With the great abundance of places to do family lifestyle photography in the Santa Cruz area, it can be a challenge just deciding which ones are the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations for your next family photography session. Will it be the deep forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains? Perhaps it will be at the beach? Everyone loves a photo shoot at the beach… But what about grandma? We need an easy-access photo location for grandma. Should we take family pictures at a park? Which park is the best – the state beach or the park with the landscaping and manicured lawn? How about the cute beach house we’re renting for the family gathering? It has a gorgeous garden! And these questions only scratch the surface of all there is to consider when planning a special family portrait session, like what to wear and what time of day to do those family portraits! But I digress.
Let’s just look at what one needs to consider when researching the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations.
- Accessibility. Do you need wheelchair access so everyone in your party can get to the portrait session? Or, is everyone in your party ready for rock-hopping and steep trails? Yes, we all love photos with stunning scenic backgrounds, but it’s no fun to arrive at your cool photo location only to discover that the trail down to that scenic beach is way too steep for some members of your group. You’ll want to be sure that everyone in the family can get to the Santa Cruz family portrait locations you are considering without hassle or stress.
- Weather and other Conditions. The best Santa Cruz family portrait locations are the ones offering the type of scenery you love, plus the right conditions at the time of your photo session. Expected weather is only part of the story. Time of day and the quality of light also have a great impact on the mood and quality of the results you’ll see in your finished portraits. A good outdoor portrait photographer knows that it’s best when the direction of the breeze lines up favorably with the direction of the most flattering lighting during a family photography session. If they don’t line up favorably you have to choose between unflattering portrait lighting or long hair being blown in everyone’s faces by the wind at their backs! As you can imagine, having detailed knowledge of local weather, lighting, geography, and other factors is essential to planning a great outdoor family portrait session. But it need not be complicated if you enlist the services of a knowledgeable and experienced local professional photographer.
- Matching the style or theme of your portraits with the location. This can be one of the easiest aspects of planning your portrait session, but it may still pose some challenges when it comes to getting your entire party on the same page when it comes to style, and what to wear. When doing lifestyle photography in the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations, it’s okay to dress up a little, but you might want to leave the spike heels and formal attire at home. Opt instead for clothing that is good-looking, according to your own taste, and try to get the whole family to agree on wearing either lighter or darker tones. If your portraits are being taken at a ranch, perhaps western-themed wardrobe will create the perfect match between your fashion statement and the setting. If you think the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations are the beachy ones, then let them all wear shorts and sandals, or dress up a bit. The goal is to create portraits that look true-to-life while also creating a good match between your wardrobe style and colors and the vibe at your portrait-taking location.
Sometimes it really helps to see a few examples to begin your planning process, so let’s take a look at a few of the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations.
As the first photo here, taken at Pajaro Dunes, suggests, having a family photo session at the beach is a blast! Santa Cruz County is known and loved for its beautiful coastline, and beaches are among our most popular locations for family lifestyle photography. You’ll ideally want to select a beach with fewer crowds, of course. Fortunately, this is usually easy to do on all but the most popular summer holidays, if you have knowledge of all the local beach portrait location options. Photos two through four were taken at the much wilder and more remote Panther Beach, near Davenport. While Panther Beach is indeed one of the best Santa Cruz family portrait locations, the steep trail leading to it is not for everyone! If you go here, be sure to wear sturdy shoes with good traction to safely navigate the approach, and PLEASE pack your trash out with you. To see even more of my family lifestyle portraiture in a wider variety of types of locations just click here. You can read more about my portraiture services in the FAQ page by clicking here.
Local neighborhood parks offer excellent opportunities for family photography, especially when you have infants, toddlers, or anyone else who may prefer easier access to your photoshoot location. Oftentimes, that park can be very close to your home, making the whole family photo expedition that much easier.
If you have access to a ranch property, it can be a very special photography spot. It’s a great place to bring the horses and create a variety of lifestyle portraits with a California Ranch theme. The next two portraits were made at a private ranch, but even if you don’t happen to own a ranch, or have a friend with one, you can do your family portraits at the much-loved Wilder Ranch State Park, just outside Santa Cruz.
The beaches and dunes of northern Santa Cruz County and southern San Mateo County – an area also known as The Slow Coast – provided the perfect setting for the next two family photos. I just may have a bias favoring the sweet and beautiful beachy places for family portraiture. Strong afternoon breezes are typical during spring and summer months, so be prepared for that. September through November often bring mild fog-free days with little wind, making Indian Summer a favorite time for us locals to enjoy the coast and a better bet for excellent photography conditions out on the northern beaches.
Below are a couple of Santa Cruz family portraits at Wilder Ranch State Park. These buckeye trees bloom beautifully in May and June.
Next up, we see the other most popular type of location for family lifestyle photography in Santa Cruz County – the redwood forest. It’s no secret that the Santa Cruz Mountains hold many of the very best Santa Cruz family portrait locations, and Roaring Camp is one place at the top of the list. Roaring Camp Railroads, with its steam trains and family-fun activities, also offers an extremely compelling way to bribe reluctant kids into going along with your family photography plans! Nearby trails offer a variety of great family portrait settings, including giant redwoods, the San Lorenzo River, and beautiful open meadowlands with grazing deer.
Is your family staying at a vacation rental home? You may be staying at another of our best Santa Cruz family portrait locations. If the property includes beautiful gardens or a great looking front entrance, like the one below, you can have a Santa Cruz family portrait photographer come directly to you, and create beautiful family photos without even packing everyone and their portrait outfits into the car. See if your photographer can visit the vacation home to plan the best areas for your portraits. Otherwise, they may be able to arrive a little early to scope out the best areas.