Favorite Places To Shoot in Philly
For me, when it comes to location scouting, most of the places I shoot at are found by luck. When I first started photography, I was unemployed and had just moved to Philly so I had plenty of time to explore the city with my camera and my four-legged best friend. At the time, I lived in Old City so I was within walking distance of so many neighborhoods, all filled with hidden little gems. The first location I fell in love with was Race Street Pier. It's where I did my first shoot and it remains one of my favorite spots in Philly in general, not just to shoot. Especially when I was just starting out, I did not enjoy shooting in crowded spots or having people watch me. (Don't worry, I quickly was forced to get over it and now I could shoot in Grand Central Station while still staying in my zone.) RSP is usually not too crowded compared to farther down Penn's Landing and there are tons of elements to incorporate into your work. From the multi-color leaves around the Fall to the harsh shadows created by the metal railings, you really can't go wrong with all Race Street Pier has to offer.
My next favorite spot was Cira Green and it's still a spot I go to when I can't really think of anything else. It's a location I always keep in my back pocket because, even though I sometimes feel like it's overdone when it comes to photoshoots, there are still so many people who have never been to this incredibly unique green space on top of a parking garage with Center City skyline views. What more could you ask for? If you want to keep the shoot edgy and scenic, there's a side for that. If you want a softer side of greenery and flowers, Cira Green offers that too. I've shot there more times than I can count but I still find new ways to shoot in a limited space. I don't think I'll ever get sick of it.
Is it considered cheating if this next place on my list isn't really just one place? The alleyways and side street of Philadelphia are by far some of my favorite places to shoot. I absolutely love meeting up with a model at some random intersection and exploring the city. Whether we're venturing down the cobblestone streets of Old City, the quaint little blocks of Washington Square West, or wandering around the cherry blossom lined alleys of Fitler Square, most of my favorite shots are in places we accidentally stumbled on.
I always get out of the habit of doing it in the summer because I don't particularly enjoy sweating or feeling gross while I'm shooting so I tend to stick to one predetermined location when it's hot, but as soon as Fall comes back around, I'm looking forward to exploring this amazing city again. Also, here's a little lazy photographer tip: Google Maps street view can be your best friend when finding locations. When starting my Colors of Philly series, I knew I wanted a bright red wall but wasn't sure where to look so I pulled up Google Maps and ended up in West Philly at a car repair center. The location was perfect and I didn't need to leave my couch to scout it.
If you've seen even a handful of my photos, you know nature and flowers are my favorite things so it only makes sense that all of the gardens around the city are some of my favorite places to shoot. One of my favorite gardens is at Christ Church at N 2nd & Church St. No matter what time of year, this place is filled with greenery and makes you forget you're in the heart of Old City. Medians around the city also provide some great flowers to immerse yourself. All along Columbus Blvd, the median/train track area is so well landscaped with trees, various plants and brightly colored flowers. After just a short walk down the street, you have tons of options to choose from. There is also a very cool community garden by the Schuylkill River Dog Park that is open to the public and depending on the time of year, it usually has a few flower options to shoot with.
Another surprisingly underutilized location is behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wow, where do I even begin with this spot? It's right along the water, the rocks and ledges add an element of adventure and you can always find a hidden spot where you're transported into another world. Even when you think you've seen it all, keep wandering around because you might surprise yourself.
Last but definitely not least, Washington Avenue Pier is my current #1 favorite location to shoot at. I first found out about it last year when a former coworker recommended this lowkey spot along the river tucked away and covered in foliage. When you head as far east on Washington Ave as you can, you follow a trail down to the Delaware River and have a few different options. One part leads you directly to the water, but don't expect a nice sandy beach. The narrow landing is covered in drift wood and logs so watch your footing but still offers the nature vibe I crave. Down a little farther, there's also a little walkway that takes you out over the water. You'll find some people fishing over the side or dogs playing in the water but I've never seen more than a handful of people there at a time so if relaxing locations are for you, check out this spot.