Orange County offers stunning photogenic settings. In nearly every direction you look it offers great opportunities: whether it’s the picture-perfect ocean, scenic hills or vibrant cityscape. With so many options, where do you start?
Choose a Meaningful place
Every family is unique and full of diverse personalities. Choosing a suitable location to match your personalities is imperative to a successful photo session. The location not only sets the mood but also provides the lighting, tone, and texture to each portrait.
Take the time to think about familial hobbies and favorite places so we can incorporate them into your photo session. By using a location that is important to you, you’ll get much more personal, meaningful photos. As an added bonus, you’re likely to feel more relaxed which helps to capture a more natural-looking portrait.
Brightly lit location
Brightly lit locations offer plenty of diffused, natural light. The color and strength of natural light changes throughout the day. When outdoors, it is important to avoid the direct midday sun as this produces very harsh shadows. For this reason, the ideal times to shoot are in the early morning or early evening when the light is softer and more flattering.
For indoor photo sessions, choose a room with the most natural light. We will want to make the most of any available natural light. Observe what time of day that room shines brightest, and we will book your photo session then.
Choose somewhere quiet.
Crowded places, like cities or busy public parks, are among the least desirable locations to shoot. Simply because of the constant waiting for people to move out of the frame. My biggest concern for you and your family is your comfort level. There is a high possibility you will feel self-conscious with bystanders and struggle to relax watching strangers get out of frame.
Finding a quiet, secluded location is not as difficult as it might seem. If your meaningful place is in a city, or a popular area, let’s get off the beaten path, by moving just a few hundred yards away. We can usually find a spot where we can shoot undisturbed.
A location doesn’t have to be Grand
A suitable location is crucial in portrait photography, but it’s not the main subject. I don’t want a scene to overpower you or your family. A grassy field or woodland is perfectly fine. If there is a bit of a walk or a hike to the spot, will everyone cope with it easily? Will you or your family be happy to exert themselves to get to your awesome location? I am willing to take the hike to meet your dream location, (Big Bear, Sand Dunes, Joshua Tree to name a few) but please think about all those involved.
My main focus is you. The background scenery does not need to be pristine or beautiful. The techniques I have mastered allow the scenery behind to become a dappled canvas perfect for framing you. The location should provide nice lighting and soft colors but does not need to be photo worthy itself.
Please take these tips into consideration. The location will help to tell your story and capture the essence of your personalities, resulting in an amazing photo session that will last for generations.
Picture-Worthy Locations in Orange County
Everyone knows Orange County has some of the country’s best beach locations. That being said, for a more fun family photo with the waves in the background, and the beautiful sand to light up the photo, it is truly hard to go wrong at the beach.
Pros: Amazing rock formations. Neutral Colors. Open space, Great lighting. Wind for dress movement. A place to burn off some energy in the middle of the photo shoot. Kids can run around and play with beautiful scenery.
Cons: Frizzy hair if humid and windy. Sand everywhere. Could get wet. Usually much cooler.
Victoria Beach is hidden away from the general tourist population. It is usually occupied by locals who love the blue water and the seclusion from the chaos of the busy beaches.
Pros: This beach is one of the more secluded beaches of Southern California. Victoria Beach is also home to a famous stone structure called the ‘Pirate Tower.’ It makes for an excellent feature piece for photographs.
Cons: Unlike the popular beaches, Victoria Beach is only accessible through steep grades and stairs. Entrance and parking are difficult to find if you haven’t been there.
Crescent Bay Beach
Crescent Beach offers relaxing views of the ocean. It is picturesque. The beach is quiet and wide open. You can sit back and listen to the waves crash and spend hours here without even knowing it.
Pros: Intimate location. Easy residential parking. Bathroom near entrance.
Cons: Steep walks and grade changes. Challenging for children, wheelchairs, or the elderly.
Thousand Steps Beach
Thousand Steps Beach is unique because it is considered by locals as a “hidden gem”. It’s secluded, clean, and quiet, perfect for a great photo session.
Pros: Cave formations. Secluded. Three Arched Bay. Tidal pools.
Cons: It’s not called a thousand step for nothing. There are 230 steps you must walk each way. Not ideal for young families.
Montage Resort is located by Treasure Island. It features craftsman-style architecture, ocean views, and luxurious landscapes. If you want a mix of park and ocean views, this place is for you.
Pros: Public park is located next door to the resort.
Cons: Paid parking only.
Dana Point Headlands
The access to Headlands Beach is behind the Ocean Institute near the Dana Point Pier and the Pilgrim replica ship. The beach is not a long walk from where you parked. The beach can only be accessed in low tide. There are boulders and near the ocean institute are beautiful landscapes for individual portraits.
Pro: Many background options: Beach, Harbor, Panoramic, Jetty.
Con: Must go when it’s low tide. Winter months are better there.
Safe Place for kids to run around. Green grassy areas.
Pros: Kids can feel more themselves in an environment they know.
Cons: Kids can get distracted.
With stunning views over the Pacific Ocean, this area would make a dramatic background for photos that will impress your friends for years to come. There are several other noteworthy historical landmarks in the area. It offers cliff side views of the Pacific Ocean. Low bushes and even a sandy area. It has cool rock formations that are unique to the area.
Pros: Badlands Hiking Trail offers pristine views of the Laguna Beach coastline. Free public parking is available on Isle Vista street.
Cons: No bathrooms. Steep cliffs if we venture far. Must always watch children to be safe.
Niguel Botanical Reserve
This 18-acre reserve is open every day of the week, so making plans to have your family photo session here is easy and flexible. Dozens of walking trails, gardens, and even a beautiful, elegant labyrinth with amazing views await. Any photo session here will be full of color, plants, and that gorgeous California sunshine.
Pros: All different types of plants from tropical to desert environs, changing the style of the photo.
Cons: Some steep elevations and with stairs. Challenging terrain for disable.
Oso Creek Park
Oso creek park has something for everyone and wide variety of backgrounds to choose from. There are grassy pastures, creek views, and a couple of classic bridges. It has paved, dirt and tile paths. And wooden fences along the way. Oso is great trail to be intune with nature with butterfly gardens, fairy homes, and natural landscapes. It’s the perfect place to go explore. As a bonus, there’s a playground to take the kids afterwards.
Pros: Free parking at the Norman P. Murray Community Center. Plenty of shade, mature trees. We can shoot in the middle of the day if we need to.
Cons: No bathrooms on the trail. But there is bathroom near the community center.
Heisler Park is just off the Pacific Coast Highway near Laguna Beach’s Main Beach. The park provides easy access to the beach. The park is carefully maintained with rose garden, art, and wildflower native vegetation. Rabbits and ground squirrels are all common in this hotspot.
Pros: Colorful backgrounds and beach views.
Cons: Busy. Meter parking in the area is plentiful but fills up quickly especially during summer tourist months.
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park
The park provides open space and has a forest-like feel to it. There is tall grass, hiking trails, bridges, a ranch-style wood fencing and mature, tall trees. It features rolling hills. It also has a running spring with cobblestone rocks to bring out its beauty.
Laguna Niguel Regional Park
This park features a beautiful, picturesque lake that is home to plenty of wildlife. There is an iconic bridge with tall Sycamore Trees and a lovely trail.
Pros: Lake for a scenic background.
Cons: Small entrance fee to park in their facilities, but you can park through the neighborhood and enter through the open side entrance.
Urban photos are popular right now and can be a lot of fun. If you would like a super stylish photo session, then an urban setting is what you may be looking for. The texture and colors that an urban setting can offer make fantastic backdrops. Urban areas can be scheduled mid-day. often lean toward urban areas with architectural interest. Look for historic neighborhoods, seek out alleyways, parks, cobblestone streets, or even sidewalks that are shaded at midday. I recommend this look for branding individual that want to tell their story. Bringing forth some personality to a business brand.
San Juan Capistrano Mission, Los Rios Historic District
San Juan Capistrano is filled with colorful and vibrant backdrops, making it a perfect location to shoot. San Juan Capistrano Train Depot is bright and rustic and sits across the street from the city’s historic Mission. San Juan offers a rustic, ivory-covered brick building, and an old red train caboose dating back to 1869. The train station lends itself to undeniably unique photos. The Mission Building provides a historic site feature in a ivory color, with charming stone arches, bright flowering gardens, and pure Southern California sunshine.
Pros: Unique to the City of San Juan. Charming backgrounds.
Cons: To take pictures in this historic spot (the building) it cost $80 the hour and must be reserved in advance.
Streets are lined with trees with cute boutique shops. We can easily find a place that is not crowded.
Giant Ferris Wheel. Lots of Ambient light. Fountains placed throughout the outdoor mall. Lights will create a colorful twilight background.
Aliso Viejo City Lights Town Center
Perfect for personal branding. Working at the local coffee shop.
Tall grass with golden light is very beautiful as well! A field full of weeds can be surprisingly pretty in a photograph. You would be surprised at all the different locations a good photographer can make look amazing. I’ve seen spectacular pictures taken in a parking lot!
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
Tall grass. In the rainy season, fields are green filled with mustard plant flowers.
Pros: There are patches of unmaintained grassy fields all over Orange County. Most likely nearby where you live. We will be the only ones in this location.
Cons: You may want to bring bug spray if you are doing a field photo shoot. Mosquitos, ants, and spiders love tall un-mowed grass and may decide to join you. Snakes like it too so keep that in mind.
I have been fortunate enough to take a friend’s photos in her bedroom and I thought it was such a personal touch to the image. You not only capture your family, but you are able to capture the place where you spend the most time. By choosing to have your photos taken at home you can get a more “lifestyle” type feels to your images. It is as though; you are living your everyday.
Pros: Can Shoot mid- day. Comfort of your own home.
Cons: Get the house ready.
If you decide to have the photos taken in your house, do a little homework.
Light: Walk around your house. In what room do you want to have your photographs? Bedroom? Living room? Check and see when the light is best in that particular room, and consider the amount of light during the time of day you’ll have the photos taken. A room that faces east, while it may have a big window, may not have great light later in the day. This is important information for you to share with me. We want to be able to utilize the best light in your house.
Clutter: I know you will clean your house before the I show up but look around the room and take out the distracting elements. These may include Kleenex boxes, excess toys, and other knick-knacks that will detract from telling the story of your house. The simpler the surroundings, the more focus will be on you and your family.
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