Picking the right location that suits your needs, desires, and aesthetic preference is essential for getting great photographs. Luckily, this region of NC is booming with picturesque and diverse locations to fit every vision, personality, and session-type. One thing I tell my clients when they are considering a location(s), is to think of it like a "date with me." Let's explore and have fun! If your the city-type, pick your favorite bar, coffee shop, restaurant, venue, etc. If you're the outdoorsy type, pack a picnic, bring your bike, disc golf set, etc. If you are the shy, intimate type, think about how you can stage your home or someplace out of sight of the public eye. Whatever your personality, try to envision something interactive and unique to you and your lifestyle. One of my all-time favorite engagement sessions featured a fun-loving rockabilly couple whose shoot locations took place in a retro arcade, their favorite dive bar, and a classic beach boardwalk. The photos turned out absolutely stunning because they were 1) having fun and not focused on the camera 2) in their "element" and 3) able to be their true, authentic selves. Having trouble deciding or have a different/specific idea in mind? Contact me directly and let's brainstorm! Conceptualizing, styling, and location scouting just happen to be both my forte and passion and I'm all for thinking outside the box!
A M E R I C A N T O B A C C O C A M P U S
Once home to the Lucky Strike Cigarette Factory in the early 1900's, American Tobacco Campus has been transformed into a one million sq ft entertainment, residential, and business park. This location is perfect for families and individuals who want a hip urban and retro vibe to their photos. However, due to the popularity of this location, certain rules and policies apply that are strictly enforced. No outfit changes and no shooting in parking decks are two big ones. For more information click on the photo below.
D O W N T O W N
Downtown Durham is loaded with fun and unique photo ops! From colorful graffiti and large scale murals, vintage signs and retro buildings, parking decks with incredible 360 views, quaint and charming shopping malls, numerous exposed brick walls, a central park featuring modern metal sculptures, and railroad tracks that literally just come to a stop, Downtown Durham offers a wide variety of backdrops and scenery perfect for creating a vibrant urban feel in your photos. If you like exploring and don't mind doing some walking, downtown Durham is the best for variety and flair! Click photo below for more info.
S A R A H P. D U K E G A R D E N S
A highly popular spot for Wedding, Engagement, and Family Portraits, Duke Gardens is absolutely breathtaking Spring through Fall--and still beautiful during the dead of Winter. Featuring several bridges, water features, and various unique structures, Duke Gardens is a prime location if you desire a natural environment with tons of greenery, textures, and diverse species of plants. Although admission is free, photo shoots must be scheduled and approved ahead of time and a permit must be purchased. For additional info, click on the photo below.
W E S T P O I N T O N T H E E N O
If you are looking for a rustic or nostalgic feel to your photos, look no further. West Point on the Eno offers water attractions including a fountain and a dam (pictured below), an iron and wooden pedestrian bridge, a mid 1800's mill and house, and plenty of trees, trails, and rocks. Bonus amenities include on-site restrooms for quick and easy outfit changes and plenty of free parking. Click on the photo below for more info.
E N O R I V E R S T A T E P A R K
Slightly different feel than West Point, Eno River State Park definitely embodies the same rustic/woodsy vibe but, has one thing that really sets it apart--an awesome suspension bridge! Plenty of river views, flat rocks and fallen trees perfect for standing/posing on, and an old log cabin. Click on the photo below for more info.
D U K E E A S T C A M P U S
With it's well-maintained lawns, big trees, and old traditional buildings, Duke University's East Campus is ideal for those wanting wide open green spaces.
D U K E P A R K
A great location for family/children sessions. Features two beautiful natural backdrops and playgrounds perfect for capturing candid shots of your kids.
O T H E R N O T A B L E S P O T S & R E F E R E N C E S
J C R A U L S T O N A R B O R E T U M
Featuring a diverse variety of beautiful and natural backgrounds, vibrant botanicals, exotic plants, and eclectic structures, the JC Raulston Arboretum is a stunning location perfect for engagement & bridal sessions, family photos, individual portraits, and fashion. Click on the photo below for more info.
N C F A R M E R' S M A R K E T
One of my favorite places in Raleigh to visit, the State Farmer's Market hosts an outdoor market filled with local produce and plants and an indoor market housing tons of pickled products, locally-sourced meat, and various other NC products. Featuring a fresh seafood diner and a traditional Southern-style restaurant, the farmers market is a great place for families wanting fun, low-key, candid and documentary-style photography versus traditional posed photography. Click on the photo below for more info.
N C M U S E U M O F A R T P A R K
A highly popular spot for engagement sessions and wedding photography, the NC Museum of Art Park features crisp, modern architecture and sculptures, a Zen pond and garden, gently rolling hills, and lots of green open space. Admission is free, park is open from dawn to dusk, public restrooms available on-site, and plenty of parking. Click on the photo below for more info.
W I L L I A M B. U M S T E A D P A R K
Umstead Park is a huge state park full of spectacular trees, three small ponds, trails, bridges, and a super cool chainsaw art tree thats perfect family and engagement sessions, individual portraits, and fashion shoots. Click on the photo below for more info.
L A K E J O H N S O N P A R K
Close to downtown Raleigh, Lake Johnson Park is perfect for those wanting a woods + beach vibe. Boat Rentals are also provided in case you want some fun candid shots on the lake! Click on the photo below for more info.
D O W N T O W N R A L E I G H
Combining sleek modern, industrial, and classic architecture with colorful and unique sculptures, installations, and murals, Downtown Raleigh is perfect for those wanting a contemporary and urban vibe in their photos. Click on the photo below for more info.
O T H E R N O T A B L E L O C A T I O N S & R E F E R E N C E S
C O K E R A R B O R E T U M
Located on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus, Coker Arboretum is a popular choice for family photos and engagement sessions. Open dawn till dark, superbly maintained, free admission, and plenty of nearby metered parking. Click on the photo below for more info.
U N C C H A P E L H I L L
One of the most beautiful campuses there is (particularly in Spring and Fall), UNC Chapel Hill is perfect for all types of portrait sessions. Featuring legendary icons like the Old Well and Bell Tower, UNC is a great spot for students, alumni, recent and newly engaged grads, Tar Heel fans, and family alike. Click on the photo below for more info.
M E R R I T T ' S P A S T U R E
Although it's a little bit of a hike to access Merritt's Pasture directly from the Morgan Creek Trail, it's totally worth it if you are looking for a peaceful & pastoral type location perfect for engagement, bridal, and family sessions. Click on the photo below for more info.
F O R E S T T H E A T R E
Featuring a striking stone amphitheater structure, Forest Theatre is free, open from dawn to dusk, and has plenty of free parking. Click on the photo below for more info.
O T H E R N O T E A B L E S P O T S & R E F E R E N C E S
F O R T F I S H E R
One of the most popular sites for all session types due to the iconic live oak trees, large granite rocks, ocean backdrop, and historical value. I've shot countless weddings, engagement, family, fashion & lifestyle sessions here. Open to the public from dawn till dusk, plenty of free parking, and incredible 360 views. Click on the photo below for more info.
S O U T H E N D A T F O R T F I S H E R
Where S 421 (I-40 East) ends, literally. Featuring a walking path to Zeke's Island (only during low tide), vibrant green marshlands, incredible views of the Cape Fear River, and an iconic oak tree atop a gently rolling hill overlooking the Ferry system, the South End is an extremely popular spot for family and engagement sessions. Bonus perk is the 20 minute ferry ride ($5 a car) over to Southport, a quaint, charming, historic coastal town also perfect for photos.
H E R M I T T R A I L A T F O R T F I S H E R
One of the best not-so-kept secret locations. Featuring an easy two mile trail that leads from the Fort Fisher Visitor's Recreation Area to an incredible view of the Cape Fear River (talk about epic sunset pics), the Hermit Trail is named after Robert E. Harril (aka the Fort Fisher Hermit) who lived in an old WW II bunker located off the trail during the late 60's and 70's. Serene, private, and quiet (depending on the time of year and day), this spot is perfect for engagement, bridal, family, and maternity sessions. Click on the photo below for more info.
S O U T H P O R T
Located 20 miles south of Wilmington, NC, Southport is a charming coastal town that's perfect for casual, candid family and engagement sessions. You can access Southport via car or $5 ferry ride from Fort Fisher (my favorite and best for views and more photos). Multiple movies have even been filmed here because of its quintessential Southern charm. Rent "Safe Haven," "Sleeping With the Enemy," or "I Know What You Did Last Summer" to see Southport in all its Glory. Click on the photo below for more info.
C A R O L I N A B E A C H B O A R D W A L K
Renovated in 2015, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk features a plethora of laid-back restaurants, independently-owned retail shops, ice-cream and coffee parlors, a seasonal carnival, and outstanding views of the ocean. This location is perfect for families wanting vibrant, colorful, coastal-themed candid photos. On Thursdays (during season) and holidays, expect to see a spectacular fireworks show complete with a pre-show live concert featuring one of the region's most popular local bands. Click on the photo below for more info.
C A R O L I N A B E A C H S T A T E P A R K
If you're looking for a woods + water vibe, the Carolina Beach State Park combines plenty of hiking trails, beautiful views of the Cape Fear River, an iconic giant sand dune called "Sugarloaf," a boat dock, and plenty of free parking. The State Park even offers charming little log cabins available for rent. Click on the photo below for more info.
S O U T H E N D A T W R I G H T S V I L L E B E A C H
With stunning 360 views of the Intracoastal Waterway, Masonboro Island, and the Atlantic Ocean, the South End at Wrightsville is the perfect backdrop for engagement and bridal sessions, fashion & lifestyle shoots, and family photos. The only issue is that parking can be a bit of an issue during prime season and on the weekends. Click on the photo below for more info.
A I R L I E G A R D E N S
A highly popular venue for weddings, Airlie Garden epitomizes Southern Charm with its gorgeous moss-covered trees, walking paths, seasonal blooms, historic structures, and contemporary sculptures. Due to its demand, a permit fee of $200 and advanced scheduling is required to secure a two hour portrait session on the grounds. Click on the photo below for more info.
N E W H A N O V E R C O U N T Y A R B O R E T U M
Located several miles from Wrightsville Beach, the Arboretum features a diverse variety of seasonal botanicals, a Japanese inspired zen Garden, a romantic stone gazebo, and a bounty of beautiful trees and plants native to the area. Admission is free and open to the public year-round (with the exception of a private event) from dawn to dusk. Click on the photo below for more info.
D O W N T O W N W I L M I N G T O N
Rich in history and culture, Downtown Wilmington combines old cobblestone streets, Civil War era structures, and classic buildings with modern architecture and contemporary sculptures. A scenic riverwalk offers pedestrians specular views of the Cape Fear River, Battleship, and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with a grid of bustling streets featuring hip boutiques and galleries, coffee shops, cafes, bustling bars and music venues. Downtown is the perfect location for anyone wanting an urban style setting with both a retro and modern vibe.
O T H E R N O T A B L E S P O T S & L O C A T I O N S:
Poplar Grove Plantation, Greenfield Lake, Harry Forden BridgeFort Caswell, Fort Anderson, Bald Head Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Surf City/Topsail Island, Kure Beach Pavilion, Top Instagram Spots in Wilmington & Surrounding Beaches, Top 66 Photo Spots in Wilmington, NC, Scenic Spots in Wilmington, NC