The Ultimate Location Guide – Hynes Convention Center

Anime Boston is the largest anime convention in New England, located in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts. With the convention itself located in the Hynes Convention Center, which can be jam-packed and hard to shoot in at times, it might seem difficult to find creative locations. But Boston has a lot to offer, and with the tips from the Ultimate Location Guide below, you’ll discover out of the way spots and new locations to help you make the most of your convention photography.

 

Hynes Convention Center

Hynes Convention Center Plaza Level
Hynes Convention Center 2nd Level

The Hynes Convention Center is curiously laid out; its hallways are slightly too narrow for the flow of traffic during Anime Boston, while finding locations is somewhat like walking through a maze full of convention attendees. The follow are some of the few places that I’ve had luck shooting at during the convention.

Plaza Level Stairwell

This corner stairwell area has a simple, clean dark-and-light look for an uncluttered backdrop. It’s sometimes tricky to get shots on the stairs themselves during peak hours, due to traffic, but the stairway landings are fairly open.

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Boylston Hallway

The hallway along Boylston street on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the convention center boasts big curtained windows at each end with a set of shallow stairs, which is nice for small groups.

[photo by Stephen Tang]
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South Lobby Stairwell

Located just outside where the Artist Alley used to be, the lighting and relatively light traffic in this stairwell makes for cool, evocative portraits.

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Prudential Mall

Shops at Prudential Center

Shops at Prudential Center

Belvidere Arcade

This corridor runs from the Dunkin’ Donuts just outside the Hynes all the way down to a mall exit, past the South Garden. There’s good light coming from the windows leading to the garden, so natural light photographers can get some good photos without stepping outside if it’s cold or rainy. Down past the garden, some natural-looking stone and brick facades for shops and restaurants can be used as nice backdrops, plus con-goers hardly ever venture down past the South Garden, so you’ll have light foot traffic.

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Center Court

Best for shooting early in the morning or on Sunday of the convention, this open atrium in the center of the Prudential mall boasts a huge amount of windows and skylights, plus a clean, white backdrop with leading lines. It gets insanely crowded on Friday and Saturday, leading to huge traffic jams, so I don’t recommend trying to shoot here for most of the convention.

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South Garden

A popular place for cosplay group gatherings, the South Garden is located just past the Dunkin’ Donuts and is accessible through doors in the Belvidere Arcade. This is pretty much the only greenery available around the Hynes unless you want to walk 20 minutes to the Public Garden, so it’s a great favorite of cosplayers with nature-themed series or costumes, such as the Naruto cosplayers I shot below. The Garden is open all day, although the doors are locked early in the morning and after dusk.

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Prudential Tower/Top Of The Hub Entrance

Just past the Catholic chapel and the Dunkin’ Donuts is the entrance to the Prudential Tower, the office building inside the mall. The glass doors leading into the tower and the stainless steel panels that surround the doors make for a great futuristic backdrop, especially if you’re using off-camera flash. Be warned that this narrow corridor is the source of enormous traffic backup on Saturday afternoons, so plan accordingly if you want to shoot here.

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Cheescake Factory

Surprisingly enough, the entrance to the Cheesecake Factory on Huntington Avenue is a pretty elegant place to shoot. The restaurant has two entrances; one outside and one inside the mall next to the escalator. I recommend shooting outside if possible, as the escalator can get crowded.

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P.F. Chang’s entrance

For cosplayers who have ancient or Chinese-themed costumes, the enormous horses outside P.F. Chang’s can make for some fun shooting.

P.F. Chang's entrance [photo by Rusty Clark on flickr.com]

P.F. Chang’s entrance [photo by Rusty Clark on flickr.com]

Sheraton Hotel

Second floor lobby

You’ll find the majority of cosplayers and photographers like to shoot here in the lobby, because it’s close to the Hynes, indoors, and many con attendees are staying in the Sheraton. The lobby spans an entire floor of the Sheraton, so while it can get a little crowded, there are plenty of spaces to choose from. The lighting is pretty dim here, so I recommend additional lighting equipment.

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Lower level parking garage

If you’re looking for a grungy look that’s not too far of a walk, the Sheraton parking garage, located under the hotel, is a good spot.

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Christian Science Plaza

With its beautiful turn of the century architecture, reflecting pool, and proximity to the Hynes (just across the street from the Sheraton), the Christian Science Plaza can seem like the best backdrop in all of Boston. But beware; the entire grounds is technically private property, and multiple photographers at Anime Boston, including myself, have been stopped and kicked off the property for taking photos, even with a simple DSLR and no extra lighting equipment. You can venture on here for photos, but do it at your own risk and have a backup location in mind.

Christian Science Plaza [photo by Insecurity on flickr.com]
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101 Belvidere Street

This building boasts an outdoor walkway of soaring columns that’s perfect for that leading lines background. Best of all, even though the building is on the Christian Science grounds, it’s leased by Northeastern University, and thus not subject to the jurisdiction of the patrolling Christian Science camera police.

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For the adventurous…

The following locations are a 10-20 minute walk from the Hynes Convention Center for hardy souls who want to see all Boston has to offer in terms of architecture. The city is full of 18th and 19th century construction, which could be perfect for cosplayers wanting to shoot against classic backdrops. Be aware that to get to most of these locations, you will have to walk; parking is horrendous in Boston, and trying to save 15 minutes might turn into driving around looking for a parking space for an hour. I’d also advise bringing a jacket, as Anime Boston is usually in early spring and it will be in the low 40s.

Boston Public Library McKim building

The main McKim building of the Boston Public Library was built in 1888. Its outer grand facade is in the Renaissance Revival style, and inside, the entrance is flanked by grand staircases and huge windows. The reading room with its high ceiling and walls of books is also great for photos. What’s even better is that the librarians and security inside the library love photography and will gladly let you take photos anywhere as long as you don’t use flash.

Boston Public Library [photo by Josepha on flickr]
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Boston Public Library McKim Courtyard

Linking the McKim building and the newer library addition is an Italian-style courtyard with columned walkways, stone paths bordered with tidy gardens, and a fountain and pool. Again, the librarians love photographers; they once saw me shooting a cosplay group here and spontaneously invited us all inside to talk to their YA program.

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Boston Public Garden

Cute stone bridges! Flowers! Swan boats! The Public Garden in the springtime is great for greenery. Just be sure you stay off the grass.

Boston Public Garden [photo by bostonphotosphere on flickr.com]

Boston Public Garden [photo by bostonphotosphere on flickr.com]

Boston Common

Just across the street from the Public Garden is the not-so-quite well maintained Boston Common, which is more of a free-for-all when it comes to landscaping and feels a bit more like a tiny version of New York’s Central Park. The stone gazebo in the middle of the common is pretty photogenic, as long as there isn’t an event going on with other people using it, as it’s pretty popular.

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These are the locations that I’ve had the greatest fun and success shooting at, and I hope that you’ll find this guide useful for your cosplay photography adventures at Anime Boston. If you have a cool photoshoot spot around the Hynes Convention Center that’s not listed here, and you’d like to share it, please let us know in the comments. Happy shooting!

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