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For Photographers | Everything you need to know about doing pictures at Memory Grove in Salt Lake City

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

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Over the years this has been a favorite location of mine to do pictures at.  And the best part, it is free. I even had my own bridals were taken here years ago (I shan't say how long ago haha)

Having done sessions there overall seasons, lighting conditions, days of the week etc, I find I have come to know a LOT about this location and therefore have a lot of wisdom to offer for other photographers who are planning to go there.

So here is a preview of that.  AND if you love what you learn and wish you had this info on many many other Utah locations, email me for my Complete Utah locations resource guide complete (over 500 pages, 200 + locations with:  A map complete with exact coordinate of locations, descriptions and details, pictures, tips for best times to shoot there, policies, pricing, availability, lighting notes, parking notes, seasonal examples, ability to search by various categories including location type, by city, by county, by price, pro’s and con’s of each location, bug/ smell/ wind notes, recommendations of what types of session would it best fit and seasonal/ terrain notes.

I bring this knowledge to my clients that book with the 8+ years I have been doing wedding and portrait photography! But whether you are a photographer or would be interested in this information for other film scouting work, email for further details at:

So let's get into everything you need to know about doing pictures at Memory Grove

About the park... Memory Grove is located conveniently in Salt Lake City. And it is a hidden gem. These kinds of places I would never really know about if I weren't a photographer and actively looking for them. The only reason I knew about them to start with is that, as I mentioned, I had my own bridals done there years ago.

When I had my bridals done back then, I was late late to my session! Like 45 minutes at least. Anyway, I was able to get dropped off right then.

I was oblivious to it then, as I didn't think of it, but the shape of the grove loses light quickly, so even that 45 minutes made a big difference of the quality of light of my session. So let's dive in.

The Lighting

Memory Grove is a skinnier shaped park down deep in a grove, hence the name. And it stretches North to South, which means the light leaves quicker and shadows fall on the park at least 1 hour earlier than the areas up above, for example, by the Utah State Capitol.

So long as you are cognizant of that, and plan for it, it can actually work in your favor too.

So get there soon enough, and allow a little extra for a client running behind, 1. Because of the light and 2. Because there is much this park has to offer that if are you pushed for time, you are pretty much guaranteed to have the end of your session in flat light if you don't plan properly.

I do love to work with being in the sunlight with the dark shadows behind. So it does have its plus. Nice contrast.

Direct sun in the park.

On an overcast or partially cloudy day, or for an early morning session in front of the gazebo later in the summer is pretty with roses.. otherwise, they would be in direct sunlight.

The stone steps of the chapel are another great stop for large groups for families of Salt Lake City. But only if it is an early morning session, or an overcast or partially cloudy day.

Back further in the park is where the light disappears first. But these waterfalls are lovely.

Here is another example of the challenge with the heavy shadows and very bright light that hits the side of the park.

About the Park

It's a dog-friendly park, so dogs will be running freely. I was not ready for this.  So here I was in a grand white satin wedding dress and we were posing doing pictures by this pond and dogs freely run into it and jump out of it shaking their water off.  My mom was all arms and legs ready to protect as dogs went running past.  We were occasionally a little on edge for the obvious reason of not wanting to get fresh dog water shaken all over us haha. 

Other features of the park that I love, which I will get into more specifically below are: Blossom tree's that line a path, greenery for most seasons, cool stone walls covered in ivy, European styled stone structures, a greek gazebo, a pond, a creek, waterfalls, a stone bridge, a quaint wedding venue with a New England vibe, a dirt path, steps, a small chapel with columns, and roses that come out in the summer.

There are not accessible bathrooms at the park, so prepare your clients for this.  If you find you need a place to change, we have gone over behind the chapel and had a person on each side keep watch.  It is a secluded enough spot.  

Some Great Spots

The Willow Trees

I LOVE willow tree's
Definitely, make your way to the willow tree for a few. I love willows. So romantic. Also, the shadows that fall on the other side can be your friend! They make for great contrast in making your subject pop

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The Chapel

The peach colored prayer chapel with its columns is great but in full sun can make them rather pink so to have a bounce to help differentiate their skin tones from that of a very similar colored setting can be great.
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The peach colored prayer chapel with its columns is great but in full sun can make them rather pink so to have a bounce to help differentiate their skin tones from that of a very similar colored setting can be great.

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Children at Memory Grove for summer family pictures

Be cognizant of what your client is wearing. Light peaches and delicate pinks and tans are in right now, so then they would blend into this background too much.

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Surrounding the chapel are bushes that also make a great simple backdrop for pictures.

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Outside of the Memorial House
I love the colonial vibe of the Memorial House at Memory Grove
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Outside the Memorial House in Memory Grove

Greenery Spots

There are bushes that I love that line along this stone sidewalk, but there may or may not be a lot of color there. Or there might be blossoms! And be pretty
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Memory Grove in the Fall

By the Pond

There is a pond there that is lovely. But bring a blanket as sometimes it is soggy/ animal poop here and there
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A picnic in the park
Along Canyon Road (just outside the front gate)

This may likely be where you start your session as it will likely be where you park as well.

The stone wall pathways.

These are also what I will call the zig zaggity paths... When facing north, once you enter into the park, on the left are stairs that lead up and then split into paths that go up both ways on the steep side of the canyon until they eventually exit out on the street that is just east of the Utah State Capitol building.

In the grove, you will see steps that go up into the pathways that zig zag up the park, and in that area you will find these cool stone wall areas with vines which I love.

While I don't recommend on making the walk with every client, as it is the work out, there are some lovely areas along there.

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Stone Column Gazebo

I love this greek / Rome like structure/ gazebo, I recommend going to the far side (east side) in the shade for a shot, but there are some black railings there that I don't love so I usually do some kind of shot like this.

Had to climb up into the bushes funny for this one.  And as for a weekend day, you can see many a car in the background... I loved the willow in the shot though.

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Roses around the Gazebo

In the summertime, this is a favorite stop of mine!

The Stone Gate at the end of Canyon Road

This stone structure at the front of Memory Grove is most ideal for a formal session.  Later in the summer, it will have flowers like this too.

If a storm has recently come, there are many cracks which may or may not be what you are liking for a formal session.

The Ivy and Blossom areas along Canyon Road

Especially for looking for greenery early in the season, there are many vines before the gate along that pinking stone wall that I have gone to for color early season. It is awkwardly steep though, so not a place for... heels... and only for the adventurous couple or individual to walk up to it.

The Stone Bridge

This is a popular stop! So if it is a priority, make it a first stop as you will have some competition.

I feel like I always end up doing a lot of photoshop with this bridge in removing messiness... would it be too much to bring a broom:) haha
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These are weekday pictures, or there was not an event going on, but the street behind can likely be filled with cars on a Saturday. Also many other people around.

If there are distractions in the background, I will do a lower angle like this one. Problem solved. Cute picture.
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The Steps leading up to the Chapel

The Creek up behind the bridge

The creek is a cute spot for willing couples to chill their feet playfully but only recommended for a session in the mid-afternoon otherwise the light is dim. Be cautious of water levels and slipperiness. The creek in the main part of the grove is super moss and slippery and not recommended for wadding.
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The Seasons


Along canyon road at Memory Grove in early spring.

The Gazebo from the South end in the early spring

Sometimes later in the day there will be the carriages that come through... perfect little backdrop... except maybe the person texting:)
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Mid spring with some sun.
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Later in the spring

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Lovely flowers around the gazebo in the summertime. Be cognizant of the green light under the willow tree's, especially in heavy sunlight.
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When it is busy

On weekends and during the warm months in the mid afternoon and evenings is when memory grove is busiest. Weddings can be booked at the memorial house any day but usually on weekends cards line Canyon road and will make for background distractions. Also, spots like the stone bridge will be harder to take pictures at too.

Where to meet your client

I think google maps or something must direct people to the upper part of memory grove (a parking lot that lines above it up by the capitol building) and they have to do a long zig zaggy walk down to get to you and it can be confusing. There is a street by the front gate (you can't actually park in memory grove) but at the street by the front gate and you will see this wall. There might even be blossoms there still if they have not been blown away. Anyway, tell them to meet you at the front iron gate and make it clear that it is down in the grove not looking down into it.  The road they will be parking on is called Canyon Road.  And at the end of it a stone and iron gate (that they cannot enter unless going to a wedding) 

Along that Canyon road are trees and a sidewalk and this brick wall.

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