Portrait Photography Locations around Durham + Chapel Hill

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

 

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


CHAPEL HILL

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Coker Arboretum

Coker Arboretum is a great place for photographs 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.

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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, and families to have their session. 

Other notable Chapel Hill locations:  Battle Park, Carolina North Forest, Hartleyhenge


DURHAM

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Duke Park

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

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WEST POINT ON THE ENO

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.

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Sarah P. Duke Gardens

Sarah P. Duke Gardens is absolutely an amazing place to shoot. Whatever time of year it is, it always seems to be beautiful. 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 permit). If you are interested in having your session 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.

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American Tobacco Campus

American Tobacco Campus is located in downtown & is definitely the most iconic place on the Durham 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.

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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. 

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Downtown

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. 

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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.

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Duke CHAPEL

The area surrounding Duke Chapel is definitely a favorite place to shoot for Duke seniors, alumni, newly engaged grads, and families. The architecture here is really the highlight & there are so many great, nearby nooks around Duke's Main Campus to shoot.

Other notable Durham locations:  Duke Forest, Garrett Road Park


HILLSBOROUGH

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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.

Other notable Hillsborough locations:  Occoneechee Mountain, Maple View Farm, Occoneechee Speedway Trail


Pittsboro

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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.

 

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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.


Raleigh

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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.

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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.

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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.

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WRAL Azalea Gardens

The WRAL Azalea Gardens are located in downtown Raleigh just across from North Carolina State University. There are two gorgeous fountains, plenty of paths to wander, & flowers galore depending on the time of year that you are planning your session for. Admission is free & there is plenty of free lot parking available, as well.


OTher Location Ideas..

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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.)