Portrait Photography Locations in Durham, Chapel Hill, and beyond

Whether you are looking for the perfect place to have your engagement session or a great setting for your next family portrait, here are some of my favorite outdoor locations to shoot. 


Jump to:    Chapel Hill  ↠   Durham  ↠   Hillsborough  ↠  Pittsboro  ↠  Raleigh



Merritt’s Pasture

Merritt’s Pasture is an incredibly beautiful plot of land that can be accessed via the Morgan Creek Trail. It’s a bit of a walk to reach, but once you are there it is oh so peaceful + perfect. It’s a particularly lovely place for couples + engagement sessions.

Directions | Images

Coker Arboretum

Coker Arboretum is a superb place for sessions that is located right on the UNC Chapel Hill campus + beautifully maintained by the North Carolina Botanical Garden. The arboretum is open from dawn til dusk daily, admission is free, & there is plenty of metered parking nearby.


UNC Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a beautiful campus that is full of beloved icons like the bell tower + Old Well. It is a great spot for seniors, alumni, newly engaged grads, Tar Heels fans, or families to have their session. 


Forest Theatre

The Forest Theatre is a very cool, stone amphitheater structure that makes for a striking, architectural backdrop in portraits. This location is great for engagement + family sessions with older kiddos. It is open to the public from dawn til dusk daily (with the exception of performances + private events). Admission is free & parking is easy as pie.



Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens is an absolutely amazing location for  portrait sessions. Regardless of the time of year, it always seems to be beautiful + in bloom. As one of their member photographers, I would be thrilled to photograph you here (& am able to do so without you having to shell out the extra $100 for a session permit). If you are interested in having your shoot at Duke Gardens, please let me know & I'd be happy to set it up for you! The grounds are open daily 8:00 a.m. til dusk & parking is available in their metered lot.


Duke Park

Duke Park is one of my favorite places for photographing children + families in Durham. There are a couple of different areas around the park with beautiful natural backdrops & two different playgrounds that are perfect for candid images of your kiddos playing once we're done capturing the whole family together.



West Point on the Eno is located just north of downtown Durham & is a perfect location if you are looking for a woodsy + rustic feel for your photographs (minus travelling too far from the city). It is a giant park with miles trails to wander, three historic buildings, and- of course- the scenic Eno River. The park is free and open daily from 8:00 a.m. til dusk & there is ample free parking there, as well.


American Tobacco Campus

American Tobacco Campus is located right in downtown Durham & is definitely one of the most iconic places on this list. With plenty of clean brick walls, old murals, an open lawn, & the Lucky Strike water tower, there are plenty of great backdrops to be found here. Free parking is available on the street & in one of the three parking decks.


Durham Central Park

Durham Central Park is located right in the heart of Durham + is a beloved place to many. Notable visual features of this location include its pavilion, open lawn, playground, and gardens. Plenty of nearby, on-street parking is available.


Duke East Campus

Duke East Campus is one of those places that you might not necessarily think of as being a great place for photographs, but it totally is. With it's well-kept lawns, big trees, & old, classic buildings, it is probably one of the more open green spaces on this list. 



If you are looking for something a little different for your session, how about a stroll around downtown? There are so many great places to shoot (one of my favorites is in front of The Durham Hotel) that we surely won't be lacking in options. 


ENO RiveR State Park

Eno River State Park is located about 15 minutes northwest of downtown Durham and has a slightly different feel than West Point on the Eno. While this location also features lots of woods + beautiful trails, what sets it apart is one very cool suspension bridge and an empty wilderness cabin. This portion of the river is super fun to explore & also has some great flat rocks in the river to stand/sit on for photographs. The park is free and open daily + there is ample free lot parking, too.



Hillsborough River Walk

The Hillsborough River Walk has a giant piece of my heart for sure. There are plenty of woods, paved paths for strolling, & a few attractions along the way like Gold Park + even an amazing installation by Patrick Dougherty. The walk is open from dawn til dusk daily, admission is free, & there is plenty of parking available at Gold Park and Weaver Street Market.


Maple View Farm

Maple View Farm is a really fun place to have a session if you are looking for something a little bit different than the norm. The farm land there is absolutely lovely + a little ice cream picnic is always a crowd pleaser that is perfect for taking sweet, candid shots.


Ayr mount

Ayr Mount really is a special place + provides the perfect scenic backdrop for all types of sessions. It features an amazing historic home, trails, a pond, and most of all - a quiet and serene atmosphere. The only hitch to shooting on the grounds is that they do require you to make a reservation for your session in advance and pay a $50/hour fee (which I'd say is totally worth it).

Other notable Hillsborough locations:  Occoneechee MountainOcconeechee Speedway Trail



Camden Park

Camden Park is such a beautiful, little park that is situated just beside Fearrington Village. I absolutely love shooting at this spot & it's a great alternative if you had your heart set on a session at Fearrington Village (Fearrington doesn't allow professional portraits on their grounds unless you are getting married there). Camden Park is a gem of a spot with beautiful trees, paths, lawns, & two large ponds. Admission and parking are free.



Jordan Lake

Jordan Lake is a great place to shoot with plenty of awesome woods to explore, a small beach, playground, and- of course- the giant, beautiful lake. Admission to the state recreation area is $6/car during the week & $7/car on weekends, public restrooms are available, & is plenty of lot parking.



jc raulston arboretum

JC Raulston Arboretum is a wonderful place to shoot with an array of beautiful, natural backgrounds for your session. The arboretum opens daily at 8:00 a.m. & closes at 8:00 p.m. April-October and at 5:00 p.m. November-March. Admission is free, public restrooms are available in the visitor center, & is plenty of lot and on-street parking available.


North Carolina Museum of Art

The Ann & Jim Goodnight Museum Park at the North Carolina Museum of Art is currently one of my absolute favorite places to shoot in Raleigh. In addition to being the home to beautiful public art & great trails, there is also a variety of modern, sculptural, and open natural backgrounds for your portraits to be found there. The park is open daily from dawn til dusk, admission is free, public restrooms are available, & is plenty of lot and on-street parking available.


William B. Umstead State Park

William B. Umstead State Park is a large state park with beautiful woods, lots of trails, + three small lakes. Admission to the park is free & there is plenty of free lot parking available, as well.


Lake JohnSon Park

Lake Johnson Park is a great location for your session if you are looking for woods + water close to downtown Raleigh. Admission is free & there is plenty of free lot parking available, as well.

OTher Location Ideas..


While the locations listed above are definitely all great options, the possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to where to have your portrait session. I love working in unique locations that are meaningful to you + off the beaten path a bit, so if you already have a special place in mind for your session, definitely let me know - I'd be thrilled to hear what you are dreaming of and eager to shoot somewhere new.

If you're still not quite sure about where to have your session + would like a little bit of help in brainstorming a meaningful place to take your portraits, please be in touch & I'd be more than happy to help you find the perfect location that will bring your personal vision to life.


Other location ideas

  • Your home / backyard (or a friend or neighbor's)

  • A family farm or property

  • Your favorite local park / playground

  • A pretty field that you drive by everyday

  • Your favorite places (i.e. an ice cream parlour, bookstore, bar, hiking spot, etc.)