When and Where to Capture the Empire State Building Lit Up Blue for Columbia Grads in 2023

The night of May 17, the Empire State Building will glow blue and white for Commencement. Here’s where to capture the best photos with it.

Kelly Moffitt-Hawasly and Jennifer Pellerito
April 12, 2023

It’s a Columbia Commencement tradition not to be missed: On the night of May 17, from sunset until 2:00 a.m. (EDT), the top of New York’s iconic Empire State Building will light up in blue and white to honor Columbia’s graduates. 

But where best to capture photos of and with the Empire State building? We asked the expert: University Photographer Eileen Barroso, who has been taking pictures of Columbia grads with the building for years and years. 

And don’t forget! If you aren’t able to get out and about to take your Empire State Building pictures, you can always observe the celebration of our grads on the Empire State Building Live Stream.

Here are five great spots to take your photos the night of Commencement:

34th Street and 7th Avenue

A group of friends poses at 34th Street and 7th Avenue with the Empire State Building.
parents take photos of two friends

36th Street and 5th Avenue

36th St. and Fifth Avenue with grads and the empire state building

Weehawken, NJ Boulevard East

The New York City skyline as seen from New Jersey with the Empire State Building lit blue.

Summit One Vanderbilt

The Empire State Building as viewed from Summit One Vanderbilt.

26th Street and 5th Avenue

A gaggle of graduates pose near Flatiron with the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building image ® is a registered trademark of ESRT Empire State Building, L.L.C. and is used with permission.

Looking for more photo opportunities ahead of Commencement? Don't forget to check out these fantastic spots to grab photos on campus

Before you go, don't forget to check out these other stories in preparation for Commencement 2023.