Portrait Photographer, Victoria, BC

Location ideas for portraiture in Victoria, BC .

During my career as a photographer, I have been fortunate enough to have worked in several cities in a few different countries. A couple of the cities were more photogenic than others, Victoria, BC is one of these photogenic cities. Very few cities in the world have the range of excellent location choices for portraiture that Victoria does have. A charming city centre, with beautiful beaches, amazing rain forests and stunning views of mountain ranges all within close proximity. You really do not have to travel very far within the greater Victoria area to find a vast array of fantastic locations for portrait photography.

Portrait location idea, Island View Beach Regional Park

The beaches of Greater Victoria

All around Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula there are dozens of public beaches. Some have very easy access to the beach and have plenty of parking spots, while others you will have to hike into in order to access it. The beaches range from small to large, sandy to rocky, and from crowded to empty.

I find shooting portraits at the beach to be very enjoyable, the light during the golden hour is quite possibly the most beautiful kind of light for portraits. Beaches have a way of making people relax and let their guard down making it easier to create more spontaneous photographs of them.

Every local beach that I have done portraits at has been great, but I do have a favourite one. Island View Beach Regional Park is easily my preferred beach to go to in the Greater Victoria Region. It is a fantastic diverse location for shoots. It is one of the longest beaches I have seen on the peninsula, so you can always find a quiet, less crowded area to shoot in. It is not just sand and water at Island View Beach, there is driftwood everywhere, which adds a wonderful texture to the background of portrait photos, plus people can lean against or sit on the driftwood for the photo. There is an open wild field nearby, and a pathway that is completely enclosed by the trees. Plenty of parking, bathroom facilities, and well-groomed pathways for people who have mobility issues. 

The advantages of having your portrait taken at the beach

  • The colours
  • The light
  • The backgrounds
  • Unrestricted open space

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken at the beach

  • Wind
  • Sand in your shoes
  • Some beaches might be more difficult to access for people with mobility issues
  • Insects
Portrait location idea, the rain forest of John Dean Park, North Saanich, BC.

Rain Forests of Greater Victoria

The Vancouver Island rain forests are simply wonderful, the ambient noise of the forest, the cool colours, and the smells of the forest after a light rain are intoxicating. On a hot day, there is nowhere better to be. The only problem is portraiture in a dense rain forest is not ideal when you are using only ambient light. It is better to be forest adjacent, in an open area with the forest behind you, or just inside the forest with an open area giving direction to the light.

The advantages of having your portrait taken in the rain forest

  • The colours
  • The background
  • The atmosphere

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken in the rain forest

  • Light inside the forest comes from above and this is not ideal for portraiture
  • People with mobility issues may have difficulty with some trails
Portrait location idea, Sidney Pier, Sidney, BC.

Piers and docks of Greater Victoria

Piers and docks are great fun for portraits. The backgrounds and the lines of the structures draw the viewers eye to the portrait subject in a very natural way. The wood that is used to create these structures give photographs a wonderful texture and look great in colour or black and white.

The advantages of having your portrait taken on piers and docks

  • The colours
  • Great backgrounds
  • The light

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken on piers and docks

  • Can be crowded
  • Bird droppings
  • Wind
Portrait location idea, Holland Point Park, Victoria, BC.

Parks of Greater Victoria

Parks are classic places for portraits, they are generally clean, have easy access, good parking, open areas, places to sit, well-tended gardens, and some have bathrooms facilities. They are all throughout Victoria and the peninsula. I can think of at least eight different parks within a five-minute drive from where I live. Which is fantastic if you are chasing the perfect light for your photos or looking for the right background for a portrait.

The advantages of having your portrait taken in parks

  • The colours
  • Diverse backgrounds
  • The light
  • Proximity

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken in parks

  • Some parks can be crowded
  • Some parks do not have bathrooms
  • Mosquitoes and other insects 
Portrait location idea, the summit of Mount Douglas.

Mount Douglas

For a completely unobstructed 360 degrees view of Victoria and all of her surrounding area, Mount Douglas is one of the best locations in Victoria for portrait photography. From this vantage point you can on a clear day see Victoria, Saanich, Mount Baker, the Olympic and Cascade mountains, and more. One of the best features of Mount Douglas is the exposed rock of this location, it adds a very nice texture to the photos and a natural place for you to sit on with the city of Victoria as your background.

Mount Douglas Park has restricted access to the summit for motor vehicles, it is closed to automobiles in the mornings for cyclists and walkers use. The gates at the base are opened for cars at noon every day and are closed at 11:00 pm.

The advantages of having your portrait taken on Mount Douglas

  • The colours
  • The view
  • Great backgrounds to choose from
  • The light

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken on Mount Douglas

  • Restricted hours
  • Can be crowded
  • People with mobility issues will have difficulty with the steep climb and stairs.

Downtown Victoria

Downtown Victoria’s colonial architecture, narrow allies, nooks and crannies, and inner harbour all make excellent backgrounds for portraiture. Victoria is easily one of the most photogenic cities in Canada.

The range of locations in downtown Victoria is staggering, many within a short walking distance of each other. The inner harbour is a good starting point from where you are only a few steps to the magnificent British Columbia’s Parliament Buildings which overlooks the inner harbour. On the other side of the harbour is the main downtown shopping area, which has many possibilities for portrait locations starting with Bastion Square, and then all the mostly pedestrian alleyways, many of them are narrow, including the narrowest of all the alleys, Fan Tan Alley which is the narrowest street in the country. Fan Tan Alley is a unique oddity, something that seems out of place and time, I always thought of Fan Tan Alley as the magical portal to Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

The advantages of having your portrait taken in Downtown Victoria

  • The colonial architecture
  • Narrow streets & allies
  • Diverse backgrounds
  • Good light
  • Lots of places to sit down
  • Coffee bars

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken in Downtown Victoria

  • Noise
  • Crowded
  • Parking
  • Traffic
  • Tourists
Portrait location idea, Tsehum Harbour, Sidney, BC.

Marinas of Greater Victoria

There are many very beautiful marinas in and around Victoria, some commercial, other for private pleasure crafts. There are advantages to both depending on what kind of feeling you are trying to create in your photographs. With marinas, you have to keep in mind that these are not public places, and you may need permission to do any photos on these properties. You can be on public property and legally use the adjacent private property marina as a background for your portraits without any problems.

Out of all the marinas in Victoria, the most eclectic without a doubt is Fisherman’s Wharf. A working harbour and neighbourhood rolled into one, with a very diverse range of backgrounds for portraiture. Commercial fishing vessels, private pleasure craft, the docks, a park, food kiosks, shops, and the famous village of houseboats make Fisherman’s Wharf Park an excellent place to make photographs. The only real downside to it would be it’s popularity, drawing in many tourists and locals alike.

The advantages of having your portrait taken at marinas

  • The colours
  • Great selection of diverse backgrounds
  • The light

The disadvantages of having your portrait taken at marinas

  • Not public property, permission may be required before doing photos on private land.
  • Bird droppings
  • Crowded
  • Wind

Conclusion

Great locations while important will always be secondary to good light when it comes to portrait photography. Generally, most locations in a portrait will be slightly out of focus or even completely out of focus, making it be just a very blurry range of colours and light. A great portrait does need a great location, but it helps. All of the location ideas I wrote about in this post are fantastic for portraits, but only if the quality if the light is good, otherwise it does not matter if the location is great, it can’t save the photograph if the light is bad. The perfect location is a place that offers several really good possibilities within close proximity.

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