Over the past 10 years, I’ve photographed families all over the Shenandoah Valley, but these are some of my top favorite locations for family photos in Charlottesville.
Locations are always one of the first and biggest decisions to make when planning your session, and many families are surprised to learn that there’s a lot more that goes into choosing this spot than some pretty scenery!
Sometimes the most “scenic” views make for the worst spots for a family session simply because of light and time of day restrictions. You’d be surprised at the locations for family photos in Charlottesville hiding right under your feet!
When shooting in public places, I recommend early morning or sunset sessions to avoid crowds and bystanders. Also, it goes without saying – light is key and those are prime times for flattering light. (There are always exceptions though, like in this mid-morning session at Chiles Peach Orchard!)
It’s important to keep in mind things like close parking and safety, especially for families with young kids. Nobody enjoys dragging kids (or a pregnant mama) for a mile to get to a secluded spot. I also opt to stay away from overlooks or rocky hills that may be scenic but are not friendly environments for playing.
I want your photos to be awesome, but I also want to create a good experience and simplify wherever possible, so I encourage families to choose locations that offer lots of flexibility and feel natural to them.
VIBE: Casual, intimate, and personalized to your style!
GREAT FOR: ANYONE, but especially families with kids 2 + under
FEATURES: not restricted to golden hour for lighting, comfortable, no travel time, best for incorporating pets, not weather-dependent, easy access to snacks 🙂
PRIME SEASONS: IDEAL choice for winter sessions, but great any time of year!
CONS: If you hate your home, let’s get outside instead.
VIBE: Rustic, diverse, and very open
GREAT FOR: families with little kids, seniors, and large families… basically anyone.
FEATURES: Large open field, wooded trails, white barn, creeks and bridges, and even a peek at the blue ridge mountains.
PRIME SEASONS: spring, summer, fall
CONS: no pets allowed!
VIBE: Scenic, natural
GREAT FOR: outdoorsy families
FEATURES: view of the mountains, dock and lake
PRIME SEASONS: all seasons!
CONS: It’s pretty crucial to stick to golden hour here due to lack of open shade. If you have little kids, choose a late fall or winter session here in order to hit an earlier sunset!
VIBE: Outdoorsy, beachy, natural
GREAT FOR: Small families who like the sand and water!
FEATURES: Access to river places to splash, pretty view, fields, woods
PRIME SEASONS: Summer (if getting in the water!), flexible for all seasons
CONS: no huge cons, here!
VIBE: Urban, funky, fun
GREAT FOR: families who are moving and want to capture a piece of their city, families with kids 3 and older, high school seniors
FEATURES: Variety, texture, bold colors – I love suggesting an ice cream stop or sweet treat break to incorporate into a shoot here to fully embrace the family fun
PRIME SEASONS: A great choice for winter sessions, but an option year round!
CONS: Must work around prime meal hours to avoid crowds
VIBE: Classic, traditional
GREAT FOR: alumni or military families who want to capture of a piece of their story through location, extended families, basically anyone 🙂
FEATURES: private gardens, rotunda and lawn, brick walkways, columns,
PRIME SEASONS: any!
CONS: It can be crowded in the fall on weekends because of students and football game traffic, but we can generally work around it by utilizing more private spots around grounds.
VIBE: Classic, clean, traditional
GREAT FOR: families who want a more manicured look to their photos, morning sessions
FEATURES: beautifully landscaped, lake, large oak tree with a view!
PRIME SEASONS: especially lovely in spring, but beautiful year-round
CONS: no huge cons on this one!
These are just a few of my top favorite locations for family sessions, but of course, I have a secret stash as well for all my families to find the perfect spot!
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