Winston Link was born on December 16, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the second of three children, a daughter and two sons. Winston's father was a public school teacher and exerted a strong influence on his children. He took the boys around New York City, and showed them many sights, from battleships in the harbor to flights of airplanes - then relatively rare - passing overhead. The elder Link taught his son how to use and care for tools, and Winston not only became a skilled woodworker, but also developed a lifelong love of tools and deep respect for careful craftsmanship. Most importantly, Winston's father introduced him to photography, and he loved it. Winston built his own enlarger while still in high school, and helped to process and enlarge photos for a local photo store.

Winston attended Manual Arts High School in Brooklyn which, despite its name, also offered strong academic courses. He played on the hockey team, and was a very popular student. His father demanded that his children be productive and achieve academic success. Eleanor, Winston's older sister, became one of the first women to graduate from Brooklyn Law School, and Winston went on to the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (best known as Brooklyn Poly), where he majored in civil engineering.