A question I get all the time is, “what are some locations you recommend for our shoot?” so I’ve decided to compile my top 10 engagement photoshoot locations in the greater Portland area! So hi clients that I’ve sent here! And hi new friends just looking for some ideas!
Technically a lot of these spots aren’t in Portland proper but nothing is further than a 2 hour drive from city center. Also important to note that I’m calling these the top engagement photo locations but they would be great for really any type of photos!
Lastly, I have to start off by saying Portland is filled with a hundred secret spots and popular locations that could all be turned into a photoshoot backdrop. We are lucky to live in a place that has such lush forests, expansive views, and fun urban environments. That being said – these are some of my favorites (in no particular order). Let’s jump right in!
It was not easy to pair it down to those 10 but there you go! Keep scrolling to find photos from each spot as well as a short description!
Nestled just west of the bustle of city and randomly next to the zoo is Washington Park. Within this area there are several subsets one of which is Hoyt Arboretum (you can also find the Rose Garden nearby!). Depending on the time of year you go it’ll be almost unrecognizable. It’s known for having one of the best shows of fall color in October and still remains evergreen in the winter. There are lots of trails and various backdrops to explore! Hoyt is maybe 10 minutes from city center and very accessible.
An engagement session in Forest Park is hard to beat. It is one of the largest urban parks in the world with over 80 miles of trails and just minutes from the city streets. Not only does it have dense trails with massive green trees, ferns, and so much booming life but it borders some great spots like Cathedral Park (keep scrolling to see more!) and Pittock Mansion which means its easy to pair up locations for your shoot. Expect mud most days of the year and be ready for some light hiking.
I know that is a broad location but that was intentional! The backdrops Northwest Portland has to offer are variable and require some exploring. I’ve found an area I really like near Castaway (a wedding venue you should definitely check out). Its got every color of brick you can imagine and a “city feel.” It’s also not far from city parks like The Fields Park, parking garages with views of the city scape, and Salt & Straw for an impromptu ice cream date. This is a great option for city folk who feels like thats where their soul belongs!
If you ask me to go to Mt. Hood with you I will nearly cry in excitement. I was born a Cali girl but the mountains have since taken a piece of my heart. Enough about me, this is about you! Mt. Hood and its surrounding area has so much to offer. In the summer there are various beginner hikes you can do to spots like Trillium Lake, Mirror Lake, or going up beyond Timberline Lodge. In the winter there’s endless snow parks that offer opportunities to snowshoe, hike, or just play. An adventurous spirit and comfortable shoes are a must!
If you’re a local you know this is just known as “the gorge” and refers to the natural area surrounding the Columbia River. I’m only going to touch on some of the spots you can venture with a view of the river. My personal favorites in this order are Government Cove, Vista House, Rowena Crest, and Portland Women’s Forum. See a blog post from an engagement session here! All a little different and all best at sunrise or sunset. An engagement session at government cove is amazing because its secluded and allows for sufficient romping around (see photo below). Beyond this the Gorge has so many waterfalls and trails to check out.
Another favorite – I told you I’m indecisive! I moved to the pacific northwest 2 years ago in December of 2017 which was just months after the major Gorge fire that destroyed thousands of acres of natural area. Since then trails have had to be closed down (still some of which have not reopened) and this was one of those trails. It opened again for hiking midsummer of this year and I didn’t waste a minute not having an engagement shoot at Wahclella Falls. Its simply magical and because its a 2.5 mile hike it weeds out those who are not willing to make the short trek. I advise packing the outfit you want to wear in a pack and wearing hiking gear for the walk in. Highly recommend jumping in the water on a warm day.
Another gorge photoshoot, another waterfall. Not just any waterfall though. Latourell is quite impressive and is the closest major waterfall to Portland. It falls off its ledge for 250′ before hitting land again. It’s generally very muddy and windy whilst spraying water at you if you get close enough. Generally, this spot is a little more crowded than others I have mentioned so if you have the ability to go during the week at off hours thats highly recommended.
This coastal spot is a little bit more of a trek but its SO worth it! I am saying Cape Kiwanda, but really any Oregon coastal beach is going to be stunning. Hug Point, Pacific Beach, Canon Beach, and many others are fabulous options as well. An engagement at Cape Kiwanda just offers something a little more unique with its rock formations and vibrant orange colors. You can run up and down the sand dunes, explore the rocky hills, and frolic on the beach with your dog all at the same place. Catch a beautiful summer sunset here and you’ll never want to leave.
The Eastbank Esplanade may seem random as you drive in and park under the highway. As soon as you get down onto the docks near the water everything become more clear as to why people love this spot. It offers probably one of the best views of downtown Portland and it’s bridges. The Esplanade itself spans a mile and half long so there’s plenty of area to explore. I would personally (depending on the length of your shoot) pair this location with somewhere else like Sellwood Park, NW Portland, or even just go explore some funky shops on SE Hawthorne street together! Check out this blog post where we went to Pittock Mansion and the Esplanade here.
Last but certainly not least in our list of engagement photoshoot locations in Portland is Cathedral Park. A haven for lovebirds, proposals, and engagements when you walk under the base of the bridge it’s easy to know why. There’s a lot this park has to offer with walking paths, big open fields, docks, and a little beach in addition to the view of St. Johns Bridge. The park is located in North Portland maybe 10 minutes from city center. There’s a little brewery you can grab a beer at before, after, or even during your session.
You’re engaged and there’s so much to celebrate and plan! Don’t let the decision of choosing a location for an engagement shoot stress you out. You seriously can not go wrong in beautiful Portland, Oregon.
Never hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! Contact me!
Kelsey Straus is a PNW Elopement +
Intimate Wedding Photographer
based in Portland, Oregon