Best Portrait Locations Near Denver
March 4, 2017
As Spring approaches, I'm starting to get a lot more requests for portrait photography. During the winter, I've mainly stayed busy doing professional portraits and head shots as well as some event and corporate photography. But with the weather getting nicer I keep coming across the same question: "what are some good places to take [wedding, senior, family] portraits outdoors?" Well, here are is a list of my favorite places to take portraits in and near the Denver-Boulder Metro Area.
Red Rocks Park (Morrison)
This is one of the most popular because of it's dramatic rock formations, easy access, and because it looks great in any season. It's fairly big so there's plenty of good spots to pick from. Just be sure to check whether there's a concert happening at the time of your shoot.
Chautauqua Park (Boulder)
Another fairly popular spot because of picturesque mountains and beautiful meadow. It's especially beautiful during the Spring and Summer, but it can be crowded with hikers and other photographers doing shoots (especially weddings) since there's a venue in the park. Classic Colorado look.
Union Station (Denver)
This one is popular for those seeking a more "contemporary urban" or "old-town" look. It's busy, but that's part of the charm. With a permit (which costs money), one can also take portraits inside the old train station which has a classy, vintage look. Good if you don't mind lots of people around you. Looks great in any season.
Denver Botanic Gardens (Denver)
Although it's artificially created, this place is absolutely beautiful. As the name implies, it's full of colorful flowers, plants, trees, and also interesting sculptures. You probably don't want to use this place in the winter as only the indoor gardens look good at that time. The drawback is that it can get crowded (especially on the weekends) and you'll need a permit (money) to shoot inside. Allow extra time to deal with crowded spaces.
University of Denver (Denver)
If you've ever walked around this campus, you know it's historic (and modern) buildings and neatly groomed green spaces stand out and can look quite beautiful especially during the Spring and Fall. Parking can be a challenge (you may need to pay a few bucks) but if you go there in the early morning or late afternoon it's usually wide open for you to shoot. The area near the library has all the best spots!
Washington Park (Denver)
This is one of Denver's premier city parks. You'll find everything from cyclists to volleyball tournaments pretty much all year round. It's a big place, so it's not a huge challenge to find a nice spot to take photos and there is plenty of tree shade if the light is harsh. The areas near the 3 lakes/ponds and the small creek that runs through the park are the best spots. There's also a wooden playground if you want candid shots of children playing. This place looks decent even in the Winter.
This area is near Union Station, but there are several good spots for those looking for that urban yet classy look. The area near the Platte River, just east of REI is my favorite. There are a few pedestrian and train bridges that cross the river that look nice and are usually not very busy. This place works for all seasons, but if you go during the warm months, try not to shoot on the bike trail or you'll get run over. I recommend taking an afternoon to scope out the entire neighborhood for particular spots to shoot. Look for the Millennium Bridge while you're there.
Cherry Creek State Park (Aurora)
This is a good one if you want to stay in the southeast part of the metro area and want that nature look. It's a huge open space designed for picnics, boating, and just strolling around. You'll need to pay to get in unless you have a State Parks pass. There's plenty of room for portraits although I suspect you'll want to avoid it during busy holiday weekends like the 4th of July (think traffic jams). Autumn colors are especially nice, but it can work for any season.
Clear Creek History Park (Golden)
This is an interesting place if you're into the old western look. As the name implies, there are historical buildings (mostly cabins) laid out close to each other so there are several spots that would look great in any season. It probably works best for couples or smaller families though because there is not as much space as the other locations I've mentioned here. Clear Creek is near the park and is another good spot that you can do while you're there.
Bear Creek Greenbelt (Lakewood)
This one is more of a secret compared to all the other places I've listed so far (I lived right next to it so that's how I found it). The park where The Stone House is located is probably the best spot because it has a couple lakes/ponds, a river, a bridge, some benches, some dirt trails, and some open spaces with tall grass. There will likely be few people there, although a few photographers do know about The Stone House (which also looks great in the portraits). This is a good one for Spring through Fall.
Cheesman Park (Denver)
This is another large city park (it's actually right next to the Denver Botanic Gardens). It can be busy, especially in the warm months, but there is quite a bit of space. There are some beautiful concrete columns on the east side of the park that look great for classy shots (such as weddings or engagements). This place looks best during the Spring through Fall.
Mathews Winters Park (Morrison)
This beautiful, mountain-y open space is frequented by hikers and mountain bikers looking for a quick thrill just outside of Denver. It's very close to Red Rocks Park so you could visit both places on the same trip. You'll want to make sure you don't block hikers/bikers, but also make sure you don't stray off the trail too much (so you don't kill vegetation). This place might be kind of harsh in the Winter. Also, be careful with rattlesnakes (especially when it's hot).
Evergreen Lake (Evergreen)
If you don't mind the 45 minute drive from Denver, Evergreen Lake is a nice place to go for beautiful mountain scenery. Evergreen Lake is pretty large, but also busy (sometimes parking is a challenge). It's beautiful all-year-round, but it's especially good for Summer and Autumn photos. There is a nice walkway that cuts across some tall grass, and there is a trail that goes all around the lake.
Chatfield Lake (Littleton)
This one is similar to Cherry Creek State Park, but it's in the southwest part of the Denver metro area. You'll need a permit to enter, and it can be crowded in warm weather holidays, but there is plenty of space for you to explore and take portraits in. There are lots of mosquitoes in the summer though, so bring some bug spray. The walking trails that go into the trees are some of my favorite spots.