don’t fit properly. For example, if you are self-conscious about your arms, don’t wear a no-sleeve dress. If you are conscious about your figure, then try not to wear something skin-tight.

Some things you may not have considered include neck/shoulder lines and hem-length. I love the off-the-shoulder look. When I first tried them on I realized that if I even lifted my arms out of position, the shoulders would ride up to my neck. How do people drive with these shirts? Hem length is another thing to mind. If you’re standing, things fall differently than if you’re sitting. Ensure you can sit in your outfit without worrying about flashing people. I always wear shorts under a dress personally. I also tend to recommend hems to go to the knee to ensure no accidentally flashing. This goes for little girl outfits as well.

Accentuate your best feature

Love your neckline? Then maybe choose a v-shaped neckline. Love your shoulders? Then try something off the shoulder or halter style. Have a long neck? Accentuate it with a turtle neck or a boat neck. Great arms? Go sleeveless. Long legs? Choose something with a high slit, or put on some heels to really knock it out of the park. Gorgeous hair? Then I say a thick chunky braid or let it flow with the wind. If you have it, why not work it?

Final Thoughts on what to wear for a photoshoot

Pinterst and influencers are great for inspiration. Just be practical and realistic. They have a lot of money and trainers to get them to look the way they do. Can you emulate it well enough? Or are you setting yourself up for disappointment? If you can’t pull off a $15,000 Fendi coordinated look, then just be yourself and wear your favourite clothing. What to wear for a photoshoot is about being an edited version of yourself. Don’t follow trends. Comfort and joy are the two most important ingredients in outfit planning. Does your outfit make you happy? Are your kids smiling and having a great time? Those are the memories you are going to take away from your session. It’s actually not about the outfit in the end. It’s about how it made you feel and what memories you came away with during our photo session together.

Other Guides: What to wear for a photoshoot 2020

For additional style guides, check out my Outdoor Fall Family Session Guide

Also check out my Indoor Lifestyle Newborn Session Guide.

While I’m at it, here’s the Spring Outfit Guide.

What to wear for your photoshoot
Charles River Sunset proposal
Charles River Sunset proposal Photography by Bella Wang Photography

How to begin

You’ve found the right partner. Now’s the time to ask the question. This is a moment you never want to forget so you definitely want to hire a photographer to capture it so you can also share it with family and friends after the fact. I’ve been honoured to be chosen by several couples and they gave me insight into how they chose me, and what they were looking for when searching for a Boston proposal photographer. How do you find the right photographer? Where do you start to look for a photographer? By the end of this post, I hope I can shed some light on the criteria to look for when hiring the right photographer for your surprise proposal and engagement session.

5 Things to look for in a Boston proposal photographer

Shooting style

First things first: I would suggest looking for a photographer whose photography style you are drawn to. It’s a gut feeling. There are several different styles. Some are more classic photographers that get the moment and then some posed portraits afterward. Others are the more documentary-style photographers that approach it with a photojournalistic style. This includes the between-the-moments images so that the gallery tells the story and the complete picture of the event. This is less of a polished end look, but it tells the whole story. It really depends on what you’re looking for and what speaks to you as a person, as well as can capture you two as a couple. Go with your instinct when selecting a Boston proposal photographer.

Surprise sunset proposal in downtown Boston by the Fan Pier
Photography by Bella Wang Photography

Editing style

The second thing to look for is the editing style. There are light and airy photographers where the whites are really white (though ensure you don’t choose one where the skin looks washed out and it loses the detail of the features of the face, or the outfit). There are photographers that do dark and moody tones where things are purposely set really dark and the tones of the outfits should match this editing style. Then there are those that alter the skin tones.

I personally am not a huge fan of this style because we all know how we feel about sepia a couple of decades after the trend died. Just look back at your old Instagram posts. How do they stand up to the test of time today? Apply that to how you want to look back onto your photos 30 years from now and how you want them to feel. The photo below was actually how the sunset looked like in person. I wanted the vivid colours to stay true so that they could hold onto that memory forever.

The engagement Ring being sent to friends and family
Time to show off the gorgeous ring to family & friends.

Personally, I tend to gravitate to true colours that are natural. I used to follow the trend and hated my photos after a few months and kept changing my style to follow the style of the moment. After a few years of this, I became exhausted and decided natural was best. I don’t want my photos to look signature 2015, or 2019. I want them to be timeless. That’s what I looked for in my wedding photographer back in the day, and I still love my photos to this day. If that is what you’re looking for, I hope you’ll reach out to me.

Expectations for the number of images

Any professional photographer will know how many images it will take to tell your story. You just have to ensure your vision aligns with the photographer you have chosen. This is something that should be discussed with the photographer if you had something in mind. I emphasize communication is key. I do not guarantee a specific number of images with my packages just because I do not understand how something will unfold. With candid storytelling, there is an element of surprise with things out of our control. Just know that I am there to capture your truth and your story to the best of my ability. I have never had a client ask for additional images and I aim to delight and please with every single one of my sessions. There is a reason why I have built such a successful business with so many glowing reviews.

Photography by Bella Wang Photography

Discretion

The reason you should hire a professional and not ask a friend is that your fiancee/fiance may become suspicious if they recognize the mutual friend. A friend that isn’t a professional may not have the right equipment for the job. In this sunset proposal, I used a very long zoom lens. This allowed me to be 50 m away from the scene, but also pull everything that was important into the frame. If you are shooting with a kit lens that comes as a default, you are limited by the distance you can shoot at and still get a great image that puts you in the action.

He bent down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage in this surprise sunset proposal in Boston
He got down on one knee.

If your photographer uses flash, that is also something that in my opinion would be a no-no. Unless the proposal takes place during pitch black settings, flash would be a dead giveaway and also be distracting to the moment. My style is to rely on natural ambient light that is available by discussions with you to ensure you choose a location that would work well with photography. As a photographer in the city for over 7 years, I am very familiar with locations as well as unexpected variables that may pop up that a less experienced photographer may not anticipate. This brings us to my final point: Experience.

Experience of your Boston proposal photographer

Depending on where you’re planning to propose, a photographer should be familiar with the conditions of the location. That doesn’t mean that the photographer has to advance scout or have photographed there, but it does mean you should hire someone that has photographed in a densely populated area before.

When I first started photography there were certain things that I would not be aware of when taking the photo, only seeing in editing that I should have avoided. These items included having garbage cans in the background, not cropping images to eliminate unsightly signage, or not anticipating the crossing of elements such as pedestrians or buses that may block a critical moment. When I photograph, I always have an awareness of the background, surrounding elements and constantly am anticipating movement that may affect my photo. It comes from years of training through the photographing of sprinting children and manoeuvring around tourists in the Public Gardens. There are no do-overs.

Things I have learned by being a Boston proposal photographer

One big thing is that I should ask for a photo of the couple. I find it awkward to ask for a photo of people ahead of time for my regular sessions as I can usually pick them out as they arrive just by reading body language. However, with a surprise proposal, I am not getting the same queues I normally would. If you’re planning on asking, I would love if you would share a recent snapshot so I know who to keep an eye out for. It was funny when I accidentally started stalking the wrong couple before my other couple arrived. Good thing I bailed on that first couple in time when I realized it wasn’t the exact fit (outfit descriptions were a touch off)!

I love giving my couples a moment to be alone. It’s their time. I do the same thing when I am a wedding photographer and the ceremony has just ended. Sometimes you just need to let a moment sink in. I love to just wait by the sidelines until I get a signal to approach. It’s not my moment so I never make it about the photos.

Surprise proposal idea in Boston

Couples love getting a few sneak peeks right away to share the good news with family and friends. After the session, I immediately head home to backup the images and load them onto my computer. I send 5-10 teaser images within 24 hours of the proposal so they can share the excitement. I love delighting my couples with a first look. It’s always better than they could have imagined and I am always so proud to share. The entire gallery is done in about 2-3 weeks from the session date depending on the workload of the season. If you need a timeline guarantee, please reach out to discuss this when booking and I can see what’s possible.

Newly engaged couple engagement photos
She had to tell her family the good news

Found the right Photographer?

I hope I’ve helped to shed some light when searching for a Boston proposal photographer. There are a lot of things to consider. If my style aligns with your vision, please reach out via my contact form.

I’ll leave you with some samples of surprise proposals taken around the city of Boston. If you have any questions, feel free to post below or reach out. I monitor my blog regularly for questions.

My current wedding package includes a mini-engagement session. If you decide to hire me for your big day, I will credit a portion of this session toward your package if you book within 3 months of your proposal.

Fan Pier Surprise Proposal as featured on The Knot – How they asked : HERE

Charles River Sunset Surprise Proposal: HERE

The engagement Ring being sent to friends and family

Starting 03/22/2020 I will no longer be doing any in home sessions. Somerville currently has a mandate in place preventing non-essential workers from meeting people. I will be abiding by the rules. Once these restrictions are lifted, I will be reconsidering sessions on a case by case basis. Thank you for your understanding in this difficult time.

A Message from me

Your safety and comfort is and always has been my primary concern. Since I began, I was committed to making my families feel safe and stress free from my booking process all the way through to the delivered product. This was achieved with constant communication and information (as much as I could saturate you all with before people glazed over with boredom!) I always wanted to remain as flexible as possible, because life happens. This is even more important and closer to my heart now than it ever has been. I want you to know that I am here for you and I wanted to let you know what steps I’ve taken to make this as stress-free as possible. Every family’s needs are different, as are their beliefs and practices. Just know that I will do my best to be as flexible and accommodating as you need me to be. Paranoia is never the answer, but being informed and communicative with everyone we interact with is prudent.

I’m Flexible

Because this is such a big unknown right now and things are moving so quickly and in so many directions it’s hard to lock things in. I understand and have always been flexible to my families. Nothing will change. If you read my reviews, I have always remained flexible to change dates to accommodate sickness and unforeseen circumstances. Life happens! I don’t plan on changing my policies. I don’t require a retainer for my portrait & newborn sessions and full payment is just due on our session date. As a small business this will of course affect me and my family more than those with a steady guaranteed income, but we’ll all get through this. Thankfully my husband still has a 9-5 job and health care benefits.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

If you or your family members have any unexpected changes to their health then please just keep me informed and we can reschedule. I will of course notify my families if I experience any of the following: sore throat, cough, fever, diarrhea, or breathing difficulties as listed by the World Health Organization (WHO). It’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t want to carry the responsibility of infecting an at-risk group.

6 Things I’m implementing to prevent spread of germs

New procedures
  1. I will be wearing gloves from now on for in home sessions such as lifestyle sessions and newborn sessions. These will be disposable gloves and they will be put on after I’ve washed my hands.
  2. I will be washing my hands in front of you for at least 30 seconds before all in-home sessions. Yay for me being super-awkward and having no qualms about it! I have always washed my hands thoroughly before newborn sessions so I am extending this habit to all in-home sessions. I want to do it in front of you so you will have peace of mind and so you can give me tips and feedback if you see me miss a spot! No need to be shy about it.
  3. I will be disinfecting my camera + lenses for all in-home sessions. I have alcohol wipes that I will wipe down my camera / lenses with. This is the main part that I will be in contact with throughout our session.
  4. I will continue to remove my shoes before every session at home. I’ve always done this as that’s how I was raised, so no big change here.
  5. I will no longer be shaking hands or hugging and will now do a super-duper awkward double hand wave at you! I’m sure you’ll all dying to see what it looks like. The suspense I’m sure is killing you, but if you’re lucky enough to see it in person……
  6. For my newborn sessions I would like to minimize the number of objects I bring into your home. From now on, I would prefer to use wraps or onesies you have already in your home that are freshly laundered. If you would like to continue to use my wraps, I will hold a quick video chat with you and narrow down the wrap choice to 1-2 wraps. These will be cleaned specifically again (I clean 100% of my items used after every session, but I will be extra cautious and do a second washing just prior to seeing you), kept in a separate bag, and brought to your session.

If you prefer to wash it yourself, I can arrange to mail it to you if that’s a possibility/enough time. If you prefer this last option, please select your wrap at least 7 days prior to our session. Please note my wraps are hang-dry only. Do not put them in the dryer or they will shrink and become unusable. They are gauzy and pretty fragile.

What you can do to stay healthy

I’m just like the rest of you and I have concerns about the virus and the impact it will have on our day to day lives. An interesting chart I saw relates to

social distancing:

Source: Adapted from CDC via Insider

The empty street photos in China showed how seriously people took quarantine measures. If you look at the numbers, Asian countries have slowed the increase in the number of infected, while other countries have caught up and even surpassed the number of cases. Do what’s best for your family but I just wanted to provide some information.

Wash your hands. Stop touching your face

As a photographer, I have always been very careful with handwashing as I meet so many people and I rely on my health to be able to work and generate income for my family. If I’m sick and make my clients sick, well… there are so many implications. It’s always mind-boggling how often I see people employ poor hygiene practices when out in public. When I photograph weddings and events documentary-style, the reason why people think I am taking way too many photos is because someone is always touching their face or picking at themselves which renders an image useless. It’s pretty constant once you are looking for it like I have for the past several years. The best thing is to follow best practices as outlined by the CDC:

Source : CDC

If you’re sick, do everyone a favour and self-quarantine. Common sense says you should stay home and not come into contact with vulnerable people. Be a hero by maybe saving a life.

Natural Supplements

I’ve also been regularly taking natural supplements. It’s of course not proven, but I haven’t had the flu or any nasty colds in years. Placebo effects are sometimes just as great as the real thing. I take echinacea and elderberry supplements and drink lots of herbal teas on a daily basis. Do what you think is best and can help keep you healthy. It’s just something I’ve always done to ward of colds, coughs and other general maladies so I’m just going to keep on doing it.

Natural remedies to boost my immune system I’ve used for years.

Eat a healthy diet and keep a regular exercise routine. I find whenever I neglect myself, my health suffers. Busy season is generally when I stress eat and fall off the wagon with my exercise routine. I feel like a total disaster and I look like one too. Listen to your body and its needs. If you take care of it, it’ll take care of you.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t a time to prepare for the doomsday and freak out unnecessarily. I just know many of you are having concerns and I thought I would take a moment to address those concerns and show you what I’m doing to take active steps in my small business to make things less stressful for you. Communication, information and reassurance can hopefully comfort you in this time so I’m doing my part. If you have any thoughts or suggestions for best practices, I’m open to feedback. You can always reach out to me via social media, my contact form, or my email. If you have a session booked with me you also have my cell. Again, I only want to inform and keep everyone updated with my preventative measures. I’m not putting on a tin hat and banging on my pot in the town square. If there are additional measures you’d like me to take before our session please do feel free to communicate those thoughts to me.

I’m here for you

We’ll all get through this as a community. Best thing is to stay calm as that’ll keep your immune system in peak condition. The purpose of this post is only to ease your minds so that we’ll continue to have a great relationship! Again, never hesitate to reach out and communicate any concerns to me.

Much Love,

Bella

Be well and everyone stay healthy and safe.

A recent (straight out of camera / no edits) picture of us from our recent trip to Hawaii where there were literally 3 people that we saw in 3 days on the lava fields in Kalapana where we stayed. Sunsets on Hawaii are unreal.
Coronavirus Covid-19 Prevention

Things to consider

Spring time in Boston and New England is basically like living with someone with multiple personalities. One day it’s warm and sunny, and the next could be cold and dreary. As a full time Boston family and newborn photographer I have had my share of trying to predict this crazy weather. The main thing to keep in mind is that the weather is unpredictable and you have to select an adaptable wardrobe. Another important thing is not to just look at the temperature of the day, but rather look deeper into the details. Here are things to keep in mind when planning what to wear for your Boston spring photo session.

Highs and Lows

Boston can be quite frigid in the mornings. For sunrise sessions and even early morning sessions do keep this in mind and check for the predicted temperatures for this time of day. When you check the overall temperature of the day, it will only list the highs for the day (this usually hits around 2pm in the afternoon). By relying solely on the highs of the day, you are going be be woefully under-dressed and we may have to deal with a frozen baby.

The key to preparing for a session in Boston is to have layers. I wouldn’t recommend bare limbs unless the forecast is confident about warmer temperatures. That said, a lot of babies are indifferent to the cold. So just know your baby and see what’s reasonable for them.

Sample Outfits

Here are some sample outfits that basically scream “spring is here!”.

New England Family photos what to wear for spring photo session
Newborn session but we were able to duck outside because it was HOT. Look at the colours of the palette: blue for the sea, violets for the blossoming flowers and white always signals a warmer time of year.
engaged couple walking with dog what to wear for boston photo session
Casual outfits with legs covered to keep warm
bride to be changes into new outfit for engagement photos
She rocked two great outfits, so why not share both
Dad holding son. Mother holding daughter Arnold Arboretum Family session
These little ones are nicely covered up but there is still a short sleeve shirt on mom.
Family walking in Boston Public Gardens what to wear
Pinks and blues for this Spring palette. The romper is the most adorable blend of her parents’ colours.
Adorable boys wearing royal family inspired outfits
What to wear inspired by the Royal Family

And I never get tired of outfits inspired by Princess Kate and her adorable family. Featuring Rachel Riley.

Spring Boston Engagement Session
I love flowy maxi dresses that match or set off the surroundings. Her yellow matches the gorgeous sunset light
What to wear for Boston photo session
See how the yellow goes so well with the flowers?
Boston City Hall wedding
City Chic always works
Boston Engagement session in Tufts
Layers created two unique looks. This one is with the jacket
Boston Engagement session in Tufts
And without
Family session with baby in rainbow dress
How cute is this nugget?
Boston Family session with baby in rainbow dress
This sure is a perfect outfit for spring if I do say so myself
Boy in button down shirt and skinny leg jeans in Boston Commons
How sharp does he look in this adorable button down shirt and skinny leg jeans?
Family in boston commons family photography session
This is what the rest of the family wore to coordinate. LOVE
Boston Maternity session by the Charles River
Love the rich deep colours of this Boston Maternity session by the Charles River
Boston Maternity session by the Charles River with prudential center in background
They just pop against the skyline don’t they?

Vendors and Outfit Planning Tools

Hope these tips can help. I’ll add a few more additional suggestions and tips in the future so stay tuned. I wanted to have a baseline of sample images of outfits for those with sessions with me in the coming weeks.

My favourite shops online are H&M, Zara, Hanna Anderson and Rylee + Cru . I also just found this adorable onesie shop called KyteBaby. I LOVE the simple, classic look of a onesie/romper. If you want to learn about an adorable local shop that I just love, check out Kodomo in Boston for cute kids wear. If you book your session with me you also will get an outfit planning tool. It will link you to a lot of online retailers so you can mix and match based on a colour scheme with confidence and guidance. Hope these suggestions help answer the question of what to wear for a photo session in the Spring in Boston!

Alternately if you are looking for fall Boston wardrobe suggestions, click on my blog link HERE

Boston Family session with baby in rainbow dress

The number one question: When should we take photos?

Every photographer will tell you that the best time of day to do photos is within 1-2 hours of sunset or sunrise. Of course, this is based on the assumption the sun is visible. Since I am a Boston photographer, it’s pretty hit or miss if we manage to get a sunny day. As a safety measure, I tell all of my clients we aim for the hour before sunset (google is the best resource when trying to find out when sunset is. Or you can use a specialty tool like timeanddate.com) and in the days before the session I touch base with each family or couple to firm up the session start time based on the forecasted weather. The following suggestions are for outdoor sessions. For indoor sessions I suggest within 2 hours on either side of noon depending on the time of year.

Golden Hour

Golden hour is a thing and the reason it’s the best time of day to photograph is because the light is less harsh during sunset/sunrise than during the middle of the day. This is because the sun’s rays have further to travel when they are low on the horizon. Because they have more atmosphere to penetrate to get to you (the subject) it’s less intense and is more easily offset by the indirect light that will also hit you. This makes it easier to balance and also looks more flattering.

The worst light of the day is between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the light comes from overhead. This creates terrible and unflattering shadows where we don’t wait to see them (under our eyes, under our noses to make them seem bigger … no one wants that). When the sun is out in full force we all have a tendency to squint as well. No one is attractive when they’re squinting into the lens unless they’re Paul Newman, or Chris Hemsworth.

What time of day is best for lighting?

So basically the light gets worse as you approach noon from either direction (sunrise or sunset). The followup question I always get is “Can we shoot mid-way between?”. Everyone loves to negotiate but Mother Nature is unfortunately set in her ways. Sure, we can shoot at 9am or 3pm, but do know there is a tradeoff with the quality of light. We may get lucky and have clouds roll in, but if we have cloudless skies, we will have to duck for shade, and it will affect the quality of light in your images. I would love to say “Sure! We can shoot whenever you want”, but in order to create the images I’m known for, you have to understand that light plays a very large factor. So just trust the photographer.

My favourite weather apps

The two apps I recommend are WeatherUnderground and Dark Sky . Over the past 5 years I have watched the weather every single day. If I would choose one app, Weather Underground/Wunderground is my recommendation. I download the apps from the app store. I tend to balance two or more weather apps (3rd choice is weather.com to see the average and I do not trust one app solely. If there are other apps you would recommend me to check out, please reach out!

Exceptions?

There are always caveats and details that should go along with these blanket statements. For example, if we are doing an urban setting where there is a lot of open shade and reflective concrete and surfaces, I can photograph families closer to ‘danger zone’ of bad lighting. On the opposite end of the flexibility scale, if you are on the beach there is no other time except for sunset or sunrise.

But my baby naps/feeds/is cranky during that time

Witching hour is definitely something we have to balance out. Usually kids are as happy as a clam first thing in the morning. It’s the parents (and me) that are usually groggy before the caffeine hits the blood stream. I tell parents that it’s worth it. You only do photos a couple of times a year (if you are enrolled in my baby 1 year program) or once if you have older kids. The combination of great light, a happy baby, and an empty park (no traffic and parking issues to contend with either – yay!) will make it all worth it. Undoubtedly, sunrise and sunset are the best time of day for photos.

If you can’t do sunrise, sunrise is the best. It’s actually my favourite light of the day and also the warmer of the two options. The parks may be busier, but I love to photograph with this light and also when the sun dips beyond the horizon even. Dusk is peaceful and moody and dramatic. Most babies don’t last until this time of day, but it’s great for engagement sessions or maternity sessions. Seriously look at the images below and wouldn’t you agree that sunset is the absolute best time for photos?

Some samples images for comparison

This session was taken during the harsh midday sun. This is not my preferred lighting condition and this is precisely why:

family in front of flowers at the arboretum
I even popped open a reflector to get rid of some of the shadows.

Check the light bleed on the left side of the handsome dad’s face. The Flowers are also very bright and overexposed compared to the adorable daughter and mother duo. I love these photos of course, but these aren’t representative of my brand.

Arnold Arboretum Family session
Boston Arnold Arboretum Session during the harsh mid-morning light

Yes the Arboretum is gorgeous any time of the day, but in order to make best use of it, I need the light to cooperate. I can use flash to overpower the sun, but let’s be honest… the kids are not going to cooperate for that nonsense. Flash? Ain’t got time for that! They’re out of there.

Now look at the image below. This was taken at the exact same location, just a different angle. Do you see immediately what I mean? The light is warm and wraps softly around the family. Their hair is highlighted by the setting sun. There are no harsh highlights on the dad’s face. Everything in the foreground and the background are properly and evenly exposed. The background is not competing with the family.

Dad holding son. Mother holding daughter Arnold Arboretum Family session
Look at that light.

Below are some more examples in case one image isn’t enough to hit home the message.

Dad holding son. Mother holding daughter Arnold Arboretum Family session
Sunset makes such a big difference
Sunset session of baby boy at Arnold Arboretum
Even he is happy in this glorious light.

You just cannot beat the warm glow of a setting sun.

Additional images for sunset and dusk

Sometimes Boston really shows off and creates the most glorious sunsets. It isn’t fair, but this family really lucked out with the light. We maybe get 3-5 of these types of sunsets per year. Just look at that sky on fire toward the end of the session.

sunset father and daughter twirling during family session in Boston
This is just your old regular park in the suburbs but that sun is just perfection.
smiling baby girl during family session in Boston
Look at that cutie pie. She was past her bedtime but we made it work
Sunset family photos in Boston
Sunset family photos in Boston
sunset couple photo on the lake in Boston
Final images of the session – that sunset sure is breathtaking
sunset photo on the water in Boston
Kids were done so we grabbed some parents only photos

Summary

So if you are looking for great light, you now have the answer. Sunset or sunrise is the best time for photos. Of course Boston is full of surprises and often you are not going to be guaranteed glorious sun. I will be doing another post about rain or post-rain photography sessions so please stay tuned. I’ll post a link to it in this blog post once that post goes live. One thing to keep in mind is that the sun rises and sets at different times throughout the year. If your baby sleeps early, a good tip is to do a winter/early spring session so catch the good light before your baby falls asleep. Again, to find the time for sunset, pop your date into google and it’ll give you a ballpark time to aim for.

Bella Wang is a Boston family and newborn photographer based in Davis Square. One of the most loved family photographers because of how children engage with her as well as the most important thing – final product delivery. For more information, head to the website

Best time of day to do photoshoot, family photography, engagement and wedding portraits.
sunset photo on the water in Boston

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