Best Outdoor Family Photo Locations in San Jose, CA

Clients often ask me -- “where should I have my photo session?” While I love hosting families in my studio, it’s hard to beat the gorgeous scenic outdoors of the Bay Area for spectacular family photos. Here are a few of my favorite San Jose, or nearby, outdoor family photo session locations:

Jump to featured locations

Google Map list of even more locations

Vasona Park - Los Gatos, California

Vasona park is a large county park that has many great locations for your session. Typically I choose the exact spot based on the time of your session so we have the best light. From a technical standpoint, gorgeous light is the most important thing for a good looking photograph; it makes you look better.

Circle Group Area

One of the easiest and quietest locations in the park. Gorgeous afternoon light cascades through the wall of trees while you pose on the green grass next to the parking lot. Due to the large amount of trees we can have your session almost any time of day, but the late afternoon is definitely best. Want more variety? A short walk on the trail down to the lake takes us to multiple other good locations. 

Easy grass terrain.
Best afternoon, evening time.
Large parking lot - $6 park entrance fee


Vasona Creekside

A simple and easy starting point that clients always love! With very short walks we can get a good variety of backdrops. Tall trees. Access to the creek, where there are often ducks swimming by.

Flat dirt and paved walking trail
Best morning, afternoon, evening
Restroom not close by but available
Small parking lot - $6 park entrance fee


Vasona Dam

I love the gorgeous light and beautiful views at Vasona Dam. With scenic walking trails along the reservoir, the atmospheric wall -- perfect for seated portraits, and a view of the hills, Vasona is perfect for quality family time and amazing portraits. Sunset on the dam is one of my favorites! This side of the park is best for afternoon and evening sessions.

Gravel and paved trail; short walk
Best for sunset
NO restroom
Free street parking


Vasona Pepper Tree Group Area

Another beautiful location at Vasona is in the Pepper Tree lane area, which has amazing foliage in the fall, walking trails, a lake area, and open spaces for children to explore and play. This is best in the morning hours and very late evening sessions. 

Hilly grass areas. Steep hill terrain possible.
Best in the morning
Restroom (typically open)
Free street parking, or parking lot with $6 park entrance fee


Communication Hill - San Jose, California

Communication Hill in Southern San Jose offers a lot of variety as a family photo location. With a spectacular view overlooking the city, beautiful trees and rich greenery, stone walls and walkways, Communication Hill provides plenty for families with a different feel than typical park greenery. 

Paved paths, grass
Afternoon and sunset
NO Restroom
Free street parking (can be tight on weekends)


Cactus Garden - Palo Alto, California

I love the variety and interesting foliage we find at this unique location. Starting in the oak tree groves gives us a natural backdrop before we explore over to the cactus garden paths. With a large variety of interesting plants and gorgeous evening light this is a memorable adventure.

Easy walking paths
Evening is best
No Restrooms
Free parking lot

Gamble Garden - Palo Alto, California

With gorgeous seasonal flowers to enjoy, shady paths for leisurely walks, gazebos, and more, visiting this Garden in Palo Alto, CA is a delightful experience year-round! As part of the service I offer my clients, I provide guidance on planning for wardrobe, session flow, and final wall art products so that you get exactly the type of photos you dream of having. This location is best early morning and late afternoon through an hour before sunset. 

Easy walking paths
Spring and Summer time is best
Morning or afternoon (gets dark early)
Restroom not usually open
Free parking lot and street parking

Guadalupe Oak Grove Park - San Jose

Tall oak trees with a wide walking path weaving through this large park is the perfect backdrop almost anytime of day. When feeling more adventurous we can walk up to the big boulders or city overlook for some variety.

Easy walking paths
Morning or afternoon (gets dark early)
Free small parking lot and street parking

Rosicrucian Park - San Jose

The outside garden to the Rosicrucian Egyptian museum provides a variety of looks in an easy to navigate location. Weather focusing on natural growth landscape or taking advantage of the unique architecture, this park is always enjoyable. 

Paved walkways, grass.
Morning, afternoon, or Evening
No Restroom
Small free parking lot, street parking

Santa Teresa Park - San Jose

I love the wide open space and natural trees at this peaceful park. It sits up on the hill and is typically neutral tones with some green trees. If you want that plain country field look this is it. Kids love climbing the big rocks, which creates a gorgeous backdrop of textures in grey tones. 

Uneven dirt fields with tall wild grass
Evening is best
Restroom is a little bit of a walk
Parking lot - $6 park fee

Wright Station Bridge - Los Gatos Mountains

A hidden gem at the bottom of the hill off Summit Road / hwy 17. The afternoon light is gorgeous and there is a blend of urban and wild terrain with the bridge and natural growth.

Gravel and paved roadway
Afternoon, evening is best
No Restrooms, No cell service
Free street parking
Windy mountain road drive

The Beach - Santa Cruz (or other)

I am not a huge fan of beach sessions. It tends to be cold and windy, which messes hair and doesn't usually work with cute outfits. That doesn't mean we can't do them, I have had a lot of gorgeous beach sessions, but I want to make sure you're set for the experience. My favorite beach location has a long walking trail that leads us to the beach. This gives us a variety of looks and time before the sun actually sets, which is the best for gorgeous beach images here on the west coast.

Paved walkway and sandy beach
Evening sunset is best
Restrooms at parking lot
Free small parking lot, street parking

Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch (white barn) - San Jose

I large open area with a white barn provides a nice country backdrop. During warmer weather there are chickens in coops we can say hello to and pond with turtles. An easy "country looking" location.

Dirt walking path, grass and level dirt areas
Evening is best
Restrooms at parking lot
Free small parking lot, street parking

Oak Canyon - San Jose

A greenbelt next to Guadalupe creek provides a simple and wide open landscape perfect for a simple session.

Dirt lot, rugged terrain
Evening is best
No Restroom
Free street parking

Los Alamitos Creek Trail - San Jose

Along the bike trail of the Los Alamitos Creek Trail are some nice and fun locations for summer and fall photos. The creek may have water in it, but if not then we have even more space to explore.

Dirt, paved trail
Afternoon, evening time is best
No Restroom
Free street parking

Ulistac Natural Area - Santa Clara

An open space preserve area, with dirt walking paths and wild foliage, makes for a peaceful place to explore and have fun. The variety in neutral and natural tones can vary seasonally, but is always gorgeous. Plan on seeing birds and few people.

Dirt trail, wild terrain
Evening time is best
No Restroom
Free street parking
(Not available on 49er home game days)

You really can’t go wrong with any of these fantastic photo session locations!

A great location is really about having gorgeous light!! I am happy to photograph at your proposed locations, depending on permit needs and availability, if the timing works.

As a professional photographer with over 15 years of experience, I would be thrilled to help you plan your perfect family session, complete with location suggestions, attire, and custom wall art.
Check out to review your options and book your session today!

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