Are you planning your family photos or an engagement shoot this year?

Location makes such a big difference in how your photos look! Stay away from boring backgrounds and bad light! I've shot sessions all over the city, and these are my top 5 choices! Full disclaimer - I'm based in the west end of Ottawa, so my fave spots lean towards Kanata, Barrhaven and Nepean. Who doesn't love not having to drive more than 15 minutes to the perfect photoshoot location?

Spot 1 - Walter Baker Park in Kanata

This park has it all! A beautiful gazebo, a large pond, and every kind of tree from pines, to willows, to maples. The colours are amazing in the fall! And it's accessible for those in wheelchairs or difficulty with mobility as it has a paved walking path all the way through. And don't forget the playground and splash pad for the kids to run off all their sillies afterwards!

Spot 2 - Lime Kiln Trail on Moodie Drive

This trail has the most beautiful birch trees lining both sides. It makes for the perfect frame for some fun family games and cuddles! The chickadees are always out along this trail, and will take birdseed right from your hands! I like this trail best late in the fall or early in the winter season, when most of the leaves have dropped, and we are left with just the pine greens and white birch bark. Perfect for classic and neutral holiday photos you will love to have up year round!

Spot 3 - Shirley's Bay Beach on the Ottawa River

If you are looking for something a bit off the beaten path, this is it! Beautiful views along the Ottawa River, facing the perfect direction for stunning sunsets. There are trails for hiking nearby so you can have wooded and green spots for photos too, adding lots of variety. It has a cute little covered wooden picnic area, and all the rocks you could want for skipping in the river. Kids love splashing and playing in the shallow areas ... ok and me! I love anything near the water!

Spot 4 - Pinhey Forest at the Nepean Sportsplex

Although much of this area was damaged in the storm of May 2022, there are still lots of spots with tall magical feeling pine trees if you know where to look! This forest always reminds me of camping trips to provincial parks - but it's right in Ottawa! The tall pines filter the light so beautifully, adding a warm glow almost any time of day! If you and your family like hiking and exploring, I know you will love this forest!

Spot 5 - Your own front steps or back yard

Is that a cheat way to end this top 5 list? Maybe - but hear me out! I fully believe that sentimental and special > a pretty view! Every time! Remember, this is your family's story and your memories we are documenting here! Think back to your favourite moments in your grandparents home, or your childhood home. All those little details that make it special add so much richness to your family photos, and make them into instant time capsules that you will all love to look back on. That's why I always cheer loudest when I hear you want to have your session at home, or your grandparents backyard, or your fave camping spot! We can almost always find some great backdrops and light in any location, just let me know where you are thinking of and we can plan the timing to perfectly capture the best light.

Kate Steele is a professional photographer based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Specializing in documenting the un-posed love, the genuine joy, and all the other real life stuff happening around us. Offering lifestyle newborn, family and couple photography in Ottawa. For behind the scenes and current work please follow along on Instagram!