Best Places to Shoot Portraits in Salt Lake City

As photographers in Utah, we are completely spoiled with beautiful locations to shoot. Here are five of my favorite spots that I find myself suggesting to clients over and over again. They’re all free, photograph well year round, and are easily accessible.

The Great Salt Lake

The area around Saltair is my all time favorite in Utah! Backgrounds there include sand, water, rock, wheat fields, and areas that resemble the Salt Flats without the long drive. The sunsets are incredible and if you’re lucky enough to shoot while a storm is rolling through, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful clouds and light. The vast barren landscape makes your subjects pop and compliments clients who have a more contemporary aesthetic. Be prepared for bugs, rotten egg smell and walking through muck if it’s been raining but it’s worth it! Start your session here about one hour before sunset. There is no shade and if it’s not cloudy the sun will be coming in bright and harsh all the way until sunset.

Jordan Pines Big Cottonwood Canyon

You’ll always find a lot of photographers shooting at Jordan Pines but that’s because the mountain views are epic without having to hike in. There’s a large parking lot right near the shooting areas as well as a pit toilet if you need a changing room. This location shoots well all year because there are so many evergreens. When the rest of the canyon has shed its leaves and is showing empty branches, Jordan pines will still be lush and green, but be prepared to trek through some deep snow if there’s been a big storm recently. You will also find fall color when the aspens turn yellow. Backgrounds include a large open field, aspens, pine trees, a river, a road and mountain views in multiple directions. Start your session here 2-3 hours before sunset. There’s plenty of shade and the sun sets behind the ridge about an hour before sunset.

Downtown Salt Lake

If your client wants a more urban look I always recommend downtown near the library and Gallivan Plaza. There’s a large variety of backgrounds between Main Street and 3rd East, and 2nd and 4th South. Background options include grey slate, walls of glass, graffiti alleys, colorful brick walls, street scenes, skyscrapers, large scale murals, fountains, and ivy covered walls. Tell your clients to bring comfortable walking shoes and a backpack to carry their wardrobe items. I always park my car then make a big walking loop, shooting along the way. Start your session here 2-3 hours before sunset. You’ll have lots of shade from all of the buildings.

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The West Desert

I love shooting in locations where my subjects aren’t swallowed up by the background and that will look good with a variety of different home decor styles. The West Desert area near Lone Rock in Tooele does just that! Backgrounds here include sagebrush, sand, rock and distant mountain ranges. This is a great location if you want some privacy as there’s not usually other photographers there and the space is so vast you won’t have to fight for space. It’s also something I like to recommend if my clients have already done a mountain session before and want something different. Start your session here about one hour before sunset. There is no shade except right up against lone rock and if it’s not cloudy the sun will be coming in bright and harsh all the way until sunset.

Utah State Capitol

Need a free indoor location with some nice outdoor spots as well? The capitol has you covered. The capitol is open seven days/week and requires no reservation or shooting fee. There is lots of natural light inside the building as well as plenty of beautiful areas to shoot around the outside. Brides and grooms look especially great photographed here since the building is more formal. The only downside to this location is that tour busses are in and out all day so you may have an audience while you’re shooting. But don’t worry, they don’t typically stay long, and between busses you’ll have the place almost to yourself. Always check the online calendar to make sure there are no events scheduled for the main hall. If you’re shooting only inside, you can shoot any time of day. If you’re shooting inside and outside, start your session about two hours before sunset. Shoot inside first, then head outside for some golden hour shots.

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About the Author

  • Photographer. Traveler. Seeker of human connection. Alex specializes in contemporary women's portraiture and feels most alive when she's creating intimate and evocative images that make people feel beautiful and seen. She attended RMSP in 2011 and will always carry a fondness for Missoula and the places where she first learned to view the world through her lens. She calls Utah home but has traveled much of the world in search of experiences and connections bigger than herself. She's a little cheeky and a lover of home-made pasta, good wine, and lingering conversations with interesting, kind people.