With the back-to-school excitement and changing of the leaves comes a special tradition for some families: fall family photos. Whether you have a professional photographer, a friend to stand behind the camera or your trusty tripod, you’ll want to make sure to have the best of Portland surrounding you. We’ve scoped out the city to find six spots that offer picture-perfect locations to secure that shot for this year’s holiday card.

photo: Rock Climbing by Travis via flickr cc

Tilikum Crossing

It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s car-free, which makes it so very Portland. The geometric design offers a great modern style to your photos, and we suggest going first thing in the morning when the only traffic you’ll see are a few bicyclists and the occasional runner. After a pic on the bridge, walk to the east side and grab another modern shot in front of the fence that leads to the back side of OMSI.

Fee: Free

Parking: Limited, available on the street

Pioneer Courthouse Square

Yes, it’s usually full of tourists, but it offers several great photo opportunities. The brick steps are an obvious first stop, and we recommend checking the events calendar to make sure there aren’t any special events planned for the day you’ll visit. Congregate around the signpost of travel destinations or mimic the statue of that suited man with the umbrella. Lounge in front of the fountain and walk right across the street to the steps of the courthouse for a stately finale.

Fee: Free

Parking: Public lots will run about $5-10 per hour or you can try your luck at limited street parking

photo: rachael may photography

OMSI and the Hawthorne Bridge

For great shots of the river and downtown skyline, you can cruise the waterfront until you find the spot of your choice. But we love the convenience and view near OMSI, where you can park free for 2 hours in the lot just north of OMSI. Step out onto the Eastbank Esplanade and take your pick of the skyline across the river, the Hawthorne bridge or even some dragon boats on the water if you’re lucky. Then wander over to the bright red OMSI letters and include them in one shot, especially if you are frequent visitors.

Fee: Free (as long as you don’t enter OMSI)

Parking: Free in the lot north of OMSI, but stay within the 2-hour parking limit

Cathedral Park and the St. Johns Bridge

For the most majestic view in Portland, you can’t beat the St. Johns bridge. Start in Cathedral Park and shoot upward to get the full height of the bridge. Then wander underneath the bridge to get photos against the base, which offers a completely different (and equally stately) backdrop. Finish by checking out the many different photo opportunities throughout Cathedral Park and into the St. Johns neighborhood, which will give you plenty of variety in your photos.

Fee: Free

Parking: Free and plentiful

photo: Family by Stacy Z via flickr cc

Washington Park

Where do we begin? You could start at the Oregon Zoo, where you’ll likely have others in the background of your photos but there are definitely some great backdrops to be found. The Japanese Garden and Rose Garden are obviously quite photogenic, and Hoyt Arboretum offers spectacular fall colors in September and October. You can’t really go wrong in Washington Park, but if it’s fall colors you’re looking for, you’ll have to do your research ahead of time because much of the park stays green year-round.

Fees: Vary by location if you want to enter different locations; the park itself is free

Parking: Pay at parking stations or download the Passport app (parking is free until 9:30 a.m.)


Yes, we mean it! There’s no place like home, and if you want your family to be at their most comfortable and relaxed in this year’s photos, you might consider your own space. Take a look at your house (inside and out) with a photographer’s perspective: look for the best light, color that will work well as a backdrop or maybe even a personal touch like the children’s artwork or your fall garden. Added bonuses: snacks and clean changes of clothes are on hand, and you don’t have to load the family into the car to reach your destination!

Fees: Free

Where has your family taken your fall photos? Let us know in the comment section below!

–Marianne Walters

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