When Louise and I got married in Banff, we already had a pretty good idea about where we’d like to have our photos taken. While most people have dream journals full of flower arrangements, cakes and wedding dresses, ours was just one giant list of all the places we wanted to have our photos taken.
Fortunately, we’ve got hundreds of favourite spots, but most people looking to elope in the mountains or have a romantic mountain photoshoot here don’t really have a clue where to start! I mean, with so many epic spots and so little time, how on earth do you narrow that list down?
Here are some of the questions you might be asking yourself:
“Which locations can I wear a dress to without dragging it through the mud? Which locations get the best evening light? How many locations can I fit in in one shoot? Which locations are best for winter/ summer? Or even, where’s the best place to shoot a surprise proposal?
It’s a huge subject, so we thought we’d narrow down the search a little and point you towards some of our favourites. To give you an idea of what you can achieve, we’ll also show you a few of our wedding photos (taken by our friends)/some recent photoshoots (taken by us).
(As a side note, if you want to chat with me about shooting a romantic couple shoot/proposal or you want the contact details of the photographers that shot our photos, feel free drop me an email at [email protected] or call/text me on 403 401 2066)
This was one of the most magical settings for our original wedding photos. We took them in June for a styled shoot, and it just so happened that there was a lot of forest fire smoke in the air at the time. It made for some absolutely epic photos that went perfectly with the Boho theme we were going for. Take some shots from the top of the rockpile and possibly even rent a canoe (usually costs upwards of $100).
- it’s probably the most epic spot to shoot photos from in the National Park
- all of the photography spots are mere metres from the car park meaning you can bring hefty equipment and outfit changes.
- It’s the busiest place in the park, so be prepared for gawkers
- The car park has limited space, so it’s a gamble whether you’ll get your car in or not. To have a better chance of getting in, go after 6pm in summer or before 7am.
- It’s a 1 hour drive from Banff
2. Emerald Lake
This is one of my favourite places to shoot couples. The water is a stunning deep greeny-blue colour and looks like glass on an overcast day. The mountains in the background are epic and it’s significantly less busy than Moraine Lake, especially if you walk 5 minutes from the main busy section. You’ve also got Natural Bridge nearby for some other interesting shots. You can also hire a canoe here for cheaper than any of the other lakes.
Emerald gets decent light at sunset, and the light is generally preferable in the evening.
- Absolutely beautiful backdrop
- Cheaper canoes
- Even in peak season, 90% of the trail around the lake is empty and free for a photo session
- The area around the main bridge is an absolute zoo
- It’s 20 minutes further from Banff than Lake Louise and the road can be a little dodgy in winter
- Car park can get a little busy in summer
3. Peyto Lake
This is probably our favourite place to take wedding photos in Banff and is where we had our all time favourite photo taken. If you want to take your engagement photos away from the viewpoint, bring decent hiking boots and don’t put your wedding dress on until you get to the place you’re going to take your photos.
Sunset here can be epic, and the weather here is generally different to the rest of the Icefields Parkway up until this point. Even with apocalyptic smoke or blizzards, we’ve pushed onwards and have found a break in the weather at Peyto. Sometimes there isn’t but it’s always worth giving it a try.
If you want to take photos standing on the rocks, you either have to follow the loop trail higher or descend down the rocks. Either is beautiful but the higher trail is less treacherous.
For sunset, the sun generally drops behind the mountain a long time before the actual sunset. If you want direct light, you’ll have to factor that in. Going in winter can make direct light virtually impossible.
- Very few people venture this far so your photos are going to be very unusual indeed
- One of the best spots for sunset light in Banff
- You can quickly find spots away from tourists if you’re willing to hike or clamber over the rocks.
- It’s a long way to drive only to find that the weather is awful
- In winter, the road to the viewpoint is closed and you have to hike up – sometimes in thick, knee deep snow (not ideal for a wedding shoot)
- The wind can be bitingly cold at Peyto, make sure you bring layers to wrap up between shots.
- The rocks aren’t very accessible unless you’re fit and agile
4. Norquay Chairlift
This is quite a unique place to shoot your engagement or wedding photos in Banff. The idea here is for your photographer to go up on the chairlift ahead of you and shoot backwards to capture you and your partner as you head up the mountain. If you time it right, you can get Mt. Rundle in the background and you can get some really fun/romantic shots.
When we had our photos taken, we went up and down a few times to experiment with different angles. We found the best to be the following setups:
- Have the photographer on the second to last chair in the group and the couple in the last chair. Chairs seemed to group in sets of 4.
- Leave the photographer at the top of the chairlift and do another lap. Have the photographer shoot you from the top of the lift as you come up.
- Very unusual shots with complete views of the town of Banff below
- Not free – you’ll have to pay for yourself and however many photographers you have with you ($35 per person)
- Takes some figuring out and you’ll probably have to go up and down a few times
- Wrong position for sunset (all photos will be in the shade), great position for sunrise but it probably won’t be possible to shoot it unless you hike up.
5. Lake Louise
This is one of our favourite places to photograph couples in Banff. The amazing glacier backdrop is the perfect place to get those stunning romantic shots you’ve always wanted with your partner. Getting the right conditions there can be very tricky though, so things have to line up perfectly for it to work out.
- Gorgeous scenery in summer and winter. Arguably better in winter because you can walk out across the Lake in winter and escape the crowds.
- Metres from a hotel/car park meaning you don’t have to drag equipment very far and you can run inside to warm up if it’s cold
- Insanely busy in the summer and winter – you either have to come very early or very late to avoid the crowds. Alternatively you can take some different shots further around the lake, at which point the crowds start to thin out substantially.
- Sometimes the car park fills in the summer and you can’t actually park up at Lake Louise. The alternative is a shuttle bus but that isn’t ideal for a wedding shoot!
- Lighting can be tough here. The glacier tends to light up while the rest of the lake is in the shade (if you’re here in the morning), meaning you might need an off camera flash to balance out the scene.
- The weather here is very unpredictable, and the glacier at the back is often shrouded by clouds.
6. Vermillion Lakes
This is one of the most popular spots for elopements and wedding photography in Banff. It’s 5 minutes out of town so it’s easy to cram in a quick shoot here between your wedding and your reception (if it’s in Banff). It also gets fantastic afternoon/evening light which tends to line up perfectly with your typical wedding schedule.
The first two lakes at Vermillion are usually quick busy with photographers, but the third lake is generally quieter and more popular with wedding photographers. If you try to shoot your wedding photos on a Saturday afternoon then, don’t be surprised if you’re jostling for the best spot.
- Perfectly picturesque views of Banff
- 5 minutes from town if you want to get your bridal party away from your venue for a quick shoot
- Right next to the road so you barely need to walk at all
- Gets decent sunset light in Banff (and the best spot for sunrise
- Everybody comes to Vermillion for their wedding shots, precisely because it’s so accessible. It’s generally pretty busy at sunrise/sunset
- Lighting can be very harsh in the middle of the day here
7. Bow Lake
Bow Lake is a great place for a styled wedding shoot. We took our first wedding photos here (a favour for a friend – we weren’t even engaged at this point!) and it was the perfect setting for a picnic shoot. As long as you’re not shooting along the shoreline, it’s generally not very crowded at all. This is a spot that definitely takes patience though, because crowds do tend to roll in in their hundreds in peak season.
- Stunning landscape
- Very close to the road and easy to get to in a wedding dress
- Perfect setup for landscape photos (if you wanted prints)
- Very wide scene – not going to be great for IG (something people often consider these days)
- The grass around the lake can be a bit boggy – be careful where you tread!
- The weather is quite unpredictable here, and it’s a long way to come if the weather is awful
- Without the blue lake visible, winter shots from here are a little lacklustre.
8. Surprise Corner
This is one of those shots you just have to get from Banff. The Fairmont is so iconic that you can’t really ignore it and should definitely get a shot there if possible, whether you’re in wedding get up or just taking some romantic shots!
- Super accessible – it’s 5 minutes from anywhere in Banff so you can easily get photos from here in between wedding and reception
- Perfectly set up for photos with a boardwalk and view point
- It’s on all the tourbus routes, so don’t expect to have it all to yourself during the peak seasons. Expect lots of attention if you’re dressed to the nines.
- Everyone has this photo, even though it’s very iconic.
9. Lake Minnewanka
This is a great spot for a surprise proposal photoshoot. Walking just a little bit away from the parking lot will often get you away from the crowds, especially in the Winter. If you’re shooting a surprise proposal though, there’s absolutely nowhere to hide, so consider using someone your significant other won’t recognise that can hide in plain sight.
Morning light here is wonderful, as is evening light, so you have lots of options for shooting here. It gets a little chaotic in summer though, so be prepared to wait for crowds to move out the way.
- Easy to access, especially if you’re getting married in Banff and want to take some quick photos!
- Accessible for anyone (except the rocks of course)
- Virtually empty in winter
- Gets extremely busy in summer
10. Tunnel Mountain Reservoir
This is a very little known spot in Banff that has all the views and none of the crowds. It’s perfect for a wedding, which is why you can rent it for one from the town for next to nothing (check here for rates). It’s also a great spot for a quick photoshoot with the bridal party, and can easily be accessed through the back streets even on the busiest days of summer.
- Usually empty
- Amazing backdrop
- 5 minutes from anywhere in Banff
- can also get a bit boggy in summer
- If your timing is unlucky, you’ll stumble into someone else’s wedding
So those were our top 10 photo spots for weddings, elopements and proposal shoots in Banff. The list is by no means exhaustive and we still have a couple more locations up our sleeves for another post, but this is a great place to start! In our opinion, the best spots are generally drive up spots that are easy to get to with all your equipment, wedding party and as quickly as possible.
If you have more questions, want to chat about having your own photos taken in Banff or want us to put you in touch with some of the other photographers here, shoot us an email at [email protected] or contact me on Whatsapp at +1 403 401 2066