Sacramento’s Best Spots for Your Photo Session

03-11-2021
Outdoor maternity photography

Having grown up in Sacramento, I thought I knew this place inside and out. But it was only after becoming a photographer that I discovered just how little I knew of the place. Since then, my photography work has taken me to all sorts of quirky, lush, or off-the-beaten-path parts of the greater Sacramento area. What I’ve found there only makes me love this slice of California even more. But enough about me . . . this is about you!

If you’re reading this, I figure you can use a bit of help picking out a location for your next photo session. My goal is to help you capture images to help you celebrate this season of life, and to do it in a place that fits your vision. Whether it’s a maternity session, senior portraits, engagement photos or a session with your entire extended family, I can offer you some suggestions for some of my favorite locations around Sacramento.

I’ll sort the cities of Sacramento in alphabetical order, and then list some of my favorite spots in each place with info about what makes that spot great. So let’s start the search:


Auburn


Auburn State Recreation Area

Address: 501 El Dorado St, Auburn, CA 95603
Parking: ~$10, paid at a ranger station, limited parking spaces

In a scenic ravine just outside of Auburn, you’ll find the confluence of the Middle and North Folks of the American River. You’ll have lots of boulders and foothill foliage to work, rocky shorelines, with as well as a the beautiful No-Hands Bridge. Just be prepared for uphill walking to get the best shots. Expect to spend around ten dollars for parking at the ranger station near the confluence.


Carmichael


Ancil Hoffman Park

Address: 6700 Tarshes Dr, Carmichael, CA 95608
Parking: ~$5, paid at entrance booth or self pay station, plenty of parking

This sprawling suburban park offers plenty of tree canopy with rolling grassy hills. But just a few minute’s walk across the grass leads to a great stretch of the American River shoreline. There’s plenty of river rock, as well as a sandy shore or two for splashing in the water. You can also expect some epic sunsets while out at the river. What a beautiful space to explore!

Jensen Botanical Gardens

Address: 8520 Fair Oaks Blvd, Carmichael, CA 95608
Parking: No fee, limited number of spaces

This is one of the more popular spots on this list, and it’s easy to see why. It’s what happens when you blend a park with an arboretum and give it plenty of care. There are little winding trails, a number of redwood trees, ferns, a woodsy section with taller grasses as well some fences to climb on, and even an Olive tree grove. You can also count on plenty of fall color to pop here when Autumn arrives. Just remember that it can get crowded during fall weekends, and so weekdays can make for more peaceful sessions.

William B. Pond Recreation Area

Address: 5700 Arden Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Parking: ~$5, paid at entrance booth or self-pay station, plenty of parking

Here’s a prime spot for access to some narrow stretches of the American River, as well as to green, grassy stretches of parkway. You’ll enjoy the tree cover, as well as some great fields to make the most of the Sacramento sunsets. You can even make your way down to a wetland pond just at the edge of the river. Needless to say, this is a great spot for summertime sessions where you want to keep cool with some breeze or wading into the water.


Davis


UC Davis Arboretum

Address: 1 Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616
Parking: ~$10, paid at a variety of self-pay stations, plenty of parking

It’s hard to describe the sheer variety of scenery at this Arboretum. While Putah Creek is the thread that connects much of the Arboretum together, the foliage and feature you’ll see are diverse. Redwood groves, fields with tall grasses, a lake, flower gardens, gazebos and bridges make this a wonderful place for photos–and for just relaxing. Plan in advance to pick a section to utilize at the Arboretum is too large to explore in a simple 1-2 hour session.


East Sacramento


McKinley Park

Address: 3330 McKinley Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95816
Parking: No fee, limited number of spaces

While there is indeed a lovely park here, the highlight of this spot is the spacious and well-manicured rose garden. The rows upon rows of well-tended flowers offer a soft and colorful backdrop for your images. Trellises and arches will also make for interesting features in your photos. And when you run out of roses, palms, leafy trees and a charming pond provide plenty of other detail.


Elk Grove


Countryside Community Park

Address: Meadowhaven & Power Inn, Sacramento, CA 95828
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

Don’t be fooled by the name–this park is surrounded by city, but that doesn’t make it any less a gem. It offers paved walkways, open fields, groves of trees as well as geometric architectural structures. And because the park is relatively small, it’s also quite accessible without too much walking if you’ve got someone in your family who isn’t quite so mobile.


Folsom


American River Parkway

Address: 150 Iron Point Rd, Folsom, CA 95630
Parking: No fee (Light Rail Station), plenty of parking

Sure you’ll park at a Light Rail station, but a quick walk across Folsom Blvd. leads to a sprawling field of tall grasses and oak trees. The big sky views make for some epic sunsets, and the trees provide a great forested feel. Meanwhile, those downed trees make for plenty of creative ways to climb and play. Remember to wear close-toed shoes to keep those feet protected since this area has lots of pokey grasses and uneven ground top navigate.

Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park

Address: 9980 Greenback Ln, Folsom, CA 95630
Parking: ~$5, paid at self-pay station, plenty of parking

This is the place to come for rustic texture and historic vibes! The unique look comes courtesy of one of the country’s oldest powerhouses, built with all sorts of brick, steel and wood. But along with the powerhouse, you’ll find an old wooden cabin, beautiful foliage, as well as some woodsy walkways that lead down to the stony shores of Lake Natoma.

Willow Creek State Recreation Area

Address: Folsom Blvd. near Highway 50, Folsom, CA 95630
Parking: ~$10, paid at self-pay station, plenty of parking

Here on the southern shores of Lake Natoma you’ll find another gem of a location. With plenty of forest, a tree-tunneled driveway and lots of access to the lake, you’ve got lots of potential for making some beautiful images. Oh, and the open skies can make for plenty of color. Note that the beaches are not sandy, but covered with round river rock–which can make walking harder if you’re wearing fancy footwear, or have someone in your group who struggles with mobility.


Galt


Cosumnes River Preserve

Address: 13501 Franklin Blvd, Galt, CA 95632
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

If you want to get further away from the city during your shoot, here’s a beautiful place to do it. Partway between Elk Grove and Galt, you’ll find this wetland preserve that offers walking trails, tall grasses, forested stretches, a lengthy footbridge as well as some wooden boardwalks along some small lakes. The boardwalks in particular can make for some epic “big sky” sunsets.


Granite Bay


Folsom Lake State Recreation Area – Granite Bay Entrance

Address: End of Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay, CA 95746
Parking: ~$16, paid at entrance booth, plenty of parking

Folsom Lake is Sacramento’s largest body of water, and the land surrounding it makes for a beautiful and diverse playground. While you would rightly expect sandy and rocky beaches to explore, it also has miles of wooded trail, otherworldly granite boulders, and wild purple Lupine in the spring. Just be prepared to do a bit of driving and then walking to reach your destination. Getting to the water can require a bit of a hike during dry seasons when the water levels in the lake are low.


Lincoln


McBean Memorial Park

Address: 65 McBean Park Dr., Lincoln, CA 95648
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

This city park is nice enough, especially with the fall colors that emerge late in the year. But it’s the neighboring area bordering Auburn Ravine Creek that provides some some real nature vibes. The creek is shallow and easy to navigate or even wade into, and the woods around it are full of charm and color. This is a great place to feel like you’re far from home without a long drive.


Orangevale


Negro Bar State Recreation Area

Address: Park Road (off Greenback Lane), Orangevale, CA 95662
Parking: ~$10, paid at entrance booth, plenty of parking

Just off the north side of Lake Natoma lies this recreation area. Many come out here for swimming and kayaking on the lake, but it’s natural trails, boulders strewn along the beach, and even a unique stretch underneath Folsom’s Rainbow Bridge make it a great spot for your photo session. The paved trails make it easily walkable, and there’s plenty of parking to go around.

Orangevale Community Park

Address: 7145 Filbert Ave., Orangevale, CA 95662
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

This is one of my go-to places for vibrant fall colors in October and November, as the long wooded driveway next to park (next to an elementary school) is just bursting with yellow, orange, and red. And after you’ve enjoyed playing in the leaves or taking a stroll down a wooded tunnel, there’s a forested park next door that gives a great natural and woodsy feel.


Rocklin


Boulder Ridge Park

Address: 3555 Park Dr, Rocklin, 95765, CA
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

Walk just past this quaint suburban park and you’ll get a lovely view of the Sacramento Valley. The hillside area is covered with rocks and boulders, as well as some low-growing woods that even allow for some climbing for adventurous kiddos. Patches of tall grasses add a bit of soft texture as well. Though this is a standout spot because of the big sky views and sunset opportunities, though you’ll want to make sure you schedule later in the day so that the light of the sun isn’t overpowering. And bring some close-toed shoes to protect those feet from all those rocks.

Quarry Park / Memorial Park

Address: 3980 Rocklin Rd., Rocklin, CA 95677
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

This is one of Rocklin’s newer parks, offering all sorts of beautiful features and textured corners. The little rock walls, wooden fences, and woodsy areas make this scenic place to play–and because the park is fairly small, it’s quite walkable. Make sure to check out the old farm wagon. Though it does boast a small lake, fencing prevents you from walking down to the shores so don’t plan on splashing around.


Roseville


Adam Baquera Park

Address: 100 Painted Desert Ct, Roseville, CA 95747
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

You don’t have to get out of town to look like you’re out in nature–not at a location like this. This park is surrounded by Roseville suburbs, and yet offers up some beautiful woods to explore via a number of paved and dirt walking pathways. A bridge, lots of downed trees, and some open fields make for lots of possibilities in your images. And the number of trails make this park is easily accessible for members of your family or group who may have limited mobility.

Dry Creek Community Park

Address: 9235 Walerga Rd., Roseville, CA 95747
Parking: No fee, limited parking

Just a couple hundred feet from this city park is a forested stretch of tall trees growing along Dry Creek itself. It offers plenty of foliage and fields with taller grasses, as well as dirt walking trails. And in dryer seasons, the creek is low enough to capture photos on the shores of the creek–or feel free to kick off your shoes and wade in!

Old Roseville

Address: 311 Vernon St., Roseville, California, 95678
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking (city streets and parking structures)

If you’d like an urban feel to your photos but don’t want the city bustle, Old Roseville is a great spot to work with. With bridges galore, an old theater, and a gem of a city hall courtyard, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Also the City Hall courtyard is beautifully decorated at Christmas time, if you’re looking for themed holiday photos. and a local parking garage offers some beautiful sunset looks as well.

Roseville Veterans Memorial Park

Address: 1750 Blue Oaks Blvd., Roseville, CA 95747
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

Here’s another spot that I love for the naturally woodsy perimeter of the park even more than the park itself. The woods let in a great amount of light, and they surround a tiny creek that offers an opportunity to work a bit of water in your shots, as well as a bridge to explore. And as the sun begins to set, you can work in some images with a wide open field and an old wooden fence.


Sacramento


Capitol Park

Address: L St., Sacramento, CA 95814
Parking: Pay at parking meters, plenty of parking (city streets)

The seat of California’s government happens to be surrounded by some of the most diverse flora and architectural features in the city. This sprawling arboretum includes the World Peace Rose Garden, fountains, memorial structures, paved walkways, views of the Capitol building itself. One of my favorite spots is the succulent garden on the southeast side, which transports you into a cactus-covered desert setting.

The Kay / Downtown Sacramento

Address: 15th at K St., Sacramento, CA 95814
Parking: Pay at parking meters, plenty of parking (city streets and parking structures)

If you’re looking for some urban flair in your photos, downtown Sacramento–especially near K Street–really hits the spot. You’ll find bustling city streets, unexpected murals, parking garages, rooftop climbs along with plenty of funky and fun architecture. Keep in mind that this isn’t so much a shiny, glassy skyline as it is old and sometimes historical construction and tree-lined streets–and beautiful and soulful city.

Old Sacramento

Address: 1002 2nd St., Sacramento, CA 95814
Parking: Pay at parking meters, plenty of parking (city streets and parking structures)

Look along the shores of Sacramento River and you’ll a handful of city blocks that look relatively untouched from early California goldrush days. The shops and restaurants there evoke give a charming vintage vibe, with all sorts of old style signage and industrial texture. You’ll stroll along wooden boardwalks and streets paved with brick, duck into neglected alleyways, walk down to the river, pass by old steam engines, or event visit the iconic Tower Bridge. There’s no shortage of scenic spots to utilize.

William Land Park / WPA Rock Garden

Address: 15th Ave. and Land Park Dr., Sacramento, CA 95818
Parking: No fee, plenty of parking

Tucked inside one of Sacramento’s largest parks is the WPA Rock Garden. Though if I’m honest, it’s far more garden than it is rock–and what a garden it is! Year round, you’ll find different foliage growing and blooming here amongst the fences, walkways, trails, and trellises. Walk a little further afield and you’ll find a pond, amphitheater and a sprawling park covered by a canopy of trees. Though this is one of the more crowded spots I’ve shot at, there are just enough corners you can explore to make images that make it look like you’ve got the place to yourself.


Looking elsewhere for your session?

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the spots I love around Sacramento. You’d better believe that there are plenty of others that can also make an excellent backdrop for your images. If there’s a spot you’d like to try that’s not my list, I’d like to try it too. In fact, I love shooting photos at locations I’ve never been to before. Maybe it’s an area that’s off the beaten path, or maybe it’s a barn that you’ve been given permission to use. Just let me know what you’re thinking and we’ll make a plan for how to get the best out of that location.

If in doubt, just ask! Give me a call at 916.281.9616 or reach out to me by email at pj @ fitsandstopsphotography.com.

And rest assured, I can’t wait to capture your images!