Our photographers share ideal outdoor spots for family, engagement, and wedding photos—plus tips for how to take the perfect portrait.
Photographer Gary Clark says: “In the spring, there are thousands of tulips, daffodils, and dogwood blooms. Everywhere you turn, you bump into a bride having her portrait taken. There’s no charge for shooting, but be dressed when you arrive—no getting ready in the bathroom.”
Where to shoot: Jonsson Color Garden
Rules and fees: No fees beyond admission and parking. Inside photos are allowed only if you’re accompanied by a staff member.
Gary’s best tip: “Shoot on overcast days or in open shade. Do not ever shoot in full sun. It just ends up looking harsh.”
8525 Garland Road; dallasarboretum.org or 214/515-6500
Photographer Mark Sandlin says: “They have wonderful floral displays, masses of flowers. The themed areas—a sunken garden, a magnificent glass conservatory—create interesting visual backdrops. Stay late (crowds disappear as the light gets prettier) or go early—the morning fog adds a moody, ethereal quality.”
Where to shoot: in front of the conservatory
Rules and fees: Professional photo sessions cost $300 for an hour and a half; the fee includes admission for six, and the shoot must be scheduled ahead. Additional subjects or time costs extra. Informal snapshots free.
Mark’s best tip: “Get closer—it’s more personal. Also, put the subject off-center for a more attractive composition.”
1800 Lakeside Avenue; lewisginter.org or 804/262-9887
Delray Beach, Florida
Photographer Art Meripol says: “This is one of the top 10 Japanese gardens outside Japan. The Asian features create really striking settings—a black bamboo forest, a pretty teahouse on a lake.”
Where to shoot: the James and Hazel Gates Woodruff Memorial Bridge, a traditional wooden span that’s a lovely red arc mirrored by the lake
Rules and fees: Beyond admission, there are no fees and no photo restrictions. They encourage advance calls with questions about professional shoots.
Art’s best tip: “Shoot on a slightly overcast day—the light wraps around things, so skin looks prettier, softer. Skin flaws don’t show as much. And flowers look better too.”
4000 Morikami Park Road; morikami.org or 561/495-0233
Photographer Ralph Anderson says: “There are so many pretty edge-of-the-woods spots here. The trees allow the subject to be in open shade.”
Where to shoot: the Garden Pavilion or Children’s Play Garden
Rules and fees: Free admission on weekdays; $5 per car on weekends. No fees or restrictions, but call ahead.
Ralph’s best tip: “Position subjects in the shade, with an open sky behind the camera. It gives a nice soft light on the face and puts highlights in the eyes.”
State Highway 245; bernheim.org or 502/955-8512
St. Louis, Missouri
Photographer Van Chaplin says: “This is one of the finest public gardens in America. It’s got beautiful trees and great spaces—rose gardens, lots of large trees, open spaces, running water, a beautiful lake. There’s some nice architecture, a Victorian house. It’s really diverse.”
Where to shoot: the Japanese Garden with a 4-acre lake
Rules and fees: Photo subjects must be family-level members of the garden ($150/year). But there’s no photo fee and no limit to the people you bring.
Van’s best tip: “For a soft, out-of-focus background, shoot with a longer lens. An 80mm to 100mm lens is an ideal portrait lens. Also, consider shooting black-and-white—it makes people look much more interesting.”
4344 Shaw Blvd.; mobot.org or 314/577-5100