A blogger's guide to shooting in and exploring Philly

Thanks so much to Sonesta Philly for sponsoring this blog post! I had the pleasure of enjoying a complimentary one-night stay at their stylish, luxurious hotel for this collaboration and now I can’t stop raving about their hotel.


Traveling as a blogger means that you’ll be packing incredible outfits and doing some intense research on places to explore that will maximize the amount of cute photos you can take. 

I always feel bad for whoever I’m with because they’ll need to be extremely patient and ready to snap 50 photos of me at the same spot in order to get THE ONE.

I live an hour outside of Philly and am constantly driving in for different shoots and taking weekend trips there. After shooting all around the city for over a year now, I wanted to pull together my favorite spots in Philly that every blogger has to shoot at, whether you’re visiting or live in the City of Brotherly Love.

Read on to see where to stay for your visit, who to hire if you want to give your traveling buddy a break (whether that’s your friend, significant other, or tripod) and up the ante with your photo quality, and my favorite places to shoot at!

Photo by    Danny Lopez

Photo by Danny Lopez

WHERE TO STAY

I have to admit I’m totally biased here when I tell you to stay at the Sonesta Philly, but just hear me out. My stay with them was HEAVENLY. 

They sent me a creative brief for our collaboration together that included some details about their brand. I had literally already uttered some of the words they used to describe their hotel upon walking into the hotel and my room: luxury, elegant, and stylish.

ArtBar at Sonesta, a great place to grab drinks and food.

ArtBar at Sonesta, a great place to grab drinks and food.

Take a look at some of these photos and you’ll understand why my immediate reaction was to drop my jaw in awe when I walked into the Sonesta and to become stunned when I reached my room. You can also check out my Sonesta highlight on Instagram to see me fangirling over my hotel room, along with more of my stay with Sonesta IRL.

If you end up staying at the Sonesta, you’ll want to dedicate a couple hours to shooting content. The rooms are too beautiful not to snap some typical blogger in a fancy hotel photos; their rooftop pool has an incredible view and is incredibly relaxing; and the downstairs bar, ArtBar, is not only beautiful, but also gets great lighting during the day. 

Beyond the physical hotel, I also love the convenience of Sonesta’s location. Located in the heart of downtown Philly, the Sonesta is just 5 minutes walking from City Hall, 10 minutes from Rittenhouse Square, and 15 from Reading Terminal Market.

If you’re in love with the Sonesta by now (I can’t imagine how anyone couldn’t be), you can head to their website to make a reservation. Whether you live in Philly and want to treat yourself to some luxury or need somewhere to stay for your trip to the City of Brotherly Love, I can’t recommend them enough! I had a wonderful stay with them and hope to be back soon. 

SHOOTING IN PHILLY

Every blogger is always looking for great locations to shoot at. Last summer, I spent my entire summer interning in Philly at URBN and shooting after work. You can read about my experience interning with them as well as my advice for applying in some of my past blog posts.

After spending three months interning in Philly, I became rather acquainted with some of the best areas in Philly to shoot in, as well as many of the local photographers there. There’s loads of talented individuals and you’re sure to find someone who’s within your price range. 

Photo by    Blake R.

Photo by Blake R.

So many bloggers are used to shooting either with friends or our trusty tripods, and while this definitely works, hiring a photographer will improve your photos dramatically. These are people who have worked with numerous models and have experience framing shots and directing people. Instead of having to set up your tripod or friend to take the precise shot you want, you can trust a photographer to instead direct you to a spot that they know will look great. 

If you’re struggling with how to pose, feel free to check out my blog post on posing before heading to a shoot. Working with a photographer is great because they can help direct you, but having an idea in your head of how to pose will help immensely!

WHO TO SHOOT WITH

Below I’ve listed a few photographers I highly recommend in Philly. I’ve used some of their photos throughout this blog post and credited them accordingly, but you can also check out their Instagram profiles for more of their work. I have loved working with all of these photographers and can’t recommend them enough!

Whether you end up hiring a photographer or taking along your friend or trusty tripod, now you need to find somewhere to shoot. Lucky for you, Philly is full of amazing locations for photoshoots. I’ve loved every single location I’ve shot at in Philly, but a few definitely take the cake, so below I’ve detailed my top four locations, plus one bonus one I haven’t yet shot at but have seen some lovely photos at.


WHERE TO SHOOT

RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

If you took my advice and decided to stay at Sonesta, Rittenhouse is a must for you! It’s less than a 10 minute walk from the hotel and in the perfect area to go shopping or grab a latte with a friend.

I’ve shot in and around Rittenhouse Square a couple of times, taking advantage of both the greenery in the actual Square and the many streets around it. No matter your outfit, you’re sure to find spots that will complement it.

If you want to walk about 15 minutes north of Rittenhouse, you’ll hit City Hall and the iconic landing strip in front of it. Many incredible photos have been taken there and especially if you’re visiting Philly, it’s a MUST.

Photos by Patrizia Messineo

CHINATOWN

Not too far from Rittenhouse is my personal favorite area in Philly: Chinatown. I’m first gen Taiwanese on one side, so trips to Philly’s Chinatown hold a special place in my heart. Beyond being a great place to shoot in, there’s lots of great spots for food and, my personal favorite, bubble tea.

If you end up shooting in Chinatown, I highly recommend meeting your photographer at the Friendship Arch. I’ve tried taking shots in front of Friendship Arches in other Chinatowns, but I’ve found the one in Philly to be the easiest to shoot at. Some arches span numerous streets, but Philly’s spans just two lanes of one way traffic, making it possible to snap a few photos under the arch while the crosswalk light is green. 

For those not used to shooting in the middle of traffic, this is a great spot to try it out for the first time, as the risk of getting hit is super low. I love the dynamic shots I’ve gotten with this arch, so I definitely recommend trying this out!

If you’re shooting in some intense weather and want to take a break, pop into Miucha and grab some amazing bubble tea. The interior is insanely cute, so while you’re there, you can also snap a couple photos. It’s a win win for your tastebuds and content!

Photos by Danny Lopez and David Bara

SOUTH STREET

If you’re a fan of cute neighborhoods, kitschy shops, and Philly cheesesteak, be sure to make a trip to South Street to shoot. Afterward, you can enjoy a Philly cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks right on South Street or walk further south to fill up on the infamous Geno’s Steaks. 

Shooting at South Street can be hard during the daytime because of how busy the area gets, but if you’re looking for lots of color in your photos, you’ll find no better place. When you’re tired of the crowds, just walk a couple streets back and you’ll find yourself amongst cute neighborhoods that afford you some peace and quiet while providing a great backdrop for outfit pics.

For my fashion bloggers, you’ll want to explore the many shops on South Street when you’re doing shooting. Philly AIDS Thrift is a great thrift store for my fans of sustainability, saving money, unique finds, and supporting HIV/AIDS communities. For my social justice friends and fans of reading, I also recommend visiting the Anarchist Bookstore to find your next read. 

Photos by Blake R.

OLD CITY

For fans of a quaint, yet bustling city vibe, Old City is your spot. Philly has tons of lovely neighborhoods and streets, but as America’s most historic square mile, the ones in Old City feel time-honored and classic. You’ll see cobblestone in certain areas and can venture to Independence Hall to see the Liberty Bell if you wish.

For my femme presenting friends, a word of warning, however: Old City is also the place I’ve been catcalled the most while shooting. It has yet to deter me from shooting in the area, but for those wishing to have a more peaceful shooting experience, Old City might be best saved as a back up location.

Regardless, a small park from Old City, as well as the lovely and quaint Menagerie cafe that makes for a great indoor location and spot to change outfits, provides a lot of variety for your shoot in Old City. If you’re planning on meeting a friend for food, there’s plenty of areas you can hit up right before or after your shoot as well to make your day run a bit more smoothly.

Photos by David Bara and Cara Kelly.

MAGIC GARDENS

Last but not least is the classic location that likely everyone has heard of and shot at but me: the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. If you decide to shoot on South Street, this is a great place to head afterward or beforehand, whether you end up shooting there or not, as it’s located in South Philly.

The Magic Gardens costs money to get in, so I’ve never shot there with a photographer, but if you’re looking to shoot somewhere that’s unlike the typical Philly city backdrop, the Magic Gardens is a great spot. For those looking to save money, you can always use the outside area to snap a couple shots with the prolific mosaiced background. You can see more about the Magic Gardens and pricing on their website.

The Magic Gardens is essentially a beautifully mosaiced alcove with some lovely plants. Definitely plan your outfit ahead of time to make sure it works with this background, as it gets pretty busy. A backup option isn’t a bad idea, either.

There you have it! Five great locations in Philly to shoot some killer content, whether you’re making your first ever trip to this amazing city or have lived there your whole life. 

Have you shot in Philly before? Any advice on where to shoot or comments on the locations I included? Drop a comment and let myself and others know how to nail your content when shooting in Philly.