PICK A SPOT, ANY SPOT!
Picking the location(s) for your portrait session can be overwhelming, California provides so many beautiful backdrops. Below you will find a wide range of suggested locations, it is important to keep in mind that most locations do change with the seasons. If you are considering a two location session, keep in mind the distance between the two. Typically twenty miles is as far as you want to travel in order to not waste too much shoot time.
THOMAS F. RILEY WILDERNESS PARK - ORANGE COUNTY
Riley Wilderness is located off Oso Parkway in Coto De Caza. I love this location because it provides open fields, hillsides and greenery all in one spot. The hillsides are golden most months but can be green in the Spring. Dogs are not allowed at Riley, I have gotten a few shots with pets as you will see below. In this situation it was done quickly and near the car where a friend waited with the dog while we finished shooting. This location is great paired with a beach in Laguna, the 35 minutes drive isn't too bad and provides two completely different backdrops for one session.
Joshua Tree is a one of a kind location. You have the National Park that provides you with Joshua Trees, desert landscape, and a killer lookout over Coachella Valley! Outside of the National Park, there are fun walls, stores & coffee shops.
REDWOOD TREES - BREA
If you are looking for a mountain or Northern California vibe with redwood trees, this is your best bet for a more local session. This patch of redwood trees is within Carbon Canyon Regional Park. In order to avoid the 1.5 mile walk, I have clients park in the neighborhood above the park and access the trail from the end where the redwoods stand. The redwood trees stay consistent throughout the year, however in the Spring you get a little something extra with overgrown wild flowers at the top lookout.
Open land in hills of Corona at the end of Main.
Vasquez Rocks state park is located in Agua Dolce, Northern Los Angeles County. This location has amazing rock formations (you may recognize them from Star Trek and a few other movies!) along with the beauty of the desert.
RIVERSIDE FIELD NEAR MOUNT RUBIDOUX- RIVERSIDE
This location is not a designated park or trail but nice open land right here in Riverside. Great location if you don't want to pay any additional cost for travel!
MORTON BOTANICAL GARDENS - PALM SPRINGS
This location is simply perfect. Morton's is a semi small botanical garden filled with Cacti pathways and an awesome greenhouse. If you are entertaining the idea of two locations, Morton's would be great paired with the open desert of Palm Springs. (see next location).
Palm Springs is one of my absolute favorite cities! On your way into the city there are beautiful places to shoot with the classic Palm Springs mountain backdrop along with the windmills on the opposite side. This can be paired with a hotel or Morton’s!
HIDDEN VALLEY WILDLIFE AREA- RIVERSIDE, CA
This location changes drastically through the seasons as you can see by these images. In the Spring it is packed with overgrown greens and wildflowers and then within a few weeks it dies and becomes a beautiful golden brush. Both photograph beautifully, if you aren’t sure how it will look on the date of your session - just ask!
GAVILAN HILLS - PERRIS, CA
This location is a recent find, it has been so lovely shooting there this Spring. The flowers have since died and I have not shot here in a different season. I do think it would be a great location year round, however you will not get those bright wildflowers outside of Spring.
MARIAN BEAR - SAN DIEGO
Marian Bear is a location that shows it's season! I love locations like this because it's always a little different & beautiful whether it's a green or golden time of year.
IMPERIAL SAND DUNES
This location is in Brawley, California. I use a lookout point which provides parking and easy access to the dunes!
BALBOA PARK - SAN DIEGO
Balboa Park is a urban cultural park with a variety of photogenic areas. This location has greenery, multiple museums, restaurants, botanical gardens, greenhouse and theaters.
LOS ANGELES ARTS DISTRICT
The Arts District is a neighborhood on the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles. You can get many different backdrops in this little area, unique walls, restaurants and the bridge within walking distance. This is great paired with Walt Disney Music Hall or Santa Monica Beach.
SANTA ROSE PLATEAU - MURRIETA
Santa Rosa Plateau has several trails, Sylvan Meadows Trail Head is my go to here.
LEO CARRILLO RANCH HISTORIC PARK - CARLSBAD
Leo Carrillo used to be a working ranch, handcrafted adobe buildings, cacti, and greenery. This park does have strict business hours and photography rules. (no dogs allowed).
BARS, RESTAURANTS & STORES
Lifestyle sessions are a fantastic way to get unique and real images. This option is great paired with a completely different type of scenery for a two location session.
LOS RIOS DISTRICT - SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
Los Rios District is a unique strand of mom n' pop shops with greenery, cacti and even a red train caboose. This location is right down the street from Mission San Juan Capistrano and has it's own easy / free parking.
These specific Orange Groves are at Citrus Park here in Riverside. There are a lot of Orange Groves in Riverside and other cities but are usually on private property so this park is a great option.
WINDANSEA BEACH - LA JOLLA
Windansea is a beautiful beach with clean white sand, teal water & rock formations. This is a beach with a shorter strand of sand so keeping an eye on the tide is important, you can however still shoot on the rocks when it's high tide.
SALVATION MOUNTAIN- NILAND, CA
Salvation Mountain is man-made out of adobe clay and a whole-lotta paint. This location is very colorful but also in the desert where you can access neutral tones and amazing sunsets. If you are entertaining a two location session, you may also entertain the idea of surrounding areas like Salton Sea which is also pictured here.
HIGHLAND SPRINGS RESORT - CHERRY VALLEY
This location is a hotel and wedding venue with beautiful tall trees, cacti garden, olive tree pathways and even lavender fields when in season. I have shot many weddings here but never a portrait session, please refer to these wedding images to see the grounds. Venue requires a photography rate of $150 which is to be paid by client.
SUNSET CLIFFS - SAN DIEGO
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park provides a small patch of trees and beautiful views of the ocean and cliff sides.
TWENTYNINE PALMS INN + SURROUNDING DESERT
This location is a fun and colorful Inn located in Twentynine Palms, just next to the entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.
AT HOME OR AIR B N B
At home sessions aren't for everyone but it's definitely something to consider even if just for a few shots before heading to your second location. This can be great for engagement, especially if you are living in your first home together. At home family sessions can also make for unique and real lifestyle images. Another similar option is an Air BnB!
THREE ARCH BAY - LAGUNA BEACH
This cove is in a private association and I have a past wedding client who is kind enough to put my name on the list almost anytime.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA FIELD
This location is not a designated park or trail but a small open piece of land in Rancho Cucamonga.
PELTZER PINES CHRISTMAS TREE FARM - SILVERADO
This location is seasonal as it is a real Christmas tree farm. Peltzer has a few locations, Silverado is my preferred choice because of the mountains you get in the background.
MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
The Mission is located in SJC and does require a photography fee and appointment. This location can be great paired with Los Rios District which is walking distance from the Mission.
SHAWS COVE - LAGUNA BEACH
Laguna's beaches are my favorite because of their cliffs in the background and rocks you can access.
MISSION TRAILS REGIONAL PARK - SAN DIEGO
Mission Trails is 5800 acres of land and this little portion of it is my favorite. The field does change with the seasons so it will be golden in warmer months and green in the Spring. You also get a bridge and large rock formations on this same side.
OCEAN BEACH SAN DIEGO
I used to live in OB, San Diego so this was a spot I used often. This is a dog beach which some clients love so they can bring their fur child. The other side of the jetty is not dog friendly so you can always opt to stay on that side if you wish. I love the lifeguard towers in OB as well.
TORREY PINES STATE RESERVE
This location does have beach access but only when it is low tide. This rainy day session below is the only example I have but really love this trail with a view.
LOCATIONS I WOULD LOVE TO SHOOT AT FOR THE FIRST TIME
Anza Borrego State Park - Borrego Springs, CA
Mount Baldy, CA