Family Photo Locations around Iowa City

I absolutely love a good family photo… whether it’s planned and posed by a professional or a perfectly captured selfie. I cherish every snapshot and every photo shoot of my own little family, and I love seeing my friends’ families grow and change over the years.  Even when we enlist the help of professionals to capture memories of our family, it’s important to be involved in the process in order to ensure that the photographs are natural, that it suites your style, and it portrays the true characteristics of your clan. This can be so fun…. but also overwhelming!!  First on the list is selecting a location for family photos.

There are many different locations in the Iowa City corridor that work well for family photos:  parks, urban areas, fields, timber, or even in your home.  Of course, choosing a location can be left to your photographer, but these are YOUR pictures. You should think about the location when you are selecting your photographer and work together to find a scene that fits the vibe and style of your family.

Things to keep in mind when considering your location:

– Where will you be displaying your images?  Think of the colors of your home.  For example, if you decorate with a country flair, will urban images look odd among your home décor?

– What are you going to wear?  You don’t want to be wearing high heels and pearls in the timber so consider the style of attire that best suites your family.

– Where do you feel comfortable?  You want your images to show your family and the joy you have together.  Think of a location that helps you feel comfortable, relaxed, and where you can be yourselves.

Our favorite photo locations near Iowa City:

Iowa City is lucky to have numerous well-kept parks that work as beautiful backdrops for family photography, as well as various buildings around the area that set the stage for more of an urban style.  Definitely ask your photographer if he/she has any favorite locations to shoot — they likely have a handful of spots that they’ve scoped out for their own use, and they have a keen eye for unique options, perfect lighting, and other considerations.  I’ve found that many photographers have their own favorite outdoor locations that they only share with their own clients to ensure these little gems stay private and are not overrun with photo shoots during the busier times of the year (ie: the few months of ideal weather in Iowa).  Here are a few ICMB favorites for outdoor family photos:

Hunter’s Run Park:

“I like the natural look of Hunter’s Run Park, but it’s also a very kid-friendly fun park. We were able to capture the kids doing kid stuff — having fun and playing — but with a really pretty background.  And, when we did individual shots, the other kids had lots of fun things to do.” – Laura

photo locations
Photo by Emily Jia (shot at Hunter’s Run Park)

City Park:

Take a stroll around to find some hidden areas that are perfect for photography… antique sheds, hidden staircase, and plenty of grassy areas, timber and ponds.

“I loved our family photos at City Park last summer. It’s a large enough park that it’s easy to find an area where you/the kids won’t be distracted by other people.”  – Jessi

photo locations
Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography (taken at City Park)

Harvest Preserve:

Its grounds include a charming boathouse overlooking a pond, several large areas of restored prairie, and thick woods laced with walking trails. Permission is required for non-members; please email ([email protected]) to obtain a visitor code.  Advanced notice is appreciated and recommended.

photo locations
Photo by Amanda Monday with Birdsdream (taken at Harvest Reserve)

Ped Mall:

Urban photos are really popular right now and can be a lot of fun.  The texture and colors that an urban setting can offer are fantastic, and downtown Iowa City has so much character that it’s hard to beat!

“I absolutely LOVE taking photos downtown Iowa City. Anywhere in the ped mall, especially with the brightly colored benches, just reminds me of walking around there as a college student when I first fell in love with this city.  The Old Capitol makes an amazing backdrop for photos, and the lobby of Hotel Vetro is super modern and full of natural light. You can’t go wrong in Iowa City!” – Sara

photo locations
Photo by Lindsay McGowan Photography (taken in Hotel Vetro)

Kent Park:

Nature trails, beach, timber, prairie fields… so many options! The foliage is gorgeous in the fall and the prairie grass is spotted with wild flowers during the summer.

Herbert Hoover National Park (West Branch):

Stroll around grounds of this wonderful national park and enjoy gorgeous willow trees, white picket fences, and immaculately resorted historical buildings. Move to main street for more of a quaint but urban feel.

photo locations
Photo by Amanda Monday with Birdsdream (taken at Herbert Hoover National Park)

Willow Creek Park:

Basic beauty all around in a convient location, plus the kids can run off some energy on the play equipment or you can capture some lifestyle photos while you swing and play.

“This park is easy to get to and all the trees made a beautiful backdrop for family pictures!” – Shari

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Photo by Robin Boudreau Photography (shot at Willow Creek Park)

West Liberty Heritage Park:

A little further down the road you’ll find this location offers many unique options, including a restored depot building, a gazebo, an antique 29-foot steel framed caboose car, a beautiful white barn, and a cute one-room schoolhouse. A small playground area is located just steps away, too!

photo locations
Photo by Infinite Image Design (shot at WL Depot)

What are some of your favorite locations for family photos?? Please comment to share!

Jessi is a creative, organized and enthusiastic girl mom with a soft spot for country music and all that it entails. She's a single mom to two sassy little girls (born in 2014 & 2018). She's putting down roots in West Branch, Iowa, just a few miles from her hometown of West Liberty. Jessi works in fundraising, event coordination and community development and enjoys hiking, crafts, bargain hunting, party planning, and taking in the simple joys of life. She is admittedly addicted to funny memes, is passionate about philanthropy, and is completely smitten by the adventure of motherhood.


  1. I love Camp Cardinal Trailhead.
    There’s a beautiful bridge, a huge fallen tree big enough for all family members to pose on, la few different rock walls that are perfect for family photos, and lots of natural areas. One piece of advice though, everyone should wear bug spray if it’s that time of the year. With a creek running along the trail, mosquitos and gnats are plentiful.


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