We have such a beautiful mix of city/urban and nature spots that make for a diverse range of photography backgrounds here in Kansas City. Whether you are looking for a location for family, senior, engagement sessions or beyond, you are sure to find something that fits your vision and gives your client a unique look (did I sound like a commercial just then? I totally sounded like a commercial). Whenever I travel to a place I'm not very familiar with, it's tough to find good options to suggest to clients who live there since I don't have time to location scout. Many of these may seem typical to the folks who live here, but these classic spots are also timeless and they are popular for very good reasons. KC friends, keep an eye out for some of my favorite "Off the Beaten Path" locations to come. Ready... set... GO!
This is the most iconic overlook of the Kansas City Skyline; one of those views that never gets old and never seems to look quite the same thanks to the ever-changing lighting and ever-growing city. For portraits, this location is best on a cloudy day as it faces North and there isn't a great way to position your subject to be back-lit by the sun. The massive concrete walls surrounding the overlook, along with the stairs down the sides to the lawn in front of Union Station give plenty of options for simple, plain backdrops with more opportunity for good lighting as many areas are shaded and positioning is more forgiving. The area outside of Crown Center, including the walkway between it and Union Station has a lot of great textures and opportunities as well. Just don't underestimate the hike back up the hill if you parked at the Liberty Memorial...
Kansas City Scout
Another of my favorite skyline views. This location is best around sunset as the buildings begin to light up and the sun goes behind the trees. Just a short walk down the street to Penn Valley Park you can find lots of tree cover for when it's a little brighter out. This is a great location for the client who wants a combination of city and nature - give them both!
See more from this location. (The photos with the skyline and trees were taken at The Scout. The rest were from the Historic West Bottoms.)
Historic West Bottoms
If you like an urban, historic look (aka lots of massive, slightly disheveled brick buildings and an immaculate bridge), West Bottoms is the place for you! If you are more into textures than trees, this area is truly a must-see. During the day this is becoming a hot spot for locals and visitors alike. On First Fridays (and Saturdays) they bring out food trucks and music and it's the perfect time to go antique shopping, which is what the area is becoming known for. While you're there, be sure to grab a cup of Joe from Blip Coffee Roasters' new space and stop into Restoration Emporium for a creative vibe and inspiration! Okay, now I'll stop being your travel agent and give you more location ideas ;)
The third largest, but one of the most well-known parks in Kansas City, Loose offers a variety of backdrops including a rose garden with adorable terraces, multiple bridges, a pond with fountains, a variety of tree types and a circular trail around the outside. While I would avoid weekends with beautiful weather, especially before a big event like prom (speaking from experience), even if it is busy, you are practically guaranteed to get some good photos simply because of how big the area it is. It is also centrally located for most people, making it an easy meeting spot (barely South of the Country Club Plaza).
Even further south of the Plaza, plus a bit east... Swope Park holds the title of the "largest park in Kansas City." If you just need a lot of space with trees and a few trails, then this is the place for you. There is a small pond/lake, but it isn't nearly as photogenic as others in this city. If you go, I would suggest the Lakeside Nature Center parking lot as a good meeting point for your client. There is a trail to the left of the building that winds down around the back and some open space just past the right side of the building.
Depending on where your client is coming from, you may need something more on the outskirts, rather than right near downtown. Antioch Park is a well spread out park with lots of trees, a pond, bridges, etc for those located more Southwest of the downtown area.
I look forward to growing this list as I discover new places (and remember all of the ones I've forgotten so far). If you are familiar with KC, do me a favor and leave a comment below with your favorite shooting location! Off the beaten path locations coming soon... while you wait let's throw it back to one of my favorite posts on achieving Bokeh (background blur) in your photos :)