Best Locations for photos in Rochester MN

Best Locations for a Photo Session in Rochester, MN

You are looking for the best place in Rochester, MN to take portraits. As a local wedding photographer, I have discovered a lot of places I am happy to share with you.
Given I’m specialized in wedding photography this article might be oriented for engagement session, but I will also try to take in consideration places for other kinds of portraits (family, events, seniors, maternity). First, let’s see if you need a special location, define what is a perfect place, and why, and then check the list to select your favorite location.

Do you really need a special location?

Can you use your home, your backyard or your local park for pictures?

If you are lucky owners of a nice home, with a nice backyard then you might simply use it for pictures. Indeed, it’s a place you are familiar with, that offers a covered option in case of rain.

What’s more, it’s a place where you would fill more confident in front of the camera, so it would be easier to show your true emotion allowing the photographer to capture your relationship.
That applies especially for cozy maternity pictures and newborn pictures. Indeed, it’s better for newborns to be at home.

For instance, if you want your son or daughter portrait, you would prefer to have newborns equipment immediately available, and the option for her/him to take a nape when it’s needed.

Newborn’s pictures is the only case, where professional usually brings studio equipment. Nevertheless if your home doesn’t work, you can still go to a studio specialized in newborns pictures.

Also, if you just want few portraits and family pictures, your backyard, or the closer park could be an option.

On the contrary, if you want a lot of pictures with different options, then you might prefer to drive to a nice location in Rochester MN. That applies for engagement sessions, maternity photography and college senior photography. Those are one lifetime event that worth the effort to make good memories. You can then print albums and hang frames on your walls.

-photo-of-a-couple-on-a-airport-with-yellow-plane

What Is a Great Location for a Photo Shoot

Before giving you a list, let me explain how I have selected the greatest place. To make it simple, a good location is a location that must meet 5 criterias:

  • it must be easily accessible via the road (you don’t have to climb rocks to get there or drive more than 1 hour)
  • it must not be crowded (you don’t you people in the background of your one picture)
  • it’s a place you should feel comfortable and secure, so you can reveal your emotion and your relationship
  • it’s a place that has some esthetic qualities, such as beautiful natural landscape, or a remarkable urban point of Vue
  • Photography must be allowed (which exclude the Mayowood Mansion and the Assisi Heights)

In addition to those primary conditions, you might pay attention to additional criteria regarding your needs and your tastes, such as:

  • Conversely of an empty lawn, it can have some elements allowing the photographer to use in order to create photography effect (such as flowers, shrubs).
  • In summer it should present some part in the shade (better light)
  • In winter, it should remain joyful despite the dull day
  • It must allow dogs (if you want picture with your pet)
  • Last but not the least, It should be covered area in case of rain of very cold weather day

List of the top locations for a photo shoot in Rochester, MN

To make it short, the three outstanding parks in Rochester MN is Chester Woods, Quarry Hills and Oxbow Park. Now, we can go more into detail and see all the options available. I might miss some, so, don’t hesitate to contact me if you don’t see your preferred location.

  • Chester Woods Park
  • Quarry Hills
  • Soldier Fields
  • Oxbow Park
  • Silver Lake Park
  • Rochester Downtown
  • Parking Rooftop
  • The Plummer Building
  • The Peace Plaza
  • The RAC
  • The Rochester Golf & Country Club
  • Mayowood Mansion
  • The Mayo Stone Barn
  • The Plummer House
  • Northwoods Orchard
  • Sekapp Orchard

Chester Woods Park

Chester Woods is probably the largest park in town. It’s a county park, and is spreading on several miles, and offer a large diversity of landscapes if you are ready to walk 20 min.

At the middle, you can find an artificial lake (artificial water damming ) surrounded by hills covered by forest. There are several water deck on the shore, and during summer we can even enjoy a sand beach.

The lake would allow you to take pictures in your boat or do canoes. And in winter, you can walk on the frozen. Actually, the top of some old-oak tree remains emerged, creating a fascinating landscape.

On the west part of the park side, you can find the high grass and meadow, that are perfect for pictures.
When walking south, you would arrive at the top of the bluff with a breathtaking scenery on the forest below. This is a outstanding spot in the afternoon and evening to take advantage of the sunset.

Below the river flows from the dam. The river is crossed by two wood bridges. Those bucolic area, but the light could be tricky.

If you ride a horse, you might be happy with the horse trails. The very south part of the park (where I never see anyone, which is convenient for privacy during an engagement or a maternity photoshoot) are hills covered by medium high meadows and low trees.

Finally, if you are lucky, you might cross the path of white tail deer during your photo shoot! But I don’t guarantee we can include them in your pictures.

Chester Woods Park has a camping site, a picnic area, so would be perfect for family pictures. This part is covered by several plum and cherry trees. So, during spring, it offers a show similar to Japanese cherry trees.

The only cons of the Chester Woods Park are the distance that could be pretty long.  As a hacker, I love walking in nature, but if you don’t (or can’t) to walk much, then that’s maybe not the best option.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes, walking on a frozen lake, but no pines
Lakevery large
Riversmall creek but not useful for pictures
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryyes
Hillsmedium ones
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyon-leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown20 min
SpecificityLot of nature, frozen lake with the top of the oak tree emerged in winter
InconvenienceHave to walk, must pay an entrance fee is you don’t have the annual sticker
In one wordFor people who love nature.
-falls-photoshot-in-amazing-landscap-sunset-couple-hugging

Quarry Hills

Quarry Hills is located 10 min east of Rochester Downtown. Near the Nature Center,  you can find a “small” lake (the Harry L. Buck pound) with an aluminum water deck.

If you walk the trails to the north, you first pass through meadows and high grass. Then, you cross a little creek which can work for pictures. To pass the creeks use the wood bridges, which also works wonderful for pictures.
Behind the parking, stands a forest part with pines; which ones are always good for winter pictures.

Now, the outstanding part of the park is located on the west side. It’s the limestone bluff. On the top of the hill, you can find two different landscape. The first one is mostly high grass and oak trees, which turn into an amazing background during fall.
The second part, is a large hole on the top of the bluff (resulting of the past quarry activity), surrounded by a ridge. Today, during spring when the snow is melting into water, this hole changed into a temporary pound.
What’s more, one area is pretty much cover by dust/sand, and showcase the natural stone. Which means, it’s a photogenic area.

On the top and the side of the hill, you can find different types of evergreen trees (pines). Those are especially appreciated during Minnesota’s winter. Discover a winter engagement session at Quarry Hill in Rochester, MN.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes
Lakesmall
Riverno river, small creek
Clear or Breath-taking scenerynatural limestone
Hillsmedium
Historic ConstructionThe office can be used as background, but not outstanding
Dog Friendlyon leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown10 min
SpecificityLimestone hill, and pines
InconvenienceCould be crowded during week-end (not suitable for maternity)
In one wordTop favorite place to go

Oxbow Park

Loved by families, it’s a unique place, ideal for portraits and engagement shoot. It’s especially true during Minnesota’s winter. Indeed, you can find an entire area covered with pine trees. Covered by snow, those a really photogenic.

Oxbow Park is located 20 min west from Rochester, downtown (actually on the Byron City), near the Zumbro River. At the middle of the park stand the Oxbow zoo, open all year long, with is a excellent place for kids, and thus for family session.
The oxbow park is surrounded by high hills (I guess we can call them small Mountains). They are covered by forest.

There used to be a century-old house (turned into a museum), but unfortunately they could keep it in good shape.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winterthe best place for winter
Lakeno
Riveryes, but no good for pictures
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillshigh
Historic Constructionnot anymore
Dog Friendlyon leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown20 min
SpecificityHave a zoo in the middle, and a play ground for kids
InconvenienceCould be crowded during week-end
In one wordTop favorite place, especialy with snow

Soldiers Field

Soldiers’ Memorial field Park is located just below downtown. It’s a large park, including a memorial, a golf club, a swimming pool, a stadium to run, a large playground for kids.

Except if you are a member, you won’t be allowed to access the golf club to take pictures, with is pretty sad because the landscape is beautiful.
Nevertheless, the rest of the park also works, even if we can deplore the lake of small trees (bush) and the lake of hills.

That being said, there is still some option for a good photographer to compose with.

During summer, the swimming pool could be an unexpected spot for pictures (if not crowded). Indeed, it’s the 1960s style is stunning.

During winter, the city can install an ice-skate rink which can also be an atypical and iconic background for your images.

The main advantage of the Soldiers Field Park is its location near downtown, and it’s a point of view on the city skyline.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallnot specially
Suitable for Winterice skate rink
LakeNo
RiverYes but not usable for pictures
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryNo
HillsNo
Historic ConstructionNo
Dog FriendlyOn Leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown1 min
SpecificityClose to downtown
Inconvenience 
In one wordAn convenient option for people searching for a greenery landscape close to downtown

Silver Lake Park

Silver Lake is an (artificial) lake located 5 min driving from downtown.

It speeds on a large surface, with the main lawn, and high trees. You can find a cute little stone bridge, and some banks facing the lake.
It offers a couple of options for photography (such as the lake in the background), but not much.

That’s said, it had some immediate adjacent location with whom you can compose.
Indeed, on the west side of the dam, you can find the Thompson Mill Race Park, which offers a kind of sand beach when the water level is low.
On the south of the park stand a skate park, that could be a decent background in photography (if you like the style).
And finally, if you like unconventional location, the train track (located in the south), could also be an option for a few pictures.

A good photographer would find angles to compose pictures, but that’s maybe not the easiest place for an engagement shoot.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallnot especially
Suitable for Winterno
Lakeyes
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyin leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown5 min
Specificityclose to downtown
Inconveniencethe lake of small treeIn one
wordA convenient location, but must be completed with another spot, such as downtown.

Rochester Downtown

Old fashion downtown is the guarantee of having marvelous memories. That’s the way they are appreciated and also used by  photographers for other kinds of portraits than engagement session, such as family, college seniors or maternity photography.

The Med City, like most cities, features post-industrial red brick walls that are photogenic!

What’s more, there are a couple of old historic houses spreads into the town such as the Heritage House, the entrance of the Methodist Hospital (the sick daycare entrance), the Plummer Building doors, the Mitchell Student Center.

The 3rd St SW is maybe the cutest street in downtown. After that, you can find a lot of small back streets, with stairs and textured walls to take pictures.

The major advantage of urban background is that it works for any type of weather, all year long.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes (but won’t really enjoy the fall’s colors)
Suitable for Winteryes
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno
Historic Constructionyes
Dog Friendlyon leash
Minutes Driving from Downtown0
Specificityold red brick, and historical edifices
Inconveniencecould be crowded
In one wordto combine downtown pictures and a natural location.

Parking Rooftop

My favorite vice is rooftops. There is a couple of parking rooftop Downtown that gives a exceptional view on the city and its buildings. Each of them has their specificity and would be used regarding the sun and the forecast.
Anyways, rooftop always sounds like liberty and top of the world. That’s why they help to produce stunning pictures.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryyes
Hillsno
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyyes
Minutes Driving from Downtown3
Specificityrooftop
InconvenienceMust be used complementary to another location
In one wordA touch of fun and rock&roll

The Peace Plaza

Located downtown, the Peace Plaza is an OK location for whom wants a nice backdrop downtown for one picture. Indeed, it’s located right in the middle of the city. In the middle stand an iconic fountain, and, on the side the Chateau Theater and it’s old fashion lights.
Due to the dimension of the place, it’s clearly not the best location for a session but would work for one picture.

Suitable for Springfair
Suitable for Summerfair
Suitable for Fallfair
Suitable for Winterfair
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown0
SpecificityDowntown
InconvenienceLot of events take place, very small and crowded place
In one wordgreat for one picture

The RAC

With its modern architecture, the Rochester Art Center (RAC) can be a decent place to take pictures.
Depending on the exhibition, you might be (or not be able to take a picture inside). Anyways, to be allowing you must book an appointment first, and pay a fee ($55/hour-regular business hours for 12 guests or fewer).
The exterior of the edifice features a glass wall, with the shape of a wave (let’s say a wave). The modernity of the design can inspire some composition, and marry with the adjacent Mayo Park (a simple park with grass and trees).

Finally, despite the fact that it’s located at the intersection of Bear Creek, the Zumbro River (the South Fork Zumbro River), and the beginning of Silver Lake, the location does not offer any good point of view on the river to take pictures.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes (modern architecture)
Lakeno
Riveryes but no nice access
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown0
Specificitymodern architecture
Inconvenience$55 fees for 1 hour and reservation must be taken in advance
In one wordPerfect plan B option if authorization to take pictures inside.

The Rochester Golf & Country Club

Golf Club usually made beautiful background for pictures. Given a golf course can be pretty dangerous (you don’t want to receive a ball on your head), you must ask the authorization of the manager. Someone might escort us. Of course, negotiation would be easier if you plan to get married at the club (they do host weddings), or/and, by choosing a time with no player on the field.
If you manage to have a mini-car, it could be funny to use it for some images.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes (great landscape)
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryyes
Hillsyes
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown10
Specificitygolf
Inconvenienceneed autorization
In one wordgolf

The Plummer House

The Plummer House is an authentic old Mansion Located 5 min driving from Rochester Downtown. It’s a Tudor English style, which means medieval architecture made with stone and wood. The interior house itself can’t be used for pictures (or you may negotiate with the manager if you are renting this place to hold your wedding, given it can be rent for weddings).
We will use the 65-acre garden, including pounds and water tower.

The park close pretty early, so don’t expect sunset pictures in summer. That being said, there is some much tree that most of the garden is under the shade.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winteryes (thanks to the Manor)
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno (on the top of the hill)
Historic Constructionyes
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown5
SpecificityOld Tudor Mansion
InconvenienceMostly in the shade
In one wordMedieval Style

Northwoods Orchard

Best photographers love Orchards because they offer plenty of colors to be captured on camera. That can be used for seniors, families, maternity, but also for product and packshot photography. For instance, I took my wedding albums pictures in an orchard close to Minneapolis.

But let’s come back to our location. If you are tired of parks, you might want to change for a new experience. Then try the Northwoods Orchard.
Located at 15 min north of downtown, it could be a great place for a picture. It is open most of the years, featuring an old fashion white farm, surrounded by an apple orchard, corn field, a straw mountain (during the fall), and several high-old century trees that can be used in the background.  Moreover they had a small wagon for kids that could be used for a family picture.

And finally, they don’t charge any entrance fee, it’s free.

Suitable for SpringYes
Suitable for SummerYes
Suitable for FallEspecially yes (have a pumpkin event for Halloween)
Suitable for Winterfair
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillson the top of the hill
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown15 min
SpecificityOrchard
Inconvenience 
In one word 

Sekapp Orchard

The Sekapp Orchard is located 10 min from downtown, just after Quarry Hill. It’s an apple orchard, featuring two high trees, which leaves turn yellow during the fall. It’s also the period where they feature pumpkins and crisantemo flowers.

The apple alley is a bit wild (less clear than the Northwoods).

From a photographic point of view, I would prefer the Northwoods Orchad which offers more angles and more options. That said, given its location, it could be a good additional location with Quarry Hills (which is probably the best park in town)

Suitable for Springfair
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winterno
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillson a hill
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown15 min
SpecificityOrchard
InconvenienceNot at lot of angles, and entrance fees (minimum bag)
In one wordfair but not amazing.

Covered Location in Rochester MN 

There is no nice and free covered location in town for engagement sessions that I am aware. But there are a few options.

You might use the skyways, but those are not very photogenic. We could also use some coffee shop or restaurant, but that’s not the best options.
If you are owners of a nice home, with bright walls, and lots of light, you could consider it as Plan B option.

RAC

As we mentioned earlier, the RAC ask for reservations and a 55$ fee for 1 hour.

The Gonda Building

I might be wrong, but regarding what can be found on the Mayo photo policy, it seams allowed to take pictures inside the building, in the condition not to expose any patient.

Given the very few option of covered location, and the high number of people working for Mayo (who have access to the building during weekends) I have decided to include it. If you are part of the second half of the city who does not work for mayo then, sorry, stop here and pass to the next location.
The Gonda building is a dreamed location during weekends, when there is (almost) no one in the hall. With its 3 or 4 floor wall glass and its modern architecture, it’s a wonderful spot to take pictures, especially in case of cold and bad weather!

What’s more it’s surrounded by adjacent and old historic edifice. For instance, the massive door of the Plummer Building can be used, or the front of the Mitchell Student Center.

Suitable for Springyes
Suitable for Summeryes
Suitable for Fallyes
Suitable for Winterespecially yes
Lakeno
Riverno
Clear or Breath-taking sceneryno
Hillsno
Historic Constructionno
Dog Friendlyno
Minutes Driving from Downtown0
Specificitycovered place open
Inconveniencemust be a mayo employee to have access
In one worda great backup option for mayo employees

Location located at 1 hour driving (or less) in Rochester, MN.

If  none of those locations, fit your  expectations for your one lifetime photo-shoot, and iff you are ready to drive a bit farther, here is a short list of other remarkable locations around Rochester.

  • Salem Glen Vineyard & Winery
    Cute Vineyard 20 min from Rochester MN
  • The 4 Daughters Winery
    Amazing Vineyard with multiple option, 40 min from Rochester MN. Ask one daughter for the authorization.
  • White Waters State Park
    Breath-taking point of scenery, nice like, but must walk a lot. Not a good idea for seniors.
  • Steeple Chase Event Center
    Church on the top of a disaffected ski station with pines. Atypical locations
  • Lake City
    Cute city on the side of the Mississippi River, great for seniors.
  • Kellogg-Weaver Dunes
    Surrealistic Place in Minnesota. Great for engagement, maternity session and for seniors.
  • Frontenac State Park
    Large Park, nice high grass and points of view, ideal for maternity images.