Carlisle is posed next to the Cocky statue for senior graduation photos on the University of South Carolina campus.

5 Great Locations for Portraits in Columbia, SC

Looking for the perfect locations for portraits in Columbia, SC? Check out these 5 popular and publicly accessible spots that will serve as the ideal backdrop for your next photo shoot.

The South Carolina Statehouse

Located at 1100 Gervais Street, the South Carolina Statehouse is a favorite among both amateur and professional photographers. This expansive area boasts 11 acres of beautifully landscaped walking trails, open grassy spaces, and historic monuments. The Statehouse itself, with its magnificent columns and steep granite steps, is a captivating focal point. Metered parking is available nearby, and while the outdoor grounds are accessible 24/7 to the public, please note that some sections may be reserved for events.

Bhanu poses for outdoor headshots at the South Carolina Statehouse.
Business headshot taken at the South Carolina State House

The USC Horseshoe

Carlisle poses for senior graduation photos at the University of South Carolina Horseshoe, a popular location for portraits.
Senior portrait taken at the USC Horseshoe.

Steeped in history, the Horseshoe on the University of South Carolina campus is over two centuries old and remains a cherished part of the city. The Horseshoe features majestic trees, charming historic buildings, and brick pathways, making it a popular choice for family portraits. Throughout the year, this location maintains its beauty, attracting photographers who seek its idyllic gardens and serene fountains. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture a photo with the 6’5″ bronze statue of USC’s beloved mascot, Cocky, located behind the Horseshoe. And the nearby fountain and reflecting pool in front of Thomas Cooper Library is a favorite spot for graduating seniors to take pictures. The Horseshoe can be busy at graduation and prom times. Metered parking and a public parking garage on Pendleton Street are available nearby.

The Gardens at the SC Governor’s Mansion

Tucked away at 800 Richland Street, the gardens at the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion are a hidden gem in Columbia. Open to the public on weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm (unless it’s a state holiday or private event), these tranquil grounds offer a picturesque setting for your photography session. Inside the gardens, you’ll discover enchanting features such as fountains, gravel paths, swings, gazebos, statues, and pergolas. The Lace House and Caldwell-Boylston House are also nestled within this oasis. For a more exclusive experience, the Lace House can be rented for photography sessions. Nearby metered parking is available, ensuring convenient access.

Caitlin poses on the steps of the Lace House in the gardens of the South Carolina Governor's Mansion.
Portrait taken in the gardens at the SC Governor’s Mansion.

Columbia Riverfront Park

Situated at 312 Laurel Street, Columbia Riverfront Park is a favored location for photography in the city. This scenic park spans the area around the Congaree River and the Historic Columbia Canal. Alongside the water features, including a spillway gate and a pedestrian bridge, you’ll find an amphitheater and a captivating historic water plant. The water plant offers a distinctive setting for both interior and exterior shots, with its grungy industrial ambiance. Public restrooms are available on-site, and public parking is accessible. Be prepared for a short walk from the parking lot to the river and canal area.

A couple pose on the bridge crossing the Historic Canal at Columbia Riverfront Park, a great location for portraits.
Couples portrait taken at Columbia Riverfront Park.

The Vista

Chellie poses with flowers in the Columbia Vista, a great location for portrait photography.
Portrait taken in the Vista.

Nestled between the Main Street District and the Congaree River, Columbia’s Vista is a vibrant entertainment district. Formerly a warehouse area, it now houses an array of restaurants, bars, and retail businesses. Known for its lively nightlife, the Vista presents a dynamic urban backdrop for your portraits. Colorful walls, string lights, and neon signs contribute to the district’s energetic ambiance, adding flair and vibrancy to your images. Be sure to explore the Lincoln Street Tunnel for unique and photogenic possibilities. The Vista is also an excellent choice for nighttime portraits, showcasing the city’s captivating lights. Public parking garages and metered parking are available, but keep in mind that peak times may require a bit of searching for a suitable parking spot.

While there are many other options, the list we’ve provided is an excellent starting point, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the city or are new to photography. These carefully selected spots offer a diverse range of backdrops and atmospheres, ensuring that you can capture stunning portraits that reflect your vision and style.

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