To many outsiders, New Jersey is a virtual unknown, a desolate No-Man’s Land on the other end of the Holland Tunnel. According to legend though, it’s a chaotic place filled with toll booths, cast members of the Jersey Shore, and of course, Mitsuwa. But for those of us who actually live here, we would tell you to ignore the naysayers, and set you up with a proper pork roll, egg & cheese sandwich and a plate of disco fries. But I digress. From the beautiful coastlines between Sandy Hook and Cape May, to our ever-growing urban centers along the Hudson River, we’ve got a little bit of everything for everyone – not to mention some very impressive green spaces sprinkled throughout (they don’t call us the Garden State for nothing!). So if you’re planning your engagement session in Northern New Jersey, or looking for some popular locations for your wedding portraits, look no further. Whatever kind of backdrop you might be looking for, North Jersey’s got you covered!
NJ Botanical Garden – Ringwood, NJ
Our favorite spots: The Azalea Gardens, Four Continent Statues, Crabapple Vista, Annual Garden, West Terrace
Why we love it: From a compositional standpoint, this place is a photographer’s dream come true. From architecture, to flowerbeds, to colors and fields as far as the eye can see – it’s quite easy to understand why this is one of the most popular spots for engagement sessions in Northern NJ. Due to its remote location, there’s also a pretty good chance you’d have the place to yourself. So if greenery and privacy are kinda your jam, then NJ Botanical Garden may be perfect for you!
Tips & Tricks: Be sure to secure a permit prior to your arrival. Sometimes, your photographer may have one already (check to make sure). You’ll want to avoid shooting here on a weekend (especially during the warmer months), as there’s a high likelihood a wedding will be taking place (and much of the grounds would be off limits to you). If possible, try to come here on a weekday instead, or during their off season. You can come in the morning or afternoon; the lighting is equally beautiful at both times. Bring comfortable shoes, because you will be walking quite a bit! You can view the park map by clicking [here].
How to get there: The GPS address is 2 Morris Road, Ringwood, NJ. Pull into the entrance and head about 10 minutes down the road and you’ll pass a gate house. The road will hook right, and you’ll see the Skylands Manor to your right. Continue down that road till you see a set of giant iron gates, and you’ll find Lot B on your right. You should be able to find ample parking there.
Liberty State Park – Jersey City, NJ
Our favorite spots: Audrey Zapp Drive, Waterfront, Central Railroad of NJ Terminal, Morris Canal Basin
Why we love it: For all the sentimental and history nuts out there, Audrey Zapp Drive features one of the last remaining original cobblestone streets in Jersey City. Unbeknownst to many, Liberty State Park also boasts one of the last remaining open green spaces in Jersey City – so couples getting their photos taken here will have the rare opportunity to get a good mix of backdrops for their engagement or wedding photos. And best of all, there’s no other waterfront view quite like it…and the parking is free to boot!
Tips & Tricks: The sun rises over Manhattan here, so come here in the morning if you can (there will be less people here too). If you have time, walk along the waterfront towards Maritime Parc, and you’ll find an apple orchard and a marina full of colorful boats. Careful walking on the huge field adjacent to the parking lot; enormous populations of geese are known to hang out here, leaving behind a field full of landmines. Last but not least, out of respect for those who perished on 9/11, we generally recommend that you avoid shooting inside the 9/11 Memorial. We get it – the reflections are cool; but that shot’s been done a billion-gajillion times. Not to mention, it’s not easy to get all cozy/romantic/kissy-face when you’re surrounded by the names of those suffered one of the worst human tragedies of the 21st century. Just say’n.
How to get there: On your GPS, you can punch in the address for the Liberty House, which is 76 Audrey Zapp Drive, Jersey City, NJ. However once you get to the address, you will continue to drive past the Liberty House until you get to the end of the cobblestone road (because that’s where the free parking is located – CHA-CHING!).
Our favorite spots: Hoboken Train Terminal, Pier A Park, Pier C, Pier 13, Court Street, Columbus Square Park, Shipyard Park
Why we love it here: There’s a reason why young urban professionals are flocking here by the droves; perhaps it’s the charm of the brownstones and cobblestones that line every street, or the never-ending list of new restaurants that one could try on any given weeknight. Perhaps it’s the vibrance, the history, or that one-of-a-kind view. But best of all, after a long afternoon of being all romantic/kissy-face with your future partner-for-life, grabbing a drink is probably the next easiest thing you could possibly do.
Tips & Tricks: You can shoot inside the Hoboken Train Terminal if you’re discreet, but shooting in/around/near the train platforms is majorly frowned upon. The waterfront right outside of the train station (where the platforms are located), in my opinion, is one of the most underrated secret spots in all of Hoboken. At the time of this writing, pretty much nobody comes here, the lighting is always perfect in the afternoon, and it’s almost guaranteed to be empty! If you plan on shooting on the piers (with NYC as your backdrop), you’re going to find more privacy uptown (near Pier 13) than you would downtown (near Piers A and C). During the summer months, you’re almost guaranteed to find a ton of sunbathers and an inconceivable amount of people throwing around frisbees on Pier A. Court Street is pretty photogenic along its entire length, so you definitely cannot go wrong here.
How to get here: For those shooting downtown, street parking is available along the waterfront near Pier A. Garage parking is also available. For those shooting uptown, street parking is going to be a little harder to find. I usually just park my car in the garage near 12th Street (across the street from Starbucks).