Photography Locations For Portraits

So you have decided on wanting a photo shoot, but don't know where you would like it?

Not a problem. Christchurch has an abundance of great locations right at our door step. It just depends what you like as a person or even a family. It easier to choose somewhere you connect with. Somewhere you enjoy going. So here are a few of the places that I can recommend to think about if you are stuck.


You cannot go any further than New Brighton Beach. A very popular location for all of Christchurch and most known. I think because you have the iconic pier, it adds something to the background of photos but New Brighton Beach is huge. Anywhere along with beach even among the dune walks creates a perfect surrounding. There isn't just New Brighton though that has great beaches.

Sumner also has great spots for photos. You have Shag Rock along with the Cave Rock as well. Again, Sumner is a good size beach so wondering off further down isn't a problem to escape the crowds. If the tide is on its way out or out, using the wet sand can create fabulous effects of either reflections or even the water displacement spots under foot.

Somewhere else I would add to the list is another beach further North of Christchurch which is a good wide open beach area with a lot of potential... Kairaki Beach is a good beach and less popular so less busy compared to the other two. It does stretch round and up to Pines Beach which is another location that isn't as popular but holds good photo locations on it. Another two keep in mind!


First up is of course, Bottle Lake Forest. The biggest Forest Park within the Christchurch area. There are so many locations here that literally the whole forest is a great choice. I have done a couple of shoots just at the beginning of the forest, just because you could walk for hours snapping every spot. It is great for children as well with little log huts people have built and places to run and explore.

This one is a lot quieter and I am not sure why as personally, I do prefer this forest: Spencer Park. It has a great forest-to-beach setting but it is the forest I am more interested in, although you get the best of worlds here. It has beautiful big trees great for hiding round along with different height grounds. There are trails through there which are excellent for drawing the eye to you. The colour within this forest gives a warm touch with its orange/reds of the pine needles on the ground.

Two other locations I would recommend to think about as I know they are popular among other photographers are Mcleans Island and The Groynes. Both excellent locations with heaps of potential but also very popular just as Bottle Lake is.


The Garden City. Christchurch. There is only two locations you cannot go wrong with. Christchurch Botanical Gardens is a brilliant choice with plenty of spots. You have the rose garden, the nature walk with the bridge over the pond and the conservatories! I especially love the conservatory for creative portraits. Obviously choosing this place, timing is key as it can get VERY busy. There is plenty of space and spots that don't get too crowded by people, but there is always a chance if you wanted your shoot amongst the roses, there may be someone else there. But don't let this put you off. Timing is key for this place and we can work it out.

Mona Vale Gardens is smaller in comparison but equally as great. I have shot a couple of clients here before. You have the large pond with water feature close to the house along with a couple of bridges around the property. Mona Vale too does have a rose garden which at times is less busy and also a conservatory themselves. Walking through the gardens is a short walk but packs so many excellent spots for a quick shot along the way. **Both of these locations do need legal check off with the City Council just to make sure we are all good --> it is meant to stop everyone coming and doing photo shoots everywhere so if this is considered, please let me know in advance to get given the all clear.


Well, what can I say about the hills we have surrounding our stunning city. They offer unbelievable backdrops to your photos. They offer both excellent sunrise and sunset scenes depending which sides of the hill you choose. Up there is very popular for engagement shoots during a sunset, as the light creates a soft ambiance with the long dry grass. You really cannot go wrong with any sessions up here. It can get a little windy at times but that doesn't prevent a great photo! Around the Crater Rim there are some special locations that give a great depth and size perception for couples 'going it together in the big world' engagement shoots. You get beautiful tones of oranges and yellows up there during sunset. Really creates priceless images for years to come. This isn't to say the hills are not for family photos because they work just the same way. If your family has grown up in Christchurch with generations, then these create a meaningful connection with the city as the backdrop.

With sunset shoots, don't forget about Godley Head. As depending where the sun is setting behind the hills, there is some locations along here which also work to great effect! With Godley Head, you can use New Brighton as a good choice of backdrop if you are a beach person/s or Lyttleton harbour as something different.

These locations I have given are some of my favourite and ones to consider if you are wanted an outdoor session. Other places I would say to think about too are:

Home --> especially if your property has large ground as this creates a relaxed environment and makes the photos more personal to you, or family.

Parks --> if there is a favourite park your family enjoying going to, this can help with young children as it lets children relax and enjoy being children. They instantly forget about the camera being there. This location works great for lifestyle documentary type sessions. It could also be a dog park as dogs are also family so we don't want to leave them out!

Studio --> I do have a studio which I use mainly for themed sessions but can also work it for either individual,couple or small family shoots.

One last place to think about, which isn't often, is the River-> The Waimakariri has some great locations either on the river bed or along the banks either side. I recently did a photo shoot at the Waimak on the banks near Arion Farm and it worked great!

You really cannot go wrong with any of these locations but timing is key for them all. Seasons of obviously play a part as well, depending on what you are after. I did a blog last year regarding the 'Golden Hour' which is normally the best time for photos but is not limited to that time of day. For beach shoots, these are better suited to early morning or evening but not on a blue bird day (Clear and sunny) as this create harsh contrasts of light and bad shadows. That with added bright shine from sand and the water, it can be difficult to get a well balanced photo. If the weather is overcast then during the day is fine for beach shoots.

The gardens is another that more suited to morning or evenings but can working during the day on overcast days. Individual shoots can work if using the bush walk through and conservatories as they have good shaded places but with creative streaks of light. Obviously if you want photos with all the colours of the flowers then Spring and summer are the best time of year. Autumn shoots are good here with the leaves falling around.

The hills only really has one option if you are after stunning portrait photos and that is sunset. During the day still works if it is overcast but the magic really happens as sunset goes off. Now colourful sunsets don't always happen whilst on the hill but you do have a better chance of catching them up there than at sea level. It is very hard to predict if there will be colour but we can still get some soft light up there and amazing photos.

If you are stuck or have somewhere else in mind, let me know in advance and I can always scout out that location for you to find whether it would work. I want to make sure you get the best photos you deserve out of this!

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Steve Sims Photography | Family Lifestyle + Portraits + Landscapes | Christchurch, New Zealand

021 0842 9799



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