Colorado Photo Destinations


When it comes to photo destinations, there are few locations, if any, that are better than Colorado. This Rocky Mountain state is home to some iconic destinations that are very popular with photographers, and there are plenty of unique, hidden gems to discover, as well. As a photographer, I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country! Over the last 6.5 years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore some of the most beautiful placesplaces that serve as perfect backdrops for unforgettable photographs. There are so many to choose from, but here are just a few of my favorite Colorado photo destinations for portrait, family, engagement and wedding photography!

Colorado Photo Destinations
Sapphire Pointe Overlook

Sapphire Point Overlook 

This picturesque spot sits right between Keystone and Breckenridge on Swan Mountain Road, at an elevation of 9,500 feet. The overlook offers a stunning view of Dillon Reservoir, hemmed in by the Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges. Sapphire Point is a day-use area that can be reserved for two-hour blocks for private gatherings. It’s the only designated site where wedding ceremonies are permitted in the Dillon Ranger District! Interested? Reserve a block for your gathering and inquire about rates and session packages here.

The Donovan Pavilion (Vail, CO) 

The Donovan Pavilion is such a special place to capture the moment! For weddings large and small, for meetings, gatherings, or celebrations, anything where you want beautiful views, exceptional service, and memories to last a lifetime.

The space is absolutely beautiful, and perfect to be able to make what you want. The staff is prompt at answering questions and they allow brides and grooms to tour the venue several times to ensure they feel comfortable with all the details. It’s a perfect space for anyone looking for a rustic wedding (at a good value) in Vail.

The Donovan Pavilion

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the 10 most visited national parks by National Geographic — and for good reason. This breathtaking space features 415 square miles of natural beauty. It features more than 300 miles of hiking trails to let you explore the sprawling protected area, so you could point your camera in any direction and get a good picture — the park is that amazing!

To get to RMNP, you’ll want to head north through Boulder and Lyons before heading into the mountains. Once you pass through Estes Park, you’re almost there… It’s just a short drive from there to the entrance of this beautiful park. For a price of $35 per vehicle or $20 per person, this awe-inspiring park is worth the small fee!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Boreas Pass Overlook

Perfect for any season, day or night, Boreas Pass is a beautiful drive along the Continental Divide. Stop at the overlook for gorgeous views of Breckenridge, with the resort standing tall behind it. Wildflowers line this road in the summer, fall offers the vibrant colors of the Aspen trees, and photos taken at night above the town are simply magic. (Check for road closures during the winter, or plan to hike if needed!)

Maroon Bells

If you’ve seen a picture of Colorado on Pinterest, there’s a good chance it was of Maroon Bells. And with good reason! It’s a quintessential spot for any list of Colorado Photo Destinations. The peaks tower over the surrounding landscape. and at 14,000 feet, it’s easy to view their magnificence from anywhere. The Maroon Bells are one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes, and host around 300,000 visitors every year.

To get to Maroon Bells, I recommend taking a bus from Aspen, as there is very limited private vehicle access. The bus picks up at the Aspen Highlands and drops you off right at the Bells. It’ll cost you $5 on weekdays, and $10 on weekends, but the price is worth it for the view of these iconic Colorado Mountains!

Garden of the Gods Park 

Garden of the Gods is a natural landmark in the heart of Colorado Springs (and it happens to be a photographer’s dream). These towering, free-standing red sandstone features grab your attention and refuse to let it go. Outside the park, you can spot birds and trees dotted along the rocks, and even rock climbers from time to time. Inside the park, the north end of Juniper Way Loop gives you a perfect view of the Garden in its full glory.

Garden of the Gods Park

Paint Mines

Stepping into Paint Mines Interpretive Park feels like stepping into an alien landscape. It’s full of colorful clay originally collected by Native Americans in the area to paint. The small, shallow canyons provide unique backgrounds for every photo you take. It’s a textural dream unique to Colorado without classic mountain background! Enjoy your time hiking through the mines as you think about the rich history that this land holds.

Paint Mines

Traveling within my own state is something I’ve definitely taken advantage of over my time in this beautiful place. Just passing through? Be sure to capture your time in this amazing landscape. You’ll be glad you did! Colorado Native? Sometimes getting out of our comfort zone (and trying out new locations) forces us to get creative… that’s why I love exploring this state so much!

Colorado Family Photos
Colorado Fall Photo
Mountain view engagement session


Five Questions to Ask when Outdoor Location Scouting

It’s easy to gravitate to what we know. From buying the same shirt in four colors to always ordering the same thing from Starbucks, there’s comfort in the familiar. The same goes for photographers. It’s easiest to revisit the same locations —  the ones we know will work well based on the time of day and lighting. But it’s important that we stretch our creativity. One way to do that is to push yourself to find new photo locations in our area. That’s where location scouting comes in.

Location scouting can start as simple as taking a drive or dropping a pin when you stumble on a beautiful spot. Once you have a list of new spots, go on some more focused visits. Your goal is to understand how the space matches your needs. Then, document the details!

Start Organized

It can be difficult to remember every detail from every location scouting trip, so create a library of notes for future sessions. I like to keep everything in one place, so I use the “notes” app on my phone. I have a section specifically for location scouting, and each new location gets its own note that starts with the address, plus date and time of my visit. Then I write down a few quick facts:

  • Is it crowded at the time I’m there?
  • What is the temperature like?
  • What type of shoes are needed?
  • Where is the closest restroom or changing area?
  • Can you bring dogs?
  • Are there any off-limit spots?
  • Is a permit required?
  • If the client requested a specific view, does this scenery match what they asked for?

Instead of meeting new clients at the same old places, change it up! But before doing so, make sure you know your stuff about the new spot. In addition to the more obvious questions above, here are five questions to ask yourself when scouting outdoor locations. 

1. How will light affect your location?

Most photographers prefer to meet clients at sunrise or sunset, but sometimes we don’t have that type of control; sometimes we have to photograph in the middle of the day when light is the highest and harshest. When scouting areas for an outdoor photo shoot, consider how the light will change throughout the day. Visit the same location at different times of the day to see how the light will change. Take sample photos with the equipment you’ll use for the session, and afterwards, evaluate if the light will turn more harsh overhead or become blocked by trees. As John Berger said, “What makes photography a strange invention is that it’s primary raw materials are light and time.”

Pro tip: download an app like Sun Seeker to see how the sunlight will change hour by hour.

Colorado Engagement Photos

2. What obstructions are in the way?

Nothing is more frustrating than taking a beautiful photo only to later notice the bright neon sign in the background. Before deciding on a location, think through the logistical aspects of the location. Are the signs, poles, plants, and light fixtures avoidable? Are they distracting? Other challenges can be areas that seem really pretty, but maybe difficult to walk to. That said, American photographer and contributor to National Geographic, Joe McNally reminds us, “Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location.” You never truly know what you’ll see or find.

Garden of the Gods Engagement Photos

3. What is accessibility like?

You have a particularly stunning spot in mind, but does it align with your clients’ accessibility needs? Accessibility needs are great information to collect before planning a session, and it’s always smart to have several accessible spots on your locations list. If clients cannot walk long distances, be near a parking lot with a short walk to a location. Or maybe you’ve been on a beautiful hiking trail, but it would require hiking shoes rather than heels. If you have an adventurous idea, check with your client first and see what they think before making a decision.

Mountain Top Engagement Photos at Sapphire Point Overlook

4. Is it easy to find?

Avoid choosing a location that doesn’t have a parking lot, or worse yet, is challenging to find on a map. It’s important to “pin” the location and then share it with your clients ahead of time. You can also screenshot the location on a map and send the photo to give a visual representation. This will help immensely when you’re communicating where to meet for the session.

Military couple engagement photos

5. Does your contract cover the time needed for the photo session?

If you’ve picked a spot that requires extra travel time to the session, you should factor that into your billing. I’ve taken couples to locations on hiking trails, and the time we spent walking to the location ended up being double the time of the photo session. But along the way, we took more shots from different viewpoints, and they got more photos than they signed up for. Going to these off-the-grid locations are so worth it, not only as the photographer, but for the couple. But it’s important to remember your time is valuable: be sure to allocate in your contract appropriate pricing if the session is going to take more time and effort on your end.

Mountain view engagement session

Bonus Tip: Time is Money!

Location scouting takes time and resources from you. Keep that in mind the next time you put together your portrait packages. And a biggie: always remember to write off the mileage and parking as business expenses for your annual taxes!

Royal Gorge and Bridge Proposal

Related: Check out my favorite photography locations in the Colorado Springs area!

Engagement Session Garden of the Gods Park
Mountaintop elopement in Colorado