As a Temecula-based wedding, family, and portrait photographer since 2013, I’ve photographed over 200 weddings, events, family sessions and senior portraits! This has intimately acquainted me with the Inland Empire and I’ve been able to then give personalized suggestions when you’re looking to book your own portrait session.
The Inland Empire is broadly known among Southern Californians and the residents who live there, but it’s not an officially defined region. The Inland Empire is named because it’s inland of the west coast of southern California. It starts roughly 60 miles west of San Clemente at its southern-most point (or the city of Temecula) and extends northward towards Pomona, which is also east of Los Angeles. Some of the most populous cities in the Inland Empire include Riverside, San Bernardino, Chino, Ontario, Fontana, Yucaipa, Fontana and Redlands. The areas I’m most familiar with as a portrait photographer are part of this list, and include cities like Menifee, Murrieta, and Temecula.
There are numerous portrait location types! Some of these include:
My portraits take place at outdoor locations. I love this style of portrait session as I can help you to get multiple backdrop options in one location, as well as beautiful sunset light, which looks beautiful on people and in photos. I schedule all my sessions an hour and a half before sunset so we can take advantage of the flattering, golden hues of sunset!
If I’m shooting in an outdoors setting, I like to avoid small, local parks with playground equipment. Jungle gyms do not make good backdrops, and forget about your children staying focused on the family once they see swings!
An ideal park setting will have mature trees and a grassy field. These make for more visual interest in your photos and block out sunlight during the intense Inland Empire summer. Because a lot of the greenery dries up in the months of July and August, I recommend setting up outdoor sessions in spring to early summer or in the fall.
A downtown hub will have no shortage of buildings and structures to make your pictures look interesting! For larger groups, downtown spaces have more natural structures to provide variety to your photos. Think of stairs, alleys and arches!
With city portrait sessions, I always check to make sure we’re not running into an event which makes for a crowded environment and difficult parking. For city sessions, you may also want to consider a sunrise session, when the area will be significantly less crowded.
Santa Rosa Plateau is an incredible location for photos because of the live oak trees, sandstone boulders, miles of hiking trails, and fields of gently swaying grass.
When I create family portraits, senior portraits, or maternity portraits, I focus on incorporating the landscape into your story.
The region covers 8,400 acres. The plateau is occasionally affected by fires, and sometimes certain areas are off-limits. But I always keep aware of the latest information and closures and will keep you informed if you choose this location.
The most accessible area to get your photos taken at Santa Rosa Plateau is at the visitor center, which has a parking lot and a short, most flat hiking loop with grasses, boulders, and trees.. Currently, due to COVID, the visitor center is closed.
Santa Rosa Plateau Visitor Center Address: 39400 Clinton Keith Rd, Murrieta, CA 92562
For more information, check out the official website.
Check out a senior session at Santa Rosa Plateau!
Fall color can be a challenge to find in the Inland Empire, but Glen Arbor Park is a great option if you’re looking for something with an autumnal theme.
This park is located off of a neighborhood in Murrieta. There isn’t a parking lot; you’ll need to access the park by parking off Via De Gema Linda Rd and walking down the sloping hill to the park (bring appropriate shoes!).
This is a popular park due to its large trees, fallen tree trunks, and rickety fence. These features give it a more “wooded forest” look compared to your typical city park.
Glen Arbor Park Address: 23830 Jackson Ave, Murrieta, CA 92562
Oak Glen Preserve is another picturesque outdoor location. Riley’s Farm is a well-known historic apple orchard and a very popular location for family and engagement portraits. Spring and fall are the best times to schedule a session here when the greenery will either just be starting to bloom, or when fall color starts to show on the trees.
Oak Glen Preserve Address: 39611 Oak Glen Rd, Yucaipa, CA 92399
You can learn more about Oak Glen Preserve on their official website.
Wildwood Canyon State Park is rustic perfection for a portrait session! At over 900 acres, there are lots of beautiful ancient oaks, trails, and grassy fields to wander in.
This state park is similar to Santa Rosa Plateau in the rustic nature feel it will add to your portrait images. The terrain is also similar (the dedicated parking lot is packed dirt) so make sure to take that into consideration when choosing your outfits and shoes for your portrait session!
Wildwood Canyon State Park Address: 12241 Canyon Dr, Yucaipa, CA 92399
You can learn more about Wildwood Canyon State Park at their official website.
California Citrus State Historical Park – Riverside
California is known for the “gold rush,” but there was also a “citrus rush” in the 1900s! Citrus ranching is responsible for massive growth in California, and the California Citrus State Historical Park explores this history. It’s also a great location for portraits! As one would expect, there’s a citrus grove, but there’s also cypress trees, palm trees, and a number of small buildings on the property. The only downside to photographing at this location is it closes at 5:00 PM, which means it the summer, you won’t get sunset light in your photos. See a maternity session I photographed there below!
This is another gorgeous space with beautiful botanic variety (as you would imagine)! Areas of the garden have different botanical themes that closely mimic wooded or desert spaces.
The garden is very popular with photographers, and I recommend a weekday shoot if possible. Additionally, if you’re looking to get sunset light, you won’t be able to do so in the summer, since the garden typically closes at 5:00.
Parking is limited directly outside the entrance and paid by meter, so I recommend getting on location early and planning for a bit of a walk before your session starts.
UC Riverside also requires a photography permit for sessions taking place on their property. You would pay the permit fee in addition to your session fee. It’s currently $50 and in my opinion, very reasonable to have your photos in such a beautiful location!
UC Riverside Botanic Gardens Address: 1 Botanic Gardens Drive, Riverside, CA 92507
You can learn more about UC Riverside Botanic Gardens at their official website.
Sycamore Canyon is a 1,400+ acre open space connected by trails in Riverside. The park has beautiful grassy hillsides and flowers in the spring, and a number of boulders that make for dramatic backdrops. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and is a popular destination for hikers, so anticipate seeing recreational enthusiasts while you’re in the park. Parking is free. Like other wilderness parks on my list, you’ll want to choose your outfits and shoes carefully with uneven trail ground. If you’re willing to do a bit of a hike, you can get photos with an overview of Riverside.
Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park Address: 400 Central Ave, Riverside, CA 92507
You can check out the park’s website here.
Fairmount Park is a busy park in Riverside with attractions like play structures, a lake, paddle boats, trails, bridges, and a number of buildings that make for good backdrops for your photos. This park is very busy on the weekends and parking can be challenging, although it’s free. You’ll also run into family events like parties and picnics on the weekend, which may prevent you from accessing certain areas of the park. There is a lovely rose garden, but it’s not always accessible. I’d say quite honestly this would not be my recommendation for a weekend session – however during the week it’s a much better and less crowded option!
Fairmount Park Address: 2241 Market St Riverside, CA 92501
Prospect Park is another park with large trees, an orange grove, bamboo trees, and dirt paths throughout the park that make for great backdrops for your photos!
This is another busy park location and it’s hilly, so I’d recommend bringing shoes that are comfortable. There’s a parking lot on-site, but many people park along Prospect Drive (it’s free) and walk up the hill to get into the park. There is no fee to photograph here but as I mentioned, it’s always busy on the weekends!
Prospect Park Address: 1352 Prospect Dr, Redlands, CA 92373
Read more about Prospect Park on their website.
Check out an elopement at Prospect Park in Redlands below!
Temecula has over 50 wineries! I’ve photographed many weddings in Temecula, and it’s not uncommon for you to want your engagement photos at a winery as well!
Most wineries don’t open their grounds for engagement sessions unless you’ve booked your wedding at the venue. This is a great perk if you’re getting married in Temecula!
See the link below for a session I photographed for a couple getting married at Avensole Winery!
Avensole Winery Engagement Session
To see a comprehensive list of Temecula wedding venues, check out the link below!
16 Amazing Temecula Wedding Venues
Rose Haven Heritage Garden is a beautiful garden located within Temecula. Maintained by volunteers, the garden features over 1,600 plants and is a fantastic location for getting colorful tree and plant backdrops in your photos. To learn more about the garden, check out the link below!
Dos Lagos Park is located in Corona, adjacent to the Shops at Dos Lagos. There’s no parking lot for the park – instead I recommend parking at the Citrus City Grill and then walking into the outdoor mall space, turning right, and walking down the steps to get to the park.
The most recognizable feature of Dos Lagos Park is the bridge, which makes it a very popular spot for photography! This is another spot where I recommend a weekday session to ensure you’re not competing with heavy foot traffic.
If you’re looking for some holiday-themed photos, during the Christmas season they have a Christmas tree, nutcrackers and large ornaments on site if that’s something you’d like for your photographs! However, I’d make sure to get there before the mall opens!
Reference address for Dos Lagos Park (Citrus City Grille): 2765 Lakeshore Dr, Corona, CA 92883
I’m always on the looking for new photography locations, and I’ve found a trail in Corona that works wonderfully for photos! I’ve photographed several couples here; it’s tucked back in a residential area and has several options that create beautiful backdrops for photos.
Riverside is one of my favorite engagement session locations because of the diversity of the area. Within the Inland Empire, downtown Riverside is, hands-down, the very best downtown area. It’s also adjacent to multiple parks and open spaces. This makes it ideal for couples who might want to “split” their engagement session between a downtown area and a park location.
Check out Riverside’s downtown neighborhood map here.
Check out a Riverside Senior Session below!
Old Town Temecula’s downtown space has kept much of its Old West heritage in the buildings and structures. There are a lot of great spaces in the downtown area – I prefer the theater, which is close to the beautiful rust-colored bridge and City Hall. Events are a concern here; weekday sessions make for easier parking and fewer bystanders in your photos. There’s also a few pretty fields nearby, which makes Old Town Temecula ideal if you’d like to split your session between a downtown setting and outdoor space!
Check out an engagement session and senior session in Old Town below!
There’s some disagreement about whether Claremont is part of the Inland Empire! Since it’s so close to Ontario, and it’s also an excellent location for photos, I thought I’d throw it in! In particular, Claremont Village and Scripps College make for fun and gorgeous backdrops. See a beautiful engagement session set in Claremont below!
Redlands is another fantastic downtown area that’s retained much of its original charm. Lots of gorgeous brick buildings and the train station has stately columns and arches! One of the most memorable features is the ceiling of umbrellas at Orange Street Alley!
For a map of all locations mentioned in this article, click here!