Before I get to the locations, I feel like I should mention a few things. First, I'm located in Conshohocken, so that's the nucleus of where I shoot. I usually work with each client and pick a location near their house. Secondly, there are a few major things I look for in a location. It's not just the scenery. A few of the major traits that make a good location for me include:
- Scenic (obviously)
- Shady spots
- Not overcrowded
- Direction of the light
- Variety or unique scenery
Here are few of my favorite locations around the Philadelphia area:
Harriet Wetherill Park
This is probably my single favorite spot (with one major caveat that I'll get to in a bit). This park just about has it all. There are open green fields, a tree-lined perimeter (that is beautiful in the fall), picket fences, a wooden bridge, a stream, a butterfly garden, and dirt paths. The best part about it is that it's relatively unknown so it's never crowded. Now, the one major caveat is that the township just built a beautiful playground right in the middle. That doesn't really affect the photos, but it's tough to shoot here with kids older than about 1½ because they get distracted way too easily.
Philadelphia (Andorra section)
This place is great. It's part of the Wissahickon Valley (Valley Green) Park system. There are rolling fields of tall grasses that are somehow always the perfect height for photography. The field is surrounded by a beautiful tree-line. Next to the meadow is the beginning to the trail system of Valley Green which provides a little variety to the open meadow.
Norristown Farm Park
Norristown Farm Park is a massive 690-acre working farm public park that has been in continuous use since colonial times. The park has lots of open fields, walking trails, corn fields (depending on the season), and scenic barns and silos.
King of Prussia / Valley Forge
Any article about portrait photography locations in the Philadelphia area should obviously include Valley Forge. For those that haven't been there, the park is massive and there are tons of specific locations to shoot. Two of my favorite spots are the Knox Trail and General Washington's Headquarters. Both locations provide scenic architecture, lot's of green grass, shade from 100+ year-old trees, picket fences, and more. The only downside to shooting in Valley Forge is that sometimes a permit is needed.
This public national historic landmark is the only surviving residence of a colonial-era Pennsylvania governor. Graeme Park was constructed in 1722 as a summer residence and alternative to the governor's mansion. It has secluded trails, open fields, a tree-lined horizon, beautiful architecture, and more.
Rose Tree Park
Media / Upper Providence
This massive park (122-acres) used to be used for steeplechase racing. There are rolling green fields, benches, a gazebo, a nature trail, and three historical buildings in the park. The park is so big that you can always find a secluded spot, even during the busiest days.
All of the above are more rural parks. We obviously always have the option to go with a city location. I've used the term "city" generically because Philadelphia isn't our only option (although it's certainly a good one). Lots of other smaller cities work too. Other great options include Conshohocken, Manayunk, West Chester, and plenty others.