In a typical year, I photograph between 60 to 75 seniors in the Denver/Boulder area. So you can imagine that I know a lot about the best places to do your senior portraits and I’m happy to share some tips of each location with you below.
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If you are looking for the gritty, graffiti look for your senior photos, RiNo is the place for you. Every place you look has murals, art, and fun elements to work with. I like to meet my clients at Improper City because it’s centrally located and easy to find. However, make sure that you specify to meet at the front door as this bar takes up half a block with both inside and outside seating areas. Parking in RiNo is free but limited so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot and get to your meeting spot.
One drawback to RiNo is that you have limited views of the skies for off-camera flash (OCF) sunset shots which I love to incorporate into my senior photoshoots. There is a parking garage located at Blake and 27th that has some views of the city from the top level, but the elevators are usually shut down and the views are often a tad disappointing unless you have a sunset that is covering a large percentage of the sky.
I photograph a lot of senior photo sessions in LoDo on the 16th Street Mall because there are so many interesting buildings to work with. I like to start my sessions around 16th and Market and pick which direction to head out from there. Please note, that there is construction along 16th Mall for several blocks if you are heading east from this starting point. However, Larimer Square and Writer’s Square both offer lots of variety and you can’t beat the light in the alleys as you make your way to these locations.
It is important to caution people about the homeless situation in LoDo. I personally know three people who have been assaulted in this area. Therefore, I strongly suggest that you have the parents join you. Stay aware of your surroundings, do not leave your equipment unattended for even a second, and don’t engage if people start to yell at you.
The Millennium Bridge area is a hot spot for senior portrait photoshoots for a number of reasons. The Bridge itself is gorgeous at the base (don’t miss the cool water features on the west side of the bridge and the interesting orange art installation underneath the stairs), the stairs themselves, or the top which has fantastic views. There are elevators on each end of the bridge which are useful if you are hauling around a lot of equipment and outfits. Once the sun starts to set, you can’t beat using OCF on the top of the bridge.
However, if your senior is also interested in having some more “natural” images, cross Little Raven and head toward the South Platte River. You can find lots of locations here from the AIDS Memorial Park to the stone structure about a block north. Keep in mind that this area is low in elevation, therefore the sun will be gone more quickly than you anticipate. Give yourself time to get back to the top of the bridge for your OCF shots once that sun sinks behind the mountains.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science and City Park is a gorgeous place to photograph high school seniors. There is ample parking in the lots between the museum and the zoo. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a spot in the little lot north of the City Park Pavilion too. I like to start at the Pavilion and use the beautifully manicured gardens on the west side of the building. You can also use the walls, wrought iron doors, and stairs all around the Pavilion.
Then we head up towards the museum. Along the way, there are some lovely historical buildings with beautiful flowers where you can stop for a quick pose. Once you reach the museum (follow the sidewalks on the north side of the museum), you have gorgeous city views that work beautifully if you are doing OCF photographs.
Please note: AVOID this area on Sundays during the summer when the free concert series is playing. You will not find parking and there will be thousands of people everywhere.
Purple Park in Superior is one of my favorite locations for senior photos. The park has a nice parking lot at the bottom of the park (the park is located on a hill and the parking lot is at the bottom on the east end). I prefer to park there and work our way up the top of the park. Along the way, there is a lovely bridge that offers lots of opportunities. On the north end of the bridge, there is a little trail that you can take up to the top of the “waterfall.” On the south end of the bridge, you can hike down a few feet and there are some lovely rocks and flowers. At the “top” of the park, there is an underpass that provides some unique shots too.
One word of caution for this area is that it is terribly over-watered. Near the top, the grass is often incredibly wet so check it out before you ask your senior to walk through it or they will have wet shoes immediately. This is only on the watering days.
If you use OCF, the best thing about Purple Park is that the Oerman-Roche Trailhead is right across McCaslin Boulevard. You have to head north on McCaslin, swing around the traffic circle and then head south on McCaslin again to access the trailhead parking lot. Here you will find a fabulous art installation of huge iron circles on the east end. And then you can walk west through the gates for great views of the mountains. Keep your eye out for bison poop and snakes. And stay out of the way of bicyclists who fly down the trail at dangerous speeds.
Flatirons Vista is the parking lot where you can access these popular trails: Flatirons Vista North, Flatirons Vista South, and Prairie Vista. The parking lot is $5 and you need to have a Boulder Open Space Permit which costs approximately $50 for the year if you are photographing a client. You can get the most up-to-date information here:
I always work with a wagon and the beginning of the Prairie Vista trail has steps. Therefore, I like to take the Vista North trail and head right from the parking lot. This trail makes a big loop (approximately 3.3 miles) but finishes with the steps of the Prairie Vista. There is a cute outhouse building and some nice fences in the parking lot that you can utilize. The outhouse smells on hot days but is generally clean(ish).
If you are going to use OCF, don’t forget that you are very close to the mountains here and the sun is going to sink behind them far earlier than your sunset app tells you.
Downtown Boulder is a fun location to photograph high school seniors. My favorite place to park is the HUGE public parking garage right to the east of the St. Julien Hotel. This parking garage is multiple levels and can be as cheap as $5 on the weekends and evenings. Take the elevators up and you can either head toward Pearl Street or cross Canyon and use the gorgeous areas around the library and the Boulder Creek path.
Be aware of bicyclists and the random homeless person sleeping along the creek path. And again, you are close to the mountains and that sunset time is going to creep up on your real fast. After your shoot, grab some amazing Mexican food at bartaco. Don’t forget that you need a permit to photograph clients in the City of Boulder. You can get more information here:
If your high school senior is looking for a more natural setting that is easily accessible, it’s hard to beat McKay Lake in Westminster located right off 144th just east of Zuni. While the lake itself is pretty, the real magic happens on the trails right to the east of the parking lot. There used to be a dock to access the lake but it rotted away and has been removed. A new dock will be built in the future but don’t bother walking down the trail looking for a dock right now.
Because this area is so beautiful, it can be CROWDED. The parking lot fills up fast but you can actually park on the grassy area just to the north of the lot. If you don’t think your car can clear the curb, then park across 144th and use the crosswalk to access the park. One word of caution, if you are photographing your senior in the fall on a Saturday night and a high school is having their prom that night, there will be hundreds of people here taking photographs. There is no permit needed to photograph clients at McKay Lake.
East Lake, located in Thornton, Colorado, is another beautiful place to photograph your seniors. I like to have my seniors meet me along 124th and Steele, just east of the tennis courts. From here you can quickly access the trails around the lake. In the summer, you will also find some gorgeous flowers at the corner of 124th and Fillmore.
The trail/dirt road along the east side of the lake has an interesting bridge/walkway feature that offers lots of options. And on the east end of this walkway where it ends, you will find some lovely grassy areas. If you keep heading north, you will approach the water itself and a rock feature that offers even more variety. You will find cute fences, trails, and the trees in the fall are breathtaking.
Majestic Views Park in Arvada, Colorado is a very popular photography location due to its great views and easy accessibility. However, this is a location you want to avoid on a windy day which happens frequently in this area due to the location and wide open views of the mountains.
The parking lot is located off 72nd. However, when you google this location, it often sends you to the Majestic Views Nature Center on the other end of the park. Confirm with your clients to use the main parking lot. From the lot, you can head west down the sidewalk and find some truly beautiful places to work. Please respect the signs and stay on the trails. You can also head north from the parking lot under the underpass and find some unique places to photograph your senior.
One of the newest, coolest places to photograph high school seniors is the newly renovated Westminster Mall area at 88th and Highway 36. There are all sorts of fun store fronts, a Tattered Cover bookstore, a parking lot with unobscured sky views, the Alamo Drafthouse Movie Theater, and some fun alleys. In the center area, you will find stairs, wooden covered areas, and lots of windows that reflect light nicely.
The street parking is free for under two hours or you can pay for more in the RTD lot located off 88th. When it’s time to bring out the lights for OCF, head to the area to the west of the movie theater for great views of the sky.
One of my absolute favorite locations to photograph my high school seniors is Old Town East Lake located in the center of Thornton. RTD has opened up the new 124th and East Lake Lightrail Station which offers some unique places to photograph your seniors. The area offers different colored walls, cute little alleys and there is a park at the north end of Lake Ave. if you want to incorporate some natural setting photos into your gallery.
I like to have my clients park at the Lake Avenue Tavern. The people there are also really nice and your senior can use their bathroom, if needed. OCF works beautifully here too as you have wide open views of the sky. If your senior wants to do some photographs with a vehicle, you can use the small parking lot located on the north end of light rail station.
The Denver area offers so many great places to photograph high school seniors! Get out there an explore some new ones. Maybe we’ll even see each other out there soon! Let me know if this was helpful to you.
Yvonne Min is a high school senior photographer in the Boulder, Denver metro area focusing on Thornton, Northglenn, Broomfield, Westminster, Erie, Brighton, and Frederick. With award winning work, she provides an unforgettable senior photo experience for her seniors from Stargate, Broomfield, Legacy, Thornton, Mountain Range, Erie, Horizon, Frederick and other high schools in the area. Want to learn more? Head on over to www.yvonnemin.com or check out more of her senior work on Instagram and Facebook!