The moment you book your portrait session, undoubtedly you are faced with two decisions: 1) what to wear and 2) where to hold the photoshoot. All clients who book with Nhi Thai Photography receive a style guide that helps with the first decision – what colors look best on camera, what outfit styles are most flattering, etc. On this page, I will highlight my favorite locations around Central PA to help guide your second decision! This page serves as a directory of my favorite locations for photos in State College, Penn State campus, Bellefonte, Boalsburg, and beyond. Be sure to click on the specific page for any locations you’re interested in exploring further and view more example photos!
I admit when I first started photography, I was so eager to explore new locations that there was always a bit of disappointment when clients after clients requested photos at the Arboretum at Penn State. But now I have come to fully appreciate the many varieties our arboretum gives us. There are always new blooms. One session is never the same as the next. I like to scout the arboretum in advance not only to assess lighting and bloom conditions, but also what sceneries would best fit the vision my clients have. Our arboretum is truly a treasure in town!
Not too far from our arboretum is another location rich with natural beauty! I love the wispy grasses, wild flowers, wooden fence, bridge, and water you can dip your toes in. It’s one of my favorite locations for spring and summer! If you appreciate Nature, enjoy romantic strolls, and listen to birds chirping, this location is for you!
Whether you’re affiliated with Penn State or not, its alumni garden offers many great attractions. Gazebo, duck pond (that’s also home to koi fish, turtles, and bullfrogs), stone bridge, and many beautiful blooms in the spring make such a picturesque backdrop. And if you are affiliated with Penn State, this on-campus oasis is the perfect spot for marriage proposals as well as weddings. Or simply, to have a picnic on a lazy Sunday.
Calvary Harvest Fields is among my most favorite locations for photoshoots. I first found it during autumn and the foliage is breathtaking. Coupled with a grand mountain view and the scenery is unmistakably central PA’s signature look. There’s just so much to explore here – the woods, the fishing pond, the willow trees, and the wispy green grass comes summer. You definitely will not be disappointed choosing Harvest Fields as your location! In fact, weddings are hosted here as well. The church itself is beautiful with floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in abundant natural light. Calvary also houses a spacious, indoor play space equipped with a challenge trail. In fact, Khai held his second birthday party here and it was a hit. Everyone had a blast and definitely got all their energy out. So whether it’s a birthday party, tying the knot, or taking family portraits, I recommend Harvest Fields unequivocally.
It’s hard to imagine that our local ski area is the perfect spot for photos as well as special events. Tussey Mountain may be known for its winter sports, go-karts, and mini golf. But its natural beauty is an attraction all on its own. I love the trail that encircles the lake, the small pier, the gazebo, and the gorgeous fall foliage. There are so many opportunities to take epic portraits here with the mountain view in the background and your reflections in the lake. In fact, my first portrait session here was a surprise proposal because I sold the location to the groom-to-be. He knew his future wife would find this spot perfect to start a new chapter in their love story. And indeed, Tussey Mountain hosts weddings as well! For the adventurous and nature lover. Beyond photographing at Tussey Mountain, I love their movie on the mountain events. We are so blessed to have this neat spot in town! And by spot, I mean 50 acres!
Do you dream of having a photo session with wildflowers and a gorgeous mountain view? It turns out we don’t have to fly to Colorado to achieve this vision. At Oak Hall Regional Park here in State College area (Boalsburg, specifically), you can have it all! Mount Nittany in the background. Abundant wildflowers for that dreamy, whimsical, romantic look. And there’s even a creek nearby for the carefree, adventurous hearts. 🙂
Rich with history, the Pennsylvania Military Museum is decorated with a “Wall of Honor” – representations of several military service ribbons that have been awarded to Commonwealth veterans throughout the last century. The museum houses memorials and shrines (both indoor and outdoor) dating back to World War I. From a photographic standpoint, the majestic, tall trees in front of the military museum always serve as an impressive focal point. I typically recommend The Pennsylvania Military Museum for portrait sessions especially if we have passed peak foliage season. After all, the mighty trees are evergreens. Lesser known is the “secret” creek that I love introducing my clients to – the kids enjoy exploring the area with me and climbing on the multiple tanks and dusters on display. This location is always a family favorite!
Situated at the heart of Bellefonte, Talleyrand Park is arguably the town’s biggest attraction. Founded in 1974, this 3.5 acre land still reflects Bellefonte’s Victorian heritage today. The park is sometimes affectionately known as the duck park, and indeed, families love gathering to watch the abundant mallards that populate here. They can also enjoy a picnic and have fun at the park’s playground. Talleyrand has an impressive suspension bridge and charming gazebo, which often served as picturesque spots, including weddings! But perhaps the train is most well known, not just the model one that kids can explore, but the functional train that sells out every winter for its Santa Express event. Talleyrand also hosts other seasonal events such as its fall festival, Easter egg hunt, and Summer Sounds concerts. Indeed, it’s a year-round treasure in Bellefonte. As a photographer, I love the vibrant autumn colors that Talleyrand gives us, as well as their spring blossoms and willow trees.
If you envision a water session where we can make splashes and getting our outfits wet isn’t a concern, then the creek is for you! It’s beautiful and serene year round! Spring Creek is also densely populated with beautiful trees that provide a gorgeous fall foliage when autumn arrives. In the summer, the creek is a premier fly fishing destination in the northeast. If you’re up for it, let’s pack along your fishing gears for the photoshoot! You might even catch a wild trout.
Old Main is truly beautiful year-round. The spring blooms are gorgeous. The fall leaves are vibrant. The winter snow so magical. And the green grass of summer is ever so fresh. You truly can’t go wrong when having your photo session at Old Main. Beyond the natural scenery, the beautiful architect truly grasps one’s attention. Tall, stunning columns. Majestic steps. Elegant arch double doors. Ambient lighting. Truly, a beautiful space to reflect upon your achievement!
Without a doubt, the crowd gathers every graduation season to snap a photo with Penn State’s famous mascot: Nittany Lion. Carved from a 13-ton block of limestone by Heinz Warneke in 1942, Nittany Lion Shrine stands today as one of the most iconic landmarks on campus. Penn State students often desire to include the shrine as part of their graduation package, and I like to begin our portrait session here so we could line up in advance. (My all time record wait time is 45 minutes.) Although the meter parking reaches full capacity quickly, the line is fast moving, and there is a ramp option across from Moore Building. Don’t let the wait time stop you from taking photos (from multiple angles) with your favorite mascot.
The seventy foot long Pennsylvania State University landmark sign located on Park Avenue near Beaver Stadium was designed by Philip Hawk, a master stonemason from Lemont, using limestone from the 19th Century Centre County Barn Foundations. The massive limestone structure represents the university’s agricultural heritage and the materials used to construct Old Main. Dogwoods and firs are planted around the sign to give it some added character, and these plants create my favorite way of framing photos here! Graduates love choosing the sign at Beaver Stadium to celebrate their commencement – popping champagne, holding balloons, and throwing confetti are excellent props here. The landmark sign is also conveniently located near the visitor’s parking lot, making the process of taking photos here incredibly easy. Do note, though, that the line does get long around graduation seasons, just like how the Nittany Lion Shrine gets crowded. For this reason (and due to how the lighting is at the landmark sign), I typically save this spot for last if you are taking photos at multiple locations around campus.
Bald Eagle State Park, in the heart of Pennsylvania – Howard, PA to be exact – offers a gorgeous scenic backdrop for photography! Picture gentle waves crashing onto the shore. Your feet gently wading through the water. There is also a picturesque pier that overlooks the mountains. This mountain view is especially stunning during the fall.
Colyer Lake spans over 77 acres of land that includes a 2.7 mile hiking trail for walking, hiking, biking, and even horseback riding! I love that there are stepping-stone stream crossings as part of trail. And bring along binoculars for bird watching as there are over 200 species of birds spotted at Colyer Lake! The lake is also open to public boating and fishing – largemouth bass, chain pickerel, panfish and catfish are the popular varieties. Beyond being a fantastic recreational area, Colyer Lake is breathtaking for photography! Whether it’s the overgrown green grass during the summer, vibrant foliage in the fall, or dazzling white snow covered trees in the winter, Colyer provides a picturesque landscape year round. And indeed, you can even go into the water for fun photos with a vibrant sunset as your backdrop!
As you can see, I have so many beautiful locations to recommend for your portrait session. But we definitely are not limited to these. And in fact, if your favorite place is your own backyard, let’s have our portrait session there! You see, the right location isn’t as important as having good lighting (which I can find at any location!). And above all, being in an environment where you feel joy and love will produce images most authentic to you!
Don’t see your favorite location listed above? I’m always up to exploring a new location with you!
Nhi is a portrait photographer serving State College, PA and surrounding communities. Nhi captures photographs that let you re-live your joy, love, and light with intentional artistry. Her creative work has been published in State College Magazine and featured at Bellefonte Art Museum. Also a professor at Penn State, Nhi is committed to creating a positive impact in Happy Valley – be that through beautiful photographs or investing in future students through her scholarship.