Favorite Session Locations in Charlottesville

More than meets the eye

Locations are always one of the first and biggest decisions to make when planning your session, and many clients are surprised to learn that there's a lot more that needs to go into choosing this spot than some pretty scenery! In fact, sometimes some of the most "scenic" views make for the worst spots for a full family session. And you'd be surprised at the locations hiding right under your feet that may not seem ideal, but given the right conditions and clients, are the perfect fit. 


Exhibit A:

this senior session was shot in a field about the size of a living room, next to a gravel parking lot in the city. 

Although visitors can take pictures pretty much anywhere, professional photographers are often limited to locations based on regulations and required permits.

For example, photo sessions at the many scenic wineries in our area are typically reserved for engagement photos of couples getting married at their venue or for the weddings themselves, as they are often booked on Saturdays, especially in the summer and fall.

Other things to consider:


When shooting in public places, I like to recommend early morning or sunset sessions to avoid crowds and bystanders so that you're not distracted/uncomfortable. This also expands our options of available space due to lighting and accessibility. Many locations require shooting during business hours of 9-5, which isn't always ideal for light, but we definitely can make adjustments to do so!

Other things I note when scouting: 


Close parking to our shooting spots is something I keep in mind for families with young kids - nobody enjoys dragging kids (or a preggo mama on sore feet) for a mile to get to a secluded spot. 


Your family is unique, so the last thing we want is a cookie-cutter shoot. I like locations that allow lots of options and place to round out the experience. 


These locations all provide areas of open shade that make shooting at relatively any time of day a possibility. This is a big one for me because while I would love to shoot in the "golden hour" every time (the 1-2 hour window of magical glowy light before sunset), this is rarely a possibility for families with young kids.

I like to think that families appreciate my flexibility and understanding from a parents' perspective. The golden hour often doubles as the witching hour for kids under 4 who typically are eating dinner, getting tired, and going to bed around that time. I choose locations that allow me to confidently create beautiful images, no matter what time of day. 

Here's a run down of some of my favorite location ideas to help  you start thinking about what speaks to your family's style best!


Your home!

Casual, intimate, and personalized - while it may not be the most dramatic, home shoots capture your lifestyle and your in their element. If home is where the heart is, it's a great place to capture genuine expression and meaningful moments. 



I love it when families are excited about making their session unique to them and fun for everyone. Incorporate activities you like to do together- apple picking, getting ice cream, wearing jerseys and playing ball in the backyard-- it's like a documentation of your authentic story. There are plenty of gorgeous and unique locations in the Charlottesville area, but the best are those that mean something to you!



Chris Greene Lake Park

This is not your everyday, generic park --wooden fences, rolling mountains, a quiet lake, and sandy beachfront provide a breath of fresh air and lovely options for families who love the outdoors.  


Ivy Creek Nature Preserve

This one is my go-to for people who love rustic. The white barn, open fields, and nearby woods provide tons of options and it feels so tucked away, while still being located just minutes from town. One downside is that it does not allow dogs, so if you want to include the family dog, this is not the place for you. Otherwise, a top favorite for sure!


Early Mountain Vineyards

This is one of my all time favorite vineyards and they are so nice about being open for sessions if there's nothing else going on. They require shooting during business hours, which is tricky for the long days of summer, but in the winter when the sun sets early, we can achieve a backdrop of gorgeous skies and the beautiful Blueridge mountains. 



Boar's Head: 

I love how this locations provides a classic feel with manicured lawns and landscaping by the lake, mature trees and views of the city, and the contrast of a chic stone patio. 


UVA grounds: 

The University of Virginia grounds boast quintessential Charlottesville style are architecture with white columns and lovely flowered gardens. If your style leans toward preppy and classic, this could be a great fit! 



Downtown Mall

Unique storefronts, color, and crisp lines galore.. Consider alternative options that are especially great for activity based and documentary shoots, like the tall, romantic walls of a local bookstore, or the playfulness of a vintage ice cream parlor.


IX Art Park

If you love texture and bright design, or consider your style to lean towards artsy/edgy, this spot is calling your name. Bold graffiti walls, interesting sculpture and architecture are just a few of the key features that make this location perfect for a quirky and color shoot. 



This is just the start of a list of every growing favorites which I'll continue adding and linking through the seasons! And while this advice may seem counterintuitive after just listing a bunch of locations, always remember:

 location is secondary to the main focus of any shoot -- YOU!

Your family, connection, and personalities will shine through no matter the backdrop :-)