Best Places to Take Pictures in Portland, Oregon (Photo Guide)

Any photographer planning to photograph the PNW is likely to stay in Portland, Oregon. Full of unique sights like the Japanese garden and Witch’s Castle there is plenty to photograph in Portland.

Planning an Oregon road trip?
Read: Best places to take photos in Oregon

In this post we’ll go over the most-see spots to inspire your creativity and fill your camera roll with memorable images. So, let’s dive in to these Portland photography locations that await you in the City of Roses.

Get the most out of your trip with these Portland photo spots:

1. Portland Japanese Garden

Japanese maple at the Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the best places to photograph in Portland. With plenty of Japanese maple trees, bonsai trees, and even a tea house there is plenty to photograph in the garden. You’ll find the Japanese garden in Washington Park near the Portland Zoo. Many of the other locations on this list you’ll find in Washington Park and it’s well worth a day to explore.

One of the most popular things to photograph in the Portland Japanese Garden is a 100 year old Japanese maple. While in photos the tree looks huge it’s actually about 8-feet tall and the angle is taken low. You can easily walk by the famed tree without noticing it.

Keep in mind if you want to use your tripod you’ll have to pay an additional $10 tripod fee which can be paid at the entrance when buying tickets.

Portland Japanese Garden on Google Maps

2. Pittock Mansion

The Pittock Mansion is a 23-room historic mansion from 1914. The grounds feature stunning gardens, scenic views, while the interior has plenty of historical items.

View of downtown Portland from Pittock Mansion (foggy sunrise)

In addition to touring the mansion the Pittock Mansion Park Viewpoint is a popular spot for photographers. On a clear day you can see Mount Hood in the distance. If you’re planning to shoot sunrise from the park the gate likely won’t be open so you’ll have to walk a short distance from the Pittock Mansion entrance.

Pittock Mansion on Google Maps

3. International Rose Test Garden

Founded in 1917 the International Rose Test Garden contains over 10,000 plants. When the roses are in bloom you’ll be able to photograph hundreds of rose varieties. Due to Portlands efforts in breeding roses it’s often referred to as the “City Of Roses”.

Best of all it’s free to roam the gardens. The garden is located in Washington Park making it a great stop when visiting many of the other sites like the Japanese Garden or Pittock Mansion.

International Rose Test Garden on Google Maps

4. Hoyt Arboretum

There are plenty hiking trails to explore in Forest Park around the Hoyt Arboretum. The Hoyt Arboretum has also become a popular wedding destination. The arboretum is open year-round, and each season brings its own unique beauty. In the spring, the cherry blossoms and magnolias are in full bloom, while the fall brings vibrant colors to the trees.

If you’re looking for a specific type of tree or shrub, be sure to check out the arboretum’s interactive map before you go. This will help you plan your route and make the most of your visit.

Hoyt Arboretum on Google Maps

5. Portland White Stag Sign

View of the Portland White Stag sign from Tom McCall Waterfront Park

It’s hard not to think of the Portland White Stag Sign when thinking of Portland. Located downtown the best views of the sign are from the Burnside Bridge. You can also get views of the sign from the street near Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

The best time to capture the Portland sign is during the golden hour. This is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset when the light is soft and warm. The sign is illuminated at night, which makes it another great time to capture it.

Portland White Stag Sign on Google Maps

6. Witch’s Castle

Witch’s Castle in Forest Park

Also known as the Stone House the Witch’s Castle in Forest park is a Portland classic. The walk to the Witch’s Castle is a 1-mile out & back hike that is fairly easy. You typically can find a parking spot off of NW Cornell Road then head down to the Wildwood Trail to the Witch’s Castle.

Originally built in the 1930s the building was designed as a public restroom for hikers. After the building was damaged in 1962 and left in disrepair graffiti and moss has taken over the structure.

Witch’s Castle on Google Maps

7. Lan Su Chinese Garden

Lan Su Chinese Garden

While the Lan Su Chinese Garden only takes up one city block in downtown Portland there is still plenty to see. I enjoyed all of the covered bridges and walkways through the garden. There is also a tea house in the garden with snacks and tea if you need a refreshment.

Lan Su Chinese Garden on Google Maps

8. Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Walking the Tom McCall Waterfront Park is a great way to see many of the city’s sights including the steel bridge and white stag sign. There are plenty of bike trails and places to walk since you’re directly downtown in the park. One of the most popular times to visit the park is when cherry blossom trees are blooming in the spring.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Google Maps

9. The Steel Bridge

The Steel Bridge downtown is a through truss bridge with a unique double-deck vertical lift. Built in 1912 the lower deck carries bikes, pedestrians and a railroad while the upper-deck carries road traffic. This 1.5-mile pedestrian and bike path runs along the east bank of the Willamette River and offers unobstructed views of the bridge. You can capture the bridge as it lifts up to allow boats to pass underneath, or at night when it’s lit up.

The Steel Bridge on Google Maps

10. Portland Sign at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The large Portland marquee at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall just screams Portland (literally!). One of the best times to photograph the Portland sign will be at night with traffic passing by.

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Google Maps

11. Cathedral Park & St. John’s Bridge

Cathedral Park underneath St. John’s Bridge is a great spot to enjoy some sun in the city or to take photos of the St. John’s Bridge. The St. Johns Bridge is an impressive suspension bridge that spans the Willamette River in North Portland. It was designed by David B. Steinman and opened to the public in 1931. With its Gothic-style towers and beautiful detailing, the bridge is an architectural masterpiece that looks especially striking at sunset.

Cathedral Park & St. John’s Bridge on Google Maps

12. Gates of Chinatown

If you drive downtown you’re bound to see the Gates of Chinatown. The 38 foot paifang was built in 1986 and serves as an entrance to Chinatown.

Gates of Chinatown on Google Maps

13. Keep Portland Weird Mural

Keep Portland Weird Mural

You’ll find the Keep Portland Weird mural on Dante’s across the street from Voodoo donuts downtown.

Keep Portland Weird Mural on Google Maps

Thanks for reading my list of Portland photography locations! There are plenty of other photo locations to explore that are a short drive from the city including waterfalls and the Columbia River Gorge. If you have time and I car I’d really recommend driving the Columbia River Gorge and going to Multnomah Falls. For more inspiration for your trip to the Pacific Northwest you can see my full list of Oregon photo spots.

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