Whether you’re new to Austin or a long-time local, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to hold your family/maternity/engagement photo session. I get asked all of the time for suggestions so I decided to make a detailed post that we can refer to when trying to make that decision. I’ve had sessions at all of these locations but I would love to keep adding new spots. So my first suggestion is, if you have a spot that you love, or that is meaningful to you, let’s shoot there! The place where you met, or got engaged, your neighborhood park, maybe even your own back yard. Is there a hobby or sport that you love? Do you love farmer’s markets? Or cute coffee shops? Do you have a career that you’d like to incorporate?
No? Still drawing a blank? Ok, then here are my suggestions. These are my favorite spots (in no particular order) and I’ve included some sample images and some details to help you determine if the location is right for you.
Butler Park - 1000 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78701 - downtown behind the Palmer Events Center. Parking on Riverside Drive or behind the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs (if they aren’t having an event.)
Pros: Centrally located; a nice variety of backgrounds in a small area (trees, flowers, a pond, piers, views of the skyline); public restrooms and water fountains; easy to walk; great year-round; beautiful lighting in the early evening.
Cons: Sometimes it’s difficult to find parking.
Zilker Botanical Gardens - 2220 Barton Springs Rd, Austin, TX 78746 - downtown by Zilker Park.
Pros: Beautiful nature backgrounds year-round; public restrooms and water fountains.
Cons: Can be very crowded at times, closes at 5pm so the lighting is not ideal in late spring/summer/early fall (before the time change); $50 photography fee; somewhat easy to walk but can be a little difficult when it’s super hot because there is a large area to cover if you want to hit all the cool spots.
Bull Creek Park - 6701 Lakewood Dr, Austin, TX 78731
Pros: Beautiful greenery and waterfalls; the lighting is especially nice in the early morning, before the crowds arrive; parking is pretty easy, except during peak times (evenings and weekends); there are usually areas when you can venture into the water (ankle deep) for fun photos.
Cons: Usually crowded, but not so crowded we can’t work around the other people.
My Secret Spot - about 1 mile south of downtown Austin.
Pros: This is a small neighborhood park that is part of the greenbelt, so it’s never crowded, it’s easy to park, and easy to walk; the lighting in late afternoon is perfect; in spring and fall there are wildflowers (no bluebonnets though) and in fall/winter there is pretty, tall dry grass; this is one of my favorite spots for family sessions because it’s so easy to access and offers a lot of variety.
Cons: No restrooms or water fountains.
Mayfield Park - 3505 W 35th St, Austin, TX 78703
Pros: PEACOCKS!; beautiful gardens with lots of flowers and little ponds; some pretty structures (porch, garage doors, gates, etc); small area so not a lot of walking; nicely shaded; and did I mention PEACOCKS?
Cons: $50 ‘professional photography’ session fee; session can only be booked up to 14 days in advance; they get booked up quickly; no public restroom; can get quite crowded and since the space is so small it’s sometimes hard to shoot without other people in the background.
The Seaholm District - 800 W Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
Pros: Great mix of urban-y backdrops but also some pretty nature-y backdrops; a short walk to the pedestrian bridge for awesome shots of the water, train trestle and buildings; check out the awesome library while you’re here!
Cons: You need to pay for parking, either on the street or in the Trader Joe’s parking garage; quite a bit of walking is needed to hit all of the cool spots.
McKinney Falls State Park - 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, TX 78744
Pros: Gorgeous waterfalls and scenery; the Upper Falls area has beautiful views of the water and swimming hole, with lots of interesting rocks and other features; a short walk along the hiking path offers lots of greenery; the Lower Falls has very majestic looking views as well; public restrooms and water fountains; only $6 per person entry fee.
Cons: Quite a bit of walking to get to the super pretty areas; at the Upper Falls it’s especially pretty on the far side of the swimming hole, but if it has rained recently, you need to walk through rushing water, on slippery rocks, to get to it. I don’t suggest this for young children or pregnant women; it’s a bit of a hike (flat but rocky) to get to the Lower Falls from the parking area…not fun in the heat of the summer, especially dressed up and wearing makeup!
Bee Caves Central Park - 13676 Bee Cave Pkwy, Austin, TX 78738 I’ve only been here once but I can’t wait to go back because it was so pretty!
Pros: Plenty of parking, easy to walk around, restroom, and playground for the kiddos. Lots of beautiful wildflowers in the late fall.
Cons: None that I know of!
Old Settler’s Park - 3300 E Palm Valley Blvd, Round Rock, TX 78665 Ok, it’s not really Austin, but it’s close enough. 😜
Pros: Easy to get to; lots of variety (tons of trees and open fields, an old barn, a pond, a walking bridge, and bluebonnets in the spring); lighting is best here in the late afternoon/early evening; during bluebonnet season I suggest going on a weeknight because it gets crazy busy on weekends.
Cons: Can be crowded sometimes with soccer games and events like the Easter egg hunt and Christmas lights trail; you need to get in the car for quick drives between the barn area and the pond area (no biggie unless you have a lot of kids that need to get buckled in and out); there is a restroom but it isn’t located near great photo spots so you’ll have to get in the car again.
Memorial Park - 600 N Lee St, Round Rock, TX 78664 - Yeah, I know, still not Austin. 😬
Pros: Easy parking; easy walking on paved walkway; pretty water for backdrop; fun area under the walking bridge where you can get in the shallow, rocky water for photos; best lighting in the late afternoon/early evening.
Cons: No restroom (that I’m aware of); there’s a playground that can either be a good bribe for the kids for after the shoot or a bad temptation that takes away their attention; the walking bridge looks cool but you can’t really get great pics ‘on’ the bridge because the backgrounds are not attractive.
Also Memorial Park (kinda) - 910 Round Rock Ave, Round Rock, TX 78681 (located behind what used to be the 620 Bakery & Cafe, then the 620 Hacienda Bar & Grill, and now I don’t know what it’s called).
Pros: Very easy access to a pretty waterfall (I’m talking just a few feet from the parking lot); other pretty spots for photos very nearby with enough variety for a full gallery of photos; best for shooting in the late afternoon/early evening; and best in the spring and fall when it’s too cold to swim; it’s a quick drive across 35 if you are at Memorial Park on Lee Street.
Cons: A few years ago there was never anyone here, but now it has become quite a popular spot; in the summer people are always swimming here, which makes it hard to get photographs of the waterfall.
Brushy Creek Park - 3300 Brushy Creek Rd, Cedar Park, TX 78613
Pros: Even though I always see other photographers at this park, it’s so large and open that there’s plenty of room for everyone; great lighting in the afternoon; wildflowers in the spring; tall dry grasses in the fall; restrooms, playground and splash pad to enjoy after the shoot.
Cons: Can get a bit crowded, but not too bad; a bit of walking is needed to get to the good spots, but again, not too bad.
I’ll will keep adding locations as I find them. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!