Are you looking for the best photoshoot locations in Vancouver for your next family portrait session? Vancouver – and the surrounding area – is full of amazing photoshoot locations all within a short drive. Whether you want beach or mountain, forest or field, Vancouver has it all. With each location you’ll find tips so you know whether that location is perfect for you – or whether you should give it a miss.
A note about this list…. all locations are easily accessible by car. I haven’t included anywhere that requires a long or steep hike in. In general if you need to walk more than 5 minutes from your car, I’ve made a note of it. I also haven’t included any locations that are currently closed due to COVID – hello UBC farm. Watch for an update in 2021 once the pandemic is (hopefully) behind us.
Best Photoshoot Locations in Vancouver
Stanley Park is located on the edge of downtown Vancouver and surrounded on most sides by water. Covering over 1,000 acres, this public park consistently is named on international ‘best parks’ lists. Stanley Park is definitely in my top 3 list of best photoshoot locations in Vancouver.
Stanley Park is for you if…. you want it all in one place. Stanley Park has the seawall (with the perfect downtown backdrop for morning sessions), beach, forest and the North Shore mountains in the distance. Stanley Park is perfect for out-of-town visitors thanks to it’s proximity to all the downtown hotels. One of my favourite places to shoot, there really is something here for everyone.
Stanley Park is not for you if… you want privacy during your session. While there are some quieter sections of the park, the seawall and my favourite perfectly-lit bridge tend to be busy.
Session tip: Make sure you arrive early. The road through the park is one-way so if you miss the parking lot we’re meeting at, it can take a while to get back to it.
My all-time favourite place to photograph families in Vancouver. Jericho Beach gets truly beautiful light and has multiple places we can photograph until the sun is almost down, at which point we can move to the beach. Jericho is located on Vancouver’s west side, just west of Kitsilano and a short drive from downtown. Another top 3 pick in my best photoshoot locations in Vancouver.
Jericho Beach is for you if… you like grassy fields but want the quintessential Vancouver beach portrait too. This location tends to be better for evening sessions but is pretty in the morning too. Great for families of all ages.
Jericho Beach is not for you if… you hate sun lit fields and ocean views? Jericho Beach is perfect for everyone.
Session tip: Pack bug spray for evening sessions. We won’t be swarmed by mosquitoes but they’re definitely around.
Spanish Banks is nestled between Jericho and Pacific Spirit Park, near the University of British Columbia. It has both a rocky beach covered in logs, perfect for climbing on, and sandy flats accessible when the tide is out.
Spanish Banks is for you if… you’re looking for a beach session out on the flats with bare feet. If you don’t want muddy feet, the rocky areas are great for when the tide isn’t all the way out (and if you want to wear shoes).
Spanish Banks is not for you if… you’re not willing to work around the tide charts. Spanish Banks is at it’s best at low (or at least low-ish) tide. Unfortunately that doesn’t always coordinate with sunset so finding a date that does work can be tricky.
Pacific Spirit Park
Looking for forest and want to stay in Vancouver? Pacific Spirit Park is found on the University Endowment Lands and has a large trail network. There are lots of downed trees to climb on and explore.
Pacific Spirit Park is for you if… you are a family who loves to hike and spend time outdoors, and you want your family portraits to reflect that.
Pacific Spirit Park is not for you if… mobility is an issue. My favourite places to photograph in Pacific Spirit Park are at least a 10 minute walk from the nearest parking area. The trail is flat and covered in packed gravel, but there is no vehicle access.
Session tip: While I normally photograph in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, the heavily treed nature of Pacific Spirit Park means we’ll need to move your session a little later in the morning or earlier in the evening.
Perfect for a more sophisticated urban session, the downtown core has a lot of options – from typical city streets to the art gallery steps to back alleys. Think New York but a whole lot smaller.
Downtown Vancouver is for you if… you want a morning session on the weekend with lots of variety and an urban feel. It’s fun to wander the city together in the morning when there aren’t a lot of people around. The downtown core is typically too crowded in the evening to make a family session work comfortably.
Downtown Vancouver is not for you if… you have young kids. There is still traffic in the morning so your kids need to be an age where we don’t need to worry about them darting into traffic. Vancouver also has a fairly significant homeless population which can mean needing to check the ground before you sit down and be slightly more aware of our surroundings.
Queen Elizabeth Park
Home to the Bloedel Conservatory and Seasons in the Park, Queen Elizabeth Park in the Shaughnessy/Cambie area is a major Vancouver tourist attraction. And for that reason, isn’t my favourite place to photograph. It tends to be very busy through spring, fall and summer, especially on weekends and evenings.
There are some more casual areas off the beaten path, if the location is convenient but you’re looking for something less busy and less formal.
Queen Elizabeth Park is for you if… you like formal portraits in a more formal setting. If that’s you, plan for a morning session when the park is less busy.
Queen Elizabeth Park is not for you if… you want a more natural, lifestyle-type setting.
Located in False Creek, Granville Island was once an industrial area and is now a hub of food and entertainment. The wide variety of buildings makes for lots of interesting alcoves to shoot in.
Granville Island is for you if… fields or beaches aren’t your thing and you want a backdrop of colourful buildings, paved alley ways and lots of variety.
Granville Island is not for you if… you want a weekend evening session in the summer. Granville Island is busy at the best of times but it’s especially busy on a sunny summer Saturday evening.
This industrial neighbourhood east of downtown has buildings of almost every colour, especially useful if you want to make sure your framed family portraits coordinate with your home decor. It has easy access from the freeway and is typically not very busy in the evenings making it a great choice for urban portraits.
Hastings is for you if… you want an urban session with industrial buildings and a mural or two thrown in.
Hastings is not for you if… you’re hoping for trees or any sort of greenery. This location is cement and buildings all the way.
Best Photoshoot Locations in West Vancouver
Whytecliff Park is located near the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. It’s best feature is the huge rocky cliffs but also has a lovely rocky beach, trees and in low tide you can walk out to the island. A truly beautiful Westcoast location and of my favourites to photograph at.
Whytecliff Park is for you if… you love wide open spaces and want to be near the water for your session.
Whytecliff Park is not for you if… you have young kids. There are many sharp drop-offs and no fence along the edge of the cliffs. The cliff rocks can be slippery so this location is better left for families with older children who will stay away from the edge and are okay to scramble.
Session tip: If you want portraits on the rocks leading out to Whytecliff Island, you’re going to need to schedule your session on a date where there’s a low tide near sunset.
Just over the bridge from Stanley Park, next to Park Royal Mall, is Ambleside Park. Lovely sandy beach with a little section of long grasses and some rocks to scramble on. Beautiful location.
Ambleside Park is for you if… you want a beach session on the North Shore at sunrise or sunset. Because Ambleside is so open, there’s not a lot of room to play around with session times.
Ambleside Park is not for you if… you want a variety of location types in your session. While there is a treed area nearby, the beauty of Ambleside really is the beach.
The trail from the parking lot towards the Lighthouse takes you through some lovely mossy forested areas ending at a rocky outcrop overlooking the Straight of Georgia. It is located in the residential Caulfield neighbourhood of West Vancouver.
Lighthouse Park is for you if… you want a session with a mix of forest backdrop and the characteristic big rock vista of Lighthouse Park.
Lighthouse Park is not for you if… mobility is an issue. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot to the Lighthouse. The trail is not technical but there are some ups and downs. Once we reach the water there is typically some scrambling involved getting around the rocks.
Session tip: Parking is somewhat limited at Lighthouse Park so leave yourself lots of time to wait for a spot for evening sessions.
Best Photoshoot Locations in North Vancouver
Little Cates Park in Deep Cove is perfect for families of all ages. It has a big parking lot and, while it can get busier in the evenings in the summer, you’ll generally have it all to yourself if you choose a morning session.\
Deep Cove is for you if…. you like a rocky beach that’s fun to walk on, with a stunning backdrop of trees and mountains.
Deep Cove is not for you if… you want a grassy field. The fields at Little Cates aren’t particularly pretty.
Session tip: Deep Cove is another location that’s best at low-ish tide. It’s worth finding a date where sunrise or sunset are not at high tide so you have some rocks to play around on.
Lower Seymour Conservation Area
The easiest place to access the Lower Seymour Conservation Area in a place that’s perfect for portraits is near the Rice Lake parking lot. You can usually find a spot in the parking lot.
Lower Seymour is for you if… you live on the North Shore and want a forest session. Of course, forests abound on the North Shore but I particularly like this spot as there is easy access from a parking lot where the forest is a little less dense, so pretty light filters through. And there’s a field nearby! Lots of variety at this session location.
Lower Seymour is not for you if… you want portraits by the water. Even though we’re in the Rice Lake parking lot it’s a bit of a walk to get to the actual lake and the trail tends to be busy in that area.
Maplewood Flats is a surprisingly quiet nature reserve on Dollartan Highway in North Vancouver. It has lots of lush geenery with packed gravel trails.
Maplewood Flats is for you if… you’re looking for a more private location with lots of greenery, different from the more typical forested areas of the North Shore.
Maplewood Flats is not for you if… you don’t love the look of groomed, packed gravel trails. Maplewood Flats is a mix of more open spaces and lush green spaces, but most areas here are packed gravel.
Session tip: Pack bug spray for evening sessions. This is another location that tends to be on the buggy side.
The Shipyards is located next to Lonsdale Quay on the North Vancouver waterfront. There are lots of buildings with great textures as well as the more wide plaza and pier. The area can be very busy on summer evenings so a morning session during the summer is likely a better idea. The Night Market runs on Friday evenings from early May to late September so Friday sunset sessions are not an option during that time.
The Shipyards is for you if… you’re a North Shore family wanting an urban feel.
The Shipyards is not for you if… you want any greenery. You won’t find any long grasses or trees here.
Best Photoshoot Locations in White Rock and Surrey
This location definitely places high on the list of my favourite places to photograph families. Crescent Beach is located in South Surrey/White Rock and is not that far off Highway 99, which makes it a good option for Vancouver families as well as those south of the Fraser. I could photograph here every day and not get tired of it. This location rounds out my top 3 list of best photoshoot locations in Vancouver (even if it’s not technically in Vancouver).
Crescent Beach is for you if…. you love long grasses, sandy ground, big sky and ocean breezes.
Crescent Beach is not for you if… you want a summer, weekend evening session (or even a summer, weekday evening session if it’s a hot day).
Session tip: Parking can be hard to come by in the evenings at Crescent Beach in the summer. Make sure you plan to arrive early to give yourself time to find a spot.
Elgin Park is a great alternative to Crescent Beach on a sunny, summer weekend. It’s private and has lots of parking. Located along Crescent Road in Surrey, you can find it right next to the more popular Historic Stewart Farm.
Elgin Park is for you if… if you want a session at Crescent Beach on a sunny, summer weekend and know it’s going to be way too busy. While there isn’t water here, it still has some lovely long grasses and pretty trees.
Elgin Park is not for you if… mobility is an issue. While the trail is completely flat, the location I like to photograph in is a 5-10 minute walk from the parking area.
Located just off Highway 1 near 176th Street, this location is easily accessible from the freeway. It has groomed gravel trails bordered by fields with long grasses.
Tynehead Park is for you if… you’re looking for a session location with long grass and pretty light outside of Vancouver.
Tynehead Park is not for you if… you don’t like dogs. One of the prettiest places to photograph at Tynehead Park is in the off-leash dog area. You’ll definitely need to watch where you’re stepping when we move off the path. If you’re nervous around dogs, I’d give this location a pass.
Best Photoshoot Locations in Richmond
Britannia Shipyards is an interesting location with lots of texture located in Richmond along Steveston Harbour. The historic buildings make for a beautiful backdrop, especially if you like natural or white wood.
Britannia Shipyards is for you if…. if you’re going for a casual, natural style but don’t want to go the field route.
Britannia Shipyards is not for you if… you’re not into wood. From wood boardwalks to wood buildings to wood fences, there’s lot of it here.
Garry Point Park
Another great location right in the Steveston area. Garry Point Park has a huge open field with nice long grasses and natural sandy pathways. For older kids there are also rocks and logs down by the water.
Garry Point Park is for you if… you love the neutral long dried grass look (which I do) and love to be near the water.
Garry Point Park is not for you if… you’re hoping for lots of trees. Garry Point Park is very open.
Iona Beach is located near the Vancouver airport and is a great choice for Vancouver families who want to be near the water but don’t want to do Jericho Beach or Spanish Banks. There are sandy rolling hills covered in long grasses and low shrubs and then, of course, the beach which is covered in logs. With the logs to climb on and all the planes flying overhead, this is a fun location for kids.
Iona Beach is for you if… you want a natural setting without defined pathways and the option for beach portraits at the end of your session.
Iona Beach is not for you if… you’re looking for forests or mountains. There’s none of that here.