Best portrait locations in ottawa

Have you ever laid awake at night just wondering "Hmm, I wonder where all of the best photo session locations are in Ottawa?!"

Okay, so you probably haven't, but I feel like this blog post is long overdue! I've been a pro photographer here in Ottawa for 11 years and I'm fiiiiiinally compiling and sharing my list! I get this question ALL THE TIME, so I'm finally putting it together for you, my friend!! You're welcome. ;)

Without further ado, here's my list of my personal favourite portrait locations in and around Ottawa, starting with Ottawa East locations (cause your girl is from the east end, yo!)

Ok here we go:

Petrie island beach

Petrie Island Beach is a great spot for beachy photos in the east end of Ottawa, in Orleans! There's also lots of trees nearby, and the parking lot is actually a surprisingly great spot for photos too! I know, it sounds ridiculous... But trust me! The parking lot is backed by a nice woodsy area. Oh, and this place is PERFECT for a sunset shoot, JUST saying! Make your Baywatch dreams come true ;)

Why I like it: Accessible with parking. It's versatile, you can get some warm sunny photos at the beach and then finish your session in the trees. As Miley Cyrus once said, "you get the best of both worlds!" and I love a location with good variety!

Larose Forest

I LOVE the Larose Forest in Limoges! It's a bit of a trek out, but so very worth it! The forest is MASSIVE with lots of walking trails which means you'll basically have the forest to yourself! You'll occasionally spot someone walking their dog in the distance but otherwise it's a great secluded spot, perfect if you're feeling a little extra camera shy.

Beware though... Summer bugs are BRUTAL!!! I once made the mistake of trying to do a June engagement session here, and we literally got bugged out within 2 minutes of arriving... It was BAD! I couldn't wave my hand without hitting a cloud of bugs! It was so bad that we had to relocate and ended up going to Petrie Island instead. Lesson learned! I would only recommend this location in the early spring, fall and winter. Not even bug spray will save you here.... Seriously, I've warned you! :P

Why I like it: Despite the bugs in the summer, this is possibly one of my all time favourite locations to shoot at in the fall and winter time! The perfect rows of trees are just so aesthetically pleasing, and there's tons of room to move around. It's also super quiet, intimate and really provides the best vibes! A true GEM in my opinion.

cardinal creek park

This public park in Orleans is a bit of a secret sweet spot, I'm not going to lie! You wouldn't think much of it driving by, but tucked away down the path are some beautiful little nooks for portraits, away from the over hanging power lines and kid's playground. If you go late summer, there's some pretty cool tall grass that works really well as a backdrop, if you're into the wheat fields look, without actually having to go out in a field!

Why I like it: Easily accessible, parking and lots of greenery. Tucked away hidden gem. Great for family sessions with young kiddos, too!

Princess louise waterfalls

I don't know why it took 9 years before I actually had a shoot here!!! I had heard of and driven past the Princess Louise waterfalls a million times before and for whatever reason, went for the first time only last year. It's another hidden gem in Orleans. If you're a bit more thrill-seeking, and as long as you're not bringing young kiddos to the shoot, the waterfalls make for a really fun and unique spot.

Oh, and pro tip.... Access the falls from the BOTTOM (along St Joseph Blvd) and not the top... I made that mistake and would not recommend, unless of course scaling down a very steep muddy slope is your idea of a fun time??? Haha!

Why I like it: Really unique location for Ottawa. Comes with complimentary bad-ass vibes.

our home property in sarsfield

Home sweet home! In 2016 Stefan and I moved into a 100 year old renovated farmhouse on a 2 acre property in Sarsfield, ON just 15 minutes east of Orleans. We've got lots of trees, greenery (my two fave things) and depending on the time of year, we have flowers and blossoming trees! I'm still not sure how we managed to get so lucky with being able to call this place home, but it's a favourite of mine.

Why I like it: Home sweet home, do I really need to say more? Country vibes galore, and there are fields nearby that also make for a great backdrop.

cumberland tree farm

Ok so it's not actually a real tree farm, but it's a dairy farm with lovely trees! (Can you tell I like trees?!) It's a private farm property owned by friends of ours in Cumberland, ON. If having acres of room to roam sounds like your idea of fun, let me know and I'll make it happen!

Why I like it: Exclusive, private and SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!!!!! Plus, if you listen carefully, you may hear some 'mooing' in the background!

Mer bleue bog

Practically out of a fairytale, this cozy bog in the middle of basically nowhere is sooooo fun for photos! The boardwalk of the Mer Bleue bog makes for some really cool photos, but get ready to get cozy! The bog doesn't really work for large family sessions, but it's great for engagements, or sessions with no more than 2-3 people. The narrow boardwalk means that if other people walk by, they basically have to walk through us mid-session. Not a huge deal, but it can get a little annoying on a busy day.

Why I like it: Another unique spot in Ottawa, this location is seriously GORGEOUS!!! It's especially amazing at sunset.

National gallery of canada

If you're digging the vibes of an urban location with great modern architecture (ahhh, those lines though), the National Gallery of Canada on Sussex is always a good choice. If you go in the springtime, there's a courtyard area with cherry blossom trees!!!! Don't forget to say hi to Maman the spider while you're there! ;)

Why I like it: Timeless and modern urban backdrop. What's not to love? Also, if you time it right (usually in May), the cherry blossom trees are AMAZING.

The glebe

You'd be surprised at how many lovely photo friendly nooks there are in this neighbourhood! Just walk up Bank St in The Glebe and the possibilities are practically endless. Great if you want a mix of urban and green space. Parks, graffiti walls, tacos, coffee, you name it, The Glebe's got it!

Why I like it: Overall super fun neighbourhood to be in, and definitely has an artsy feel to it. Also, if you haven't heard of the Great Glebe Garage Sale, you're missing out.

canadian nature museum

So apparently this building is haunted!? Haha ok but for real, the Canadian Nature Museum is great for photos, cause it's a freakin' castle! Do I really need to say more? There are a couple small parks/green spaces within walking distance too.

Why I like it: .... Because it's a castle!!!

the rideau canal, rideau locks and Chateau laurier

If you're looking to have a really 'classic Ottawa' backdrop for your photos, look no further than in this neighborhood! The Rideau Canal, the Rideau Locks and Chateau Laurier are hands down some of the most popular spots for portraits in all of Ottawa.

Why I like it: So many options, just within walking distance! Go for a stroll down the canal and then hang out around the locks. The Chateau Laurier is another Ottawa classic, but be aware that if you want to go inside the Chateau, professional photos aren't permitted, unless you're getting married there! Ooops, I learned that one firsthand.

byward market, sussex and major's hill park

If you're OK with a bit of a busier downtown spot (hello tourists everywhere LOL!) the Ottawa Byward Market, Sussex Dr and Major's Hill Park are all super fun. Plus, while exploring the market, you may be lucky enough to spot the man with his pony walking around! Seriously, what's up with that?! If you know, you know....

Why I like it: Classic Ottawa neighbourhood, PLUS you can totally grab a Beavertail or a beer while you're there! Yum! Perfect neighbourhood to be in for a date night after your engagement or anniversary session, right? ;)

The Dominion Arboretum and Central Experimental Farm

Possibly one of the most popular locations in Ottawa for photos, is the Arboretum! It's dog friendly and there are tons of pretty trees. Oh, and I'm obviously obsessed with the tropical greenhouses!!!!

Why I like it: Dog friendly and all of the trees! And uhm, GREENHOUSES!! Basically all of my favourite things in one place. Plus, you're within 5 minutes driving distance to Suzy Q donuts.... You're welcome.

tropical greenhouse

Still part of the Central Experimental farm mentioned above, the Tropical Greenhouse deserves it's own paragraph and photo!

Why I like it: You probably know by now I LOVE plants. The look of the greenhouses is just so pretty! Another personal favourite.

Hog's Back park

Another Ottawa classic, Hog's Back Park and the Prince of Wales Falls! Another gem along the Rideau River... Ok, now I sound like a tour guide, don't I?! OK but seriously, this place is sweet! So many options, room to roam, and this spot for photos (and just general hanging out and picnics) is great year-round.

Why I like it: The pathway along the river is GORGE! Stunning backdrop for an engagement session, or whatever session! You can't go wrong.

watson's mill in manotick

Right along the Rideau River is the famous Watson's Mill in Manotick! This building was built in 1860... Woah! So cool!

Why I like it: Manotick is such a cute part of town! Historic and picturesque.

And there you have it! Some of my all time favourite portrait locations within Ottawa! I hope you found this helpful, and just know..... I'm ALWAYS down to try new locations! Sign me up!!!

xo Val