A photoshoot-craving couple flying in from Indiana, getting up at 2 AM, making the best out of rain, dropping pants at a Chase bank, lucking out with a burned down Christmas tree, a mad escape from NBC Studios, a hilarious pom-pom fight, crashing an upscale hotel in pajamas, and a Dirty Dancing moment in the middle of 5th Avenue… Get your Christmas stockings chock-full with this NYC romance shoot moments!
I’m back to blogging after a 2-month break. Swamped in October, then traveling to Moldova and Georgia in November (hope to blog about that trip).
Married couples don’t come to me often. They surely do it for their kids to have fun with family photography, but as couples, romantically—rarely. It’s sad but understandable, with so many new priorities coming into play. Imagine my thrill when married couples want me to do something special for them! (Ah, and don’t I have news for you! Don’t miss it at the end.)
Among those romance shoots for the married couples I blogged about was a two-day experience for an Indian couple who flew me to Monte Carlo and Nice, France. Another one was done as a 10-year anniversary treat for a wedding planner.
These guys however, Nicole and Danny, have a longer back story so they brought me a double joy with their following, devotion, and cooperation.
See, it started back in 2017, when Danny reached out to capture his surprise proposal in Central Park. The couple met in the army and would fly to NYC for a vacation from Tennessee, I think. I couldn’t get to blogging about that sweet engagement session, unfortunately… Here’s a never-shared data: because of the effort and time involved, just 10-15% of my shoots get blogged annually. I ought to share a few snippets from that surprise proposal now, including my prep shots during the planning, similar to what I did for my Indian couple from Georgia. (By the way, just shot another proposal yesterday in PA.)
Another curious fact: that shoot was among the first jobs with my wife’s participation. She secured the alternative angle, which comes handy with surprise proposals when the photographer can’t direct his subjects and may even lose clearance.
The guys got married back at home, I missed that. Shortly after, they wrote back asking if I’d consider flying with them to Mexico for the post-wedding photos and trash-the-dress adventure. I’ve done it before and was game but something must have gotten in their way. My dream of shooting with the whale sharks was put on hold again.
Yeah, whale sharks… I had already been so close to making it with another client! Had a professional pregnant diver lined up, also in Mexico. Those sharks are very weather-sensitive and the only morning I could sail off the coast turned stormy, canceling our deep sea expedition last minute. We went to the caves instead (see right), adding a cool image to my underwater and maternity portfolios.
Now you’d know my joy when Danny wrote again, talking of the “overdue” photos with me. Here they are, another married couple for my rare romance shoot adventure! And not just any married couple, but the one who remained attached to my work despite the long distance. They planned a pre-Christmas visit to NYC. I’d have just returned from overseas, so the timing was perfect. Their goal was to depict the Christmas spirit near NYC iconic spots. I had a similar experience with a long-time client of mine from Texas, whose multicultural Russian-Korean-American engagement session we also did for a full day around Christmas NYC and a fashion-oriented session at their hotel.
Nicole and Danny went with a 4-hour NYC romance shoot, but we only targeted the outdoors. If it seems too long to you—I easily filled their itinerary and even had to eliminate three locations as we saw time slipping by. Maybe for another married couple to claim? 😉
When planning a NYC romance shoot around major holidays like Christmas, crowds come to mind instantly. The US has just been re-opened to foreign tourists after a 20-month travel ban after the COVID outbreak in March 2020. Although international travel is far from its pre-pandemic levels, I’d expect tourists in the areas on my list. A way to lessen the impact is to shoot before the sunrise or past midnight. This would also present you the night scenes, nicely highlighting the holiday decorations.
The remnants of the tragic tornados hitting Kentucky and nearby states hours before our shoot were going to bring heavy rain later at night, so the morning option was the only one. I advised starting at 6 AM, 1.5 hours prior to sunrise, to get both night and day scenes for the full range of holiday feel. They agreed without hesitation.
For me, this meant getting up at 2 AM after a 3-hr sleep. I shot a wedding the night before far in PA. Slept there and needed enough time to drive to NYC, try my luck with finding a street parking, look around, and get myself ready. No complaints.
Our first stop was the main NYC Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center. Did you know it goes dark at night except for two nights? Fortunately, I knew it lights up at 6 AM, just in time for us! When I came before 6, only a group of 3 people were there, but the crowd grew pretty quickly. It already drizzled, and I was quick to put my camera into a protective sleeve, then remembered the flash… The sleeve wouldn’t fit it so I took a chance with the rain (all ended well). Look at the upside—those reflections on the wet ground are sleek, albeit not too wintery, darn global warming. Last week, by the way, saw the record-breaking temperatures in the 60s in Manhattan for mid-December.
Kindly refrain from re-uploading images to social media during the first week of the exclusive feature. Share instead and give credit to @ZorzStudios. Thank you for your help!
As we were walking to the Radio City Music Hall, I spotted a char on the sidewalk near NBC Studios. An image of mischievous TV crew members flew into my head. A brief game plan discussion, hush-hush, sneaking to the building doors, jumping into the chair, and a mad roll to the curb with inaudible victory cries. Yeah, there is a camera above their heads, as you can see; security came out too late. We already put the chair back and were walking away civilly. We had a burst of fun and craved for more.
We continued with the famous red Christmas ornaments on the 6th Avenue, then threw lots of giggles piggybacking. Longer sessions accommodate for outfit changes. These lovebirds had four of them, and time came to change. It’s still barely 7 AM, so where? Spotted a Chase bank branch and hid in the ATM area. No clients, no objections to underwear.
Then I led them to another hallmark 50-foot Christmas tree by the Fox News, which made the sad news of being set of fire by a homeless man earlier that week. 10,000 ornaments and 100,000 lights went ablaze, but the company replaced it just a day before the shoot, keeping the site on my list. Alas, the tree is no longer approachable, as in good ol’ times. It is fenced off, as well as the Rockefeller Center tree, if you noticed.
Rather than having my guys just stand in front of Radio City Music Hall, I asked them to skip across the avenue. Danny, that fearless serviceman, did particularly well.
Next, we went to the candy canes. Almost omitted them. Had a second thought, stopped the guys after walking a block away, ran back to make sure I like them, and waved my couple back. Look how much fun we had there! The pom-pom fight was hysterical.
I also wanted to hit a toy store like FAO Schwarz. One outfit that Nicole and Danny brought was pajamas and I could easily see them kidding among the shelves. The store wouldn’t open until 11 AM when my shoot was over.
Sneaking into luxurious hotels to grab a few shots is always tickling. Most have restrictions on either being a patron or getting an expensive permit. I don’t mind the policy but sometimes see if I can get a few shots on the go, like these earlier ones at the Waldorf Astoria:
I now eyed the iconic Lotte Hotel as I read it was remarkably decorated for Christmas in the past years, and publicly accessible! We found out that the courtyard was closed because of renovations. The interiors looked as stunning, though, and it stroke us that the pajamas got the second chance! There you have it, a young family by a Christmas tree in their modest home, ha-ha!
One last outfit change and we hit the 5th Ave. There are pop-up holiday decorations in the area, like NYC taxi cab and a sleigh full of gift boxes. Cute holiday props!
And that gigantic gift box that the Cartier store is! Good memories of my shooting Grace Ormonde Wedding Style magazine’s editorial on the engagement rings there. Had to let go of that $3-mln ring in my hands there, lol. Anywho, looking for a way to include the festive box, we somehow morphed into an iconic lift scene from Dirty Dancing. Now, these guys are no dancers, never even considering attempting such a move. We gave it a try, practicing on the sidewalk, and the result is probably the highlight of the whole NYC romance shoot. If you’re into classy romance movies, how more romantic can this shot get? “You know, we should be proud of ourselves,” Nicole righteously summed up.
Our last stop was at Bryant Park. We knew that there would not be time to skate on the rink. Went there just in case and truly so—you need to reserve tickets online a few hours in advance. The Winter Village there is beautiful and lively with the kiosks. We took the last few portraits in the spirit of blue Christmas, concluding this fun, adventurous, and heart-warming NYC romance shoot, just as a married life should be!
Let me drop a quick announcement: I’ll be expanding my famous EngagEd contest, which has scored free weddings and engagement sessions for lucky engaged couples for years. Now, married couples will also qualify to enter! Keep an eye on the details and new rules and prizes coming soon. 🙂