March 7, 2019

Best Engagement Session Locations in Pittsburgh

Advice/Preferred Vendors

Hartwood Acres Mansion:

Location: 200 Hartwood Acres, Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Setting: Stone mansion, open fields, thick forest, lush garden, barn

Time of Day: The first 1.5 hours after sunrise, the last 3 hours of sunlight before sunset, or any time of day with cloud cover.

Happy Surprises: During the warmer months, the sun sets beautifully behind the lush gardens and facing the front of the mansion which creates a really spectacular setting. After parking at the mansion parking lot, walk down the road through the gates that say “no motor vehicles past this point.” At the three-way split in the road, walk down the road to the far left to find a barn, large open field that is often filled with grazing deer, and a beautiful old stone stable house.

Difficulties: During the summer, weddings take place at this venue on weekends. If there is a wedding scheduled on the day of your session, you won’t be permitted to photograph in certain areas. For this reason, it’s best to schedule your session at Hartwood Acres Mansion on a weekday.

Cost: Free

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens:

Location: 1 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (website)

Setting: Lush indoor and outdoor gardens, greenhouse, pond outdoor, statues

Time of Day: For photo sessions indoor, any time of day will work beautifully. For sessions outside, the best time of day is 1 hour after sunrise or the last 1.5 hours of sunlight.

Happy Surprises: When walking towards the front door of Phipps, walk up one of the two curved staircases to the upper level outside. To your right, you’ll walk through some trees and bushy areas to a beautiful, quiet little corner. If you walk to the left of the entrance to the side of the building, you’ll find a statue and two ponds.

Difficulties: Whether you’re photographing outside or inside, you do need to pay a fee to Phipps. If photographing inside, you will be limited to sessions after hours, once the building is closed to the public. However, this means there won’t be anyone in the background of your photos which is wonderful! It’s well worth the price to have your session at Phipps.

Cost: There is a fee to photograph here, but the fee depends on where you would like your session to take place. Contact Phipps to find out more.

The Color Park:

Location: 1 S 6th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Setting: Urban, graffiti, industrial, bridges, skyline, river, bright colors

Time of Day: 30 minutes before sunrise to 1 hour after sunrise or 1.5 hours before sunset to 20 minutes after sunset.

Happy Surprises: The graffiti is ever-changing at the Color Park, so you never know what you’ll find and it’s quite exciting for that reason. The view of the Pittsburgh skyline from below at sunset is stunning and offers the most incredible “golden hour” and “blue hour” light.

Difficulties: It can be busy, depending on the weather. But that only means we may need to wait a moment for a bike to pass by before snapping a shot in the middle of the walkway – nothing too difficult.

Cost: Free

The Strip District:

Location: Smallman St (17th st cross section), Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Setting: Urban, graffiti, industrial

Time of Day: Any time of day thanks to the many covered areas such as bridges and truck delivery platforms.

Happy Surprises: The area under the David McCullough/16th St Bridge has an awesome industrial vibe. Beside that area is a long truck delivery platform where cars park. Walk around the back of that (between the building and the bridge) to an equally awesome looking, much more empty area.

Difficulties: Around rush hour and on weekends, this area is incredibly busy and packed with people. It’s best to schedule your session for a weekday between 10am and 2pm or just before sunset for this reason.

Cost: Parking

South Side Flats:

Location: Sarah Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Setting: Urban, row houses, park area, industrial

Time of Day: Just before and immediately after sunrise and just before and immediately after sunset.

Happy Surprises: Carson street is lined in perfectly decorated storefronts while the back streets are full of colorful row houses. The side streets and alleyways have an industrial feel.

Difficulties: This area is busy around rush hour on weekdays and all weekend long. It’s best to plan for a weekday session, if possible.

Cost: Free

Hemlock Hollow:

(Formally known as Squaw Run)

Location: Cross section of Squaw Run Rd and Squaw Run Rd E, Fox Chapel, PA 15238

Setting: Woodland, nature reserve, creeks, stone steps, forest

Time of Day: Just before and after sunrise and 1-2 hours before sunset.

Happy Surprises: There are beautiful stone steps across a creek that lead up to a hiking trail and a serene setting during sunrise hours where morning fog is normal. In the woods, the road itself is short with numerous pull-offs throughout. Explore the entire nature reserve area as well for plenty of amazing backdrops.

Difficulties: Because this area is thick with trees, ticks are everywhere. Wear tick repellent and shower/change your clothing as soon as you return home.

Cost: Free

Mellon Park:

Location: 1047 Shady Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Setting: Gardens, stonework, iron fences, fountain, open grassy areas, mature trees

Time of Day: Just before and after sunrise and 1-2 hours before sunset.

Happy Surprises: Below the park, there are “ruins” with broken stone and brick areas and a gorgeous stone staircase.

Difficulties: This place can be very busy during any time of day, but especially during weekday evenings and all day on weekends. Factor plenty of extra time into your session and schedule just in case you’ll need to wait for a particular area of the park to clear out so you can photograph in it.

Cost: Parking

Grandview Overlook:

Location: 136-160 Grandview Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15211

Setting: Landscape, grand views, city view, neighborhood

Time of Day: 25 minutes prior to sunrise through 45 minutes after sunrise

Happy Surprises: The sun rises just behind the buildings in downtown Pittsburgh which creates some really spectacular lighting. The walk along Grandview Ave from the first overlook to the incline is stunning. Buy a ticket at the incline station to ride down the hill and back up for some fun cable car images.

Difficulties: This route can be busy during the day, so it’s best to schedule your session just before through just after sunrise to avoid the traffic and tourists.

Cost: Free, unless you opt to ride the incline which is $5 round trip

Fall Run Park:

Location: 187 Fall Run Rd, Glenshaw, PA 15116

Setting: Forest, woodland, creeks, wooden bridges, waterfalls

Time of Day: Any time of day because of the thick tree coverage. Immediately after sunrise is especially gorgeous as everything in the park glows.

Happy Surprises: Just under a mile walk into the park, there is a tall waterfall. The waterfall is stronger just after a heavy rain storm and can be a small trickle during dry times. There are large boulders, wooden bridges crossing streams, and smaller waterfalls along the way. Beside the waterfall, there is a wooden staircase leading to the top of the waterfall.

Difficulties: The waterfall can be full of kids playing during weekends and in the evening, so it’s best to go in the morning to avoid other people. It can also be very muddy after heavy rain, so wear hiking or rain boots to walk to the falls and head into the water. Because this area is thick with trees, ticks are everywhere. Wear tick repellent and shower/change your clothing as soon as you return home.

Cost: Free

Emmerling Park:

Location: Cove Run Rd, Cheswick, PA 15024 (when turning onto Cove Run Rd from Rt 910, you will pass an ice cream shop on your right followed by a small plaza. As soon as you pass that plaza, you will see a gravel road off to your right that goes down a hill. Take that road and park in the gravel parking lot at the bottom. If you get to a playground, you’ll know you’ve passed the gravel road.)

Setting: Trees, bridges, tall grass

Time of Day: 1 hour after sunrise or 1-2 hours before sunset.

Happy Surprises: Almost always empty, privacy is not a problem here. There are various backdrops immediately off of the parking lot and an ice cream shop (Emmerling Ice Cream) just above the park to grab a few cute ice cream shots before wrapping your session.

Difficulties: Because this area is thick with trees, ticks are everywhere. Wear tick repellent and shower/change your clothing as soon as you return home.

Cost: Free

Allegheny Cemetery:

Location: 4734 Butler St, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

Setting: Stone structures, iron gates, greenhouse, open grassy areas, thick tree coverage

Time of Day: Sunrise

Happy Surprises: While it may seem strange to have your engagement session at a cemetery, this cemetery is an incredibly beautiful place where many, many people walk and run daily to be surrounded by nature. As long as you are respectful of the residents by staying clear of the headstones and keeping your voice low, there are countless places to wander and absorb the peaceful feeling on the grounds. I suggest driving or walking throughout the grounds, stopping when a specific area calls to you.

Difficulties: The cemetery is only open during certain hours, so be sure to check on that before scheduling a session there.

Cost: Free


Location: Oakland, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Setting: Fountains, stone buildings, park-like settings, interesting structures

Time of Day: 1-3 hours before sunset

Happy Surprises: The fountain at the corner of Schenley Drive Extension and Schenley Drive is really lovely. Across the way, there are two long rows of trees beside the library, and all of Schenley Park is beautiful.

Difficulties: It can be extremely crowded and busy during the school year as it is the university/college area of the city. But it’s usually quite empty during school holidays and the summer months when students are away.

Cost: Parking

Your Home and Neighborhood:

Location: Wherever you are!

Setting: A place and a setting that feels comfortable and familiar to you, a place that has deep meaning for you

Time of Day: Depends on the location

Happy Surprises: Your decor, your neighbors, the street you walk or drive every day

The location of your engagement photos should reflect your personalities and interests. If you’re homebodies, opt to have your session at home or on your porch where you’re most comfortable. If you love nature and the outdoors, consider a beautiful scenic spot in the forest or at a park. If you’re city lovers, aim for a location that showcases the vibrancy of downtown and the things you love to do there.

And, of course, if you want an excuse to get out of town for a bit – consider the roughly 2 hour drive to Presque Isle in Erie, Cleveland, Ohio, or Deep Creek, Maryland.