Born and raised in South San Jose and with over 10 years of photography experience, it’s safe to say that I get around. I’ve seen it all! Luckily, within just a couple hours drive we can hit anything… mountains, the ocean, rivers, snow, deserts, redwoods, incredible views, you name it! Well, below is my go to list for local gems and some of these have been secrets for a long time!

So take a stroll with me down memory lane for some of my all time favorite locations! Take a peek at the Pro Tips underneath each location for helpful parking tips and fun facts, too!

Alum Rock Park |15350 Penitencia Creek Rd, San Jose, CA 95127
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Located in the foot hills of east San Jose, this location is great for all types of portraits. Alum Rock has really crappy service, if any at all! Plan to meet your clients at the bottom entrance and caravan up to the top, this way you don’t lose each other!

Location Features + Tips:

  • Restrooms
  • Cobble stone bridges, grassy areas, mature trees… seasonal colors
  • Super close parking, the lower levels are free!
  • The top parking lots charge $6 per car
  • The rangers are pretty chill, I’ve never had them ask for a permit
  • Prepare for the light to disappear quickly because of the canyon and large trees
  • Three – Four hours before sunset or earlier is the sweet spot for this location


 CALERO COUNTY PARK | 23205 McKean Rd, San Jose, CA 95120

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The trick to this hidden gem is that the entrance is PAST the boat launch of Calero! If you grew up in San Jose, I’m sure this is another park or lake you’ve been to! Tucked up behind the lake, but before Cinnabar Hills Golf Course is this sweet spot with a pond!

Location Features + Tips:

  • No Restrooms, only porta potties!
  • Great open fields and mature trees near parking, however the hidden pond is a short hike. But don’t worry nothing to break a sweat! (Just wear flats or boots!)
  • The rangers are really chill, I’ve never had them ask for a permit
  • Love this location for families and engagements


VASONA | 333 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032

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If you live in San Jose or near Los Gatos, I will bet millions that you’ve been here to shoot already! So many local families may have already shot here as well! But don’t let the familiarity scare them away for a different look! This location has a billion location options.

Location Features + Tips:

  • Restrooms
  • Lake with a dock, streams, bridges, grassy areas, train tracks, mature trees… seasonal colors. Vasona has it ALL!
  • Parking can be tough and with so many entrances it can be confusing
  • Parking will be $6 per car, unless you park on the street and walk in
  • Train + carousal are a fun touch for the kiddos
  • Almost life size airplane to play on… also a great meeting place
  • Suggest mama’s wear flats for walking to different locations
  • Christmas in the park may yield craziness starting after Thanksgiving
  • Great location for mini sessions!



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Love this location for quick and easy portraits any time of year! It doesn’t really have an address, but many locals refer to this park as Spider Man Park! Growing up there used to be a climbing structure that looked like a web… they took it out because too many kids fell off! (Apparently we survived just fine!)

Location Features + Tips:

  • No Restrooms
  • Rolling hills, wooden fences, big rocks, lots of grassy area
  • Easy parking on the street, but does require a stroll up a slope hill, not ideal for the elderly
  • Great park to entertain the kids after their shoot
  • Mustard greens in the spring and beautiful golden hills in the fall


BERNAL HISTORICAL RANCH PARK | 372 Manila Dr, San Jose, CA 95119

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I saved the BEST for last! Y’all know how much I LOVE barns, wooden fences and sweet farm houses! Chip and Joanna Gaines would totally approve of this sweet hidden gem! Located in the Santa Teresa foothills it’s a local favorite… well my favorite of all time 🙂

Location Features + Tips:

  • Restrooms
  • Two large barns, rolling hills, white farm house with a cute front porch!
  • There’s even a chicken coop!!
  • Super easy parking! There’s only 3 parking spots near the restroom, but plenty of close street parking
  • Great location for mini sessions!


I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite go to locations for portraits! If you have any questions or other suggestions, just let me know! I would be happy to add them to my list!

With Love, Quianna

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