Photographing the Amazing Getty Center in Los Angeles
One of our favorite locations in Los Angeles is the Getty Center. When we do our workshop in LA, we spend several hours at the museum, as there is just so much to explore and photograph. The Getty Center is in Brentwood, close to the 405, going to the San Fernando Valley. The campus houses the Getty Museum, Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. It’s a large site with gardens and multiple buildings overlooking the city and (if there’s not too much smog) the ocean. The buildings were designed by Richard Meier & Partners and the central Garden was designed by Robert Irwin. If you can go there on a sunny day, the blue sky will play well against the white buildings, and it’ll be more enjoyable!
When you get there, you park or get dropped off at the bottom of the hill and you take a tram to the Center. You arrive on the “back” of the building, that is not on the side overlooking the city. After going through a large plaza and walking up a staircase, you arrive to the museum. The buildings are clad in either aluminum or travertine stone. This side is only aluminum, but we’ll see the travertine soon!
The curves of this side of the museum are great for abstracts, and you can play with both negative space and fill the frame. Depending on where your standing, you can only keep the waves or include the straight lines.
You can make your way into the lobby, which is the only interesting interior space, but it’s really worth shooting!
It’s of course very tempting to shoot the circular ceiling, but don’t forget to take advantage of the various shapes and shadows (on sunny days).
The staircase is a great feature of the space and you can find wide compositions with leading lines or details with patterns and layers. It’s a great spot to try to include people in your shots.
Coming out on the other side of the lobby, you arrive in the central courtyard of the museum. There are many, many areas to explore, include hidden spaces, staircases and more. Take the time to wander around and get lost in this amazing place!
You’ll start seeing the rougher travertine stone cladding on some of the buildings. This area in general is great for contrasts: curves vs lines, rough stone vs slick aluminum…
There are several staircases leading to terraces that have interesting structures with railings and canopies. A great spot to work with shadows!
From the terraces, you can get some great views of the city, the hills, all the way to the ocean to the south and to the mountains to the east. Use the architecture to frame the landscape.
Do spend some time to enjoy the gardens. They’re beautiful and peaceful. On your way back, there’s more to explore behind the tram station. Even though you can’t access these administrative buildings, it’s worth just walking around and capturing even more.
The Getty Center is such a great location to photograph, see art, wander around and much more! Plan to spend at least a couple of hours there, it’s worth it! If you’ve been there or are going soon, share your images in our Facebook Group!