HIGHLINE BOTANICAL GARDEN maternity session in july

I absolutely love avoiding crowded spots for my photo sessions whenever possible but in the summer in Seattle, there's often a lot of people at the most beautiful parks for golden hour sessions. When I started scouting locations for my maternity clients Hannah and Kyle, I had a few key criteria in mind. First, I wanted to find a stunning setting with plenty of variety to fill their gallery with emotive, colorful images, with minimal walking or hills to make it easier for expecting moms. Second - I was looking for a more private, unknown location. My couple had shared that they're both very camera shy. Personally, I know that being surrounded by what feels like every photographer in Seattle and their clients will make people more uncomfortable. And lastly, bathrooms - maternity sesh. Enough said.

While scouting for the perfect location, I started looking at some new places that would be convenient for them, coming from South Seattle. I discovered a hidden gem that ticked -almost -all the boxes of what I was looking for, at this stunning little location called Highline Botanical Gardens, not far from Sea-Tac airport. This light-filled location is small enough that there isn't any big terrain to navigate, and we practically had the place to ourselves. The flowers were in full summer bloom in the Celebration Rose Garden in July and the evening light was just magical. There was also a perfectly placed Japanese Garden that had magnificent reflections on the bridge and backlight.

I always use an app called PhotoPills to see where the sun will be setting at a precise time. Botanical gardens have a lot of color and texture but often times the varying tree lines means that parts get very dark before others, which can be tricky to time for photo sessions. I knew I wanted the sun to hit between two sets of trees in the Japanese garden at a certain time, so I planned around that.

We put on some music and explored the gardens during this session. And since they're a part of my 1st Year Portrait Membership, I had the honor of also documenting their sweet little one for a newborn session. I'm excited to watch her grow over the years since we have 2 more sessions coming up as part of the 18-month program for new parents. My portrait memberships range from 2-4 sessions in order to document those priceless first milestones.

helpful Location Tips

  • There's no bathroom on site at this time at Highline Botanical Garden, although there's one in future plans. Nearest restroom is the community center nearby but be sure to check the hours of operation. So although I explained this one to my client and they still wanted to go there, you may not want to use this one for maternity or families with small kids. I think couples or seniors would be ideal here.
  • Sea-Tac flight noise - this is another important one for people to know ahead of time to ensure expectations are set. It can be very noisy there under the flight pattern. Obviously if you're planning to shoot video there I wouldn't recommend this as highly but for photos it doesn't matter as much. I will emphasize 'as much' because it did make talking to each other a bit harder at times. But the noise is one reason why this place stays so private, and frankly, it's a trade off I'm happy to make.
  • Related to the bathroom tip above, there's nowhere to change on site. I always bring a pop-up tent for easy wardrobe changes on site
  • There's plenty of parking
  • Light in the Japanese garden can be stunning when timed properly. I always use the PhotoPills app and their Augmented Reality view to figure out where the sun will be setting for my sessions, and that way I could figure out when the sun would be hitting between two sets of high tree lines. It's not luck. It's planning, folks!
  • Check their event calendar ahead of time since they do rent the garden for weddings and special events so you'll want to know about any of those that might affect your photo session

This part of the rose garden had stunning compositions but got dark earlier than others so I used some off-camera flash to balance out the image.

Photo Tip: Plan for variety in your maternity session

I always encourage clients to bring a few outfits so we have some options and variety in their gallery. Hannah was absolutely stunning in two different dresses. The white one was more formal and flowy and the pink maxi dress was more casual and really showed off her gorgeous bump. I bring a pop-up changing tent for convenience and privacy in any location.

Top tip: have fun with it!

Even my most camera-shy clients end up having fun at our sessions. I encourage them to bring some sillier items as well that have meaning for them, like this parenting book. As first-time parents-to-be, we wanted to play up the baby jitters that are so common. And although Kyle gave the belly contest his best effort, I think it's obvious who wore it best!

Let's Find your own hidden gem

Discovering beautiful settings is one my superpowers.
If you have a dream setting in mind, let's discuss what we can create together.

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