The Most Beautiful Places To Take Portraits In Pittsburgh

Don Orkoskey | July 14, 2022

Beautiful Pittsburgh Portrait Locations

Where are the most beautiful places to take portraits in Pittsburgh? I see this question asked a lot on local Pittsburgh photography social media groups. If you're a photographer looking for that perfect spot or just want to know where to take the best selfie of DIY portrait in Pittsburgh read on to find out the answers.

Best Pittsburgh Portrait Location Qualifications

Before naming any location let's talk about the criteria for naming the best locations to take portraits in Pittsburgh. Here is what I'm basing this list on.

  1. The location needs to look beautiful and/or unique.
  2.  It should be fairly centrally located.
  3. The location must be public and should be accessible for everyone (with or without a fee).
  4. It should be easy to find even in you're not used to driving in Pittsburgh.
  5. Creating a great looking portrait here shouldn't require a ton of photography knowledge.
    1. The natural lighting should be good.
    2. Backgrounds should be interesting but not distracting.
    3. Crowds shouldn't be a problem.
  6. BONUS: the location works no matter what weather or time of year (i.e. it doesn't require peek fall leave changes to look beautiful).

With all of those things in mind I set out to create this list of the best locations for you to create beautiful portraits of yourself, your family, your kids, or clients if you're a portrait photographer.

Please Be Aware

Even though weather or time of year shouldn't matter there might be other issues (construction or icy conditions for example) which impact these locations. Always check before you visit any location. This is especially true if you're a professional portrait photographer who is meeting clients at one of these locations.

The Most Beautiful Places To Take Portraits In Pittsburgh

Here is my complete list of the most beautiful places to take portraits in Pittsburgh. Some of these will include inside locations that might have hourly or other restrictions you'll need to follow. It's always a good idea to be polite to everyone else using public spaces not only other photographers but everyone visiting these spots.

The Most Beautiful Inside Locations For Portraits In Pittsburgh

Here are the most beautiful places for doing inside portraits in Pittsburgh. We get a lot of rain so it's always a good idea to have some indoor options if you're heading out to take photos.

1. Phipps Conservatory

Phipps Conservatory & Botanic Gardens is an indoor year round lush and lovely location to take portraits in Pittsburgh. There is usually an ample amount of light no matter what the sky looks like. Each room in Phipps gives you a different feel allowing you to surround yourself or your clients with a wide variety of flowering plants. There are also brick walls, water features, and the mechanical/industrial Victorian era windows which can create a visually interesting background.

NOTE: Phipps is full of tight paths and often draws large crowds especially on the weekends and during holidays. If you can, go during the week, especially early in the morning. Technically you're supposed to pay for access especially to do professional photos. However, Phipps staff often look the other way if you're not getting in the way of other guests.

2. PPG Aquarium

The PPG Aquarium at the Pittsburgh Zoo offers a ton of natural light, plants, and other interesting background options. It can be crowded but the overlook just beyond the entrance provides a nice vantage point. With a slight telephoto lens you can create a great looking plant filled background. You can also get creating in front of the shark tank if it's not too busy or even more creative with some of the other fish tanks.

3. The National Aviary

The National Aviary on Pittsburgh's Northside is a great indoor location for portrait photography. Much like Phipps and the PPG Aquarium, the Aviary features a lot of natural light and lush plants. There are also some very cool locations here with quite different looking backgrounds for you to get creative.

4. The Cathedral of Learning

Covid restrictions may affect your ability to access it but the Cathedral of Learning has long been an incredible place to create portraits. The main floor features incredible columns and stone. It has some Hogwarts feels to it. Just be aware that the lack of natural light on the main floor is why it's ranked where it is on the list.

Before the pandemic a lot of people used the 26 floors of steps for a great workout. So, if you want great light hit up one of the stairwells and pose your model in a window overlooking Oakland.

The Most Beautiful Outside Locations For Portraits In Pittsburgh

Here are the most beautiful outside locations for portrait photography in Pittsburgh. You might already know that it's often rainy or cold in Pittsburgh. That's why I included the inside locations. However some of these areas can be just as beautiful in the rain or snow.

1. Point State Park

Point State Park provides an overabundance of great portrait options. The small forested areas, the fountain, or the city give you a variety of background options you're not going to find many other places. If it's raining the tunnel under the highway can keep you dry and offer some dramatic lighting options. A short walk by the Allegheny will bring you to the riverfront murals. These murals, the bridges beyond, and the river itself make for great backdrops. Too the coverage from the Ft. Duquesne bridge means this area is also often dry in a light rain.

From Point State Park you can walk across either the Ft. Pitt or Ft. Duq. bridge for more cool options, walk into downtown to some of the other options on the list, or use the steps by the river as giant posing blocks. If you're looking for variety Point State Park should be your number one choice.

2. PPG Place

Staying downtown PPG Place and nearby Market Square offer some amazing backgrounds for you to get really creative with your portraits. In the winter PPG Place hosts a skating rink. In the summer there is a fountain, and the buildings themselves make for a super interesting background.

Market Square has a wide selection of urban settings depending on which direction you're facing. There are also often chairs or other props you can use in Market Square, benches, some trees, and nearby ice cream for a nice treat after or during your portrait session.

3. Mellon Park

Mellon Park is small but packed with photo backdrops. From the wide open lawns to walled garden and the cobbled street this small urban park packs a massive punch on a tiny footprint. Visiting on the weekend means you're sure to see many other photographers taking advantage of Mellon Park for portrait sessions.

4. Pittsburgh Highline & Color Park

The Pittsburgh Highline and the Color Park offer a few different but very urban feeling areas to create amazing portraits. They are both located on the Southside of Pittsburgh near and within walking distance to Station Square (for even more variety). Create pictures with the city as your background from either location.

I love these locations early in the morning. Even more I love them later in the afternoon, near evening. With the right gear you can create amazing portraits with lots of lights from the city in the background.

The only thing I'll warn you about is to make sure what is in your photo at the Color Park isn't inappropriate. It's a place where graffiti is encouraged and allowed so some of the artwork there might not be appropriate for all audiences.

5. The Strip District Terminal

The photo at the top of this article was taken at the Strip District Terminal. Since it was redeveloped a few years ago the Terminal has become a wonderful gathering spot full of colorful steps, interesting seats, and other great urban backdrops. It's also incredibly easy to find. From the Terminal you can wander around the Strip for even more portrait opportunities. The railings at the Pennsylvania Market on 19th, Rolland's Restaurant on Penn, and elsewhere make for cool backgrounds. The entire neighborhood is full of great places to create really unforgettable photos.

Your Favorite Pittsburgh Portrait Photography Locations

Did I manage to mention the location you think is the most beautiful in Pittsburgh for creating portraits? If not comment below or contact me to let me know what you think. If you're interested in more great information about Pittsburgh photography be sure to check out my blog. Sign up for my mailing list which heavily features information just like this. If you're a Pittsburgh photographer or want to be one sign up for a private photography lesson to improve your photography skills or knowledge of the local market. Finally join me and my fellow ASMP Pittsburgh members to network with other Pittsburgh photographers and build your business.

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