denver skyline with mountain

(Photo: Getty Images)


Go Into the Wild — and Urban Spaces — Capturing Denver for the ‘Gram

The Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, is a mecca for photographers looking to capture incredible cityscapes and wild outdoor spaces in a single trip — they’ll find so much more here than expected. In fact, Denver has the 10th-largest downtown in America, and you could spend days exploring the countless bars, shops and restaurants.

When photographing Denver, focus on all its diverse aspects, like artistic graffiti, twinkling overhead lights and historic, Victorian-era storefronts.

Photographer and influencer Alejandro Toro is fresh off a trip to the Mile High City’s SpringHill Suites Denver Downtown, where he explored the city and the surrounding outdoors to build this list of the area’s six most Instagrammable sights. Use his below tips to up your Denver Instagram game and post your best vacation pictures yet.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Just 15 miles west of Denver, this natural sandstone amphitheater is an acoustically perfect concert venue. But even when there isn’t a performance, there’s so much to see and shoot here.

Alejandro says Red Rocks is a great place for a walk, especially when there are no concerts happening. The park is also open every day for biking and dining and often holds specialty events like Yoga on the Rocks or Film on the Rocks.

Instagram tip: Red Rocks is regarded as the best place to photograph the sunset in Denver, so come when no events are booked to capture the sun hitting the sandstone without the concert crowds.

Once you take your shot, up its saturation in Instagram just a bit to showcase the natural red rocks and pink clouds as your eyes see them.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

(Photo: Getty Images)

Alejandro loves the city but also enjoys wide-open spaces and silence, which is why getting lost in this refuge outside of Denver is one of his favorite things to do. Embark on the 11-mile Wildlife Drive in your car to see bison, deer, hawks, birds and other wildlife. Then stop to photograph the herds of wild bison and deer juxtaposed with Denver’s distant city skyline.

Instagram tip: Alejandro recommends taking your telephoto lens and trying to spot as many animals as you can. More than 300 species live in the park, and this lens lets you capture wildlife up close without disturbing it.

When you post animal photos to Instagram, use a small Vignette or Tilt Shift radial blur to draw the viewer’s eyes to the subject.

RiNo District

Denver’s River North Art District goes by the nickname “RiNo” and has fully embraced it with a rhino logo representing the area. Ranked as one of America’s top neighborhoods to visit, RiNo blends artistic, industrial factories turned bars and brewpubs with real, working art galleries. And the art doesn’t end inside; an ever-evolving canvas of street murals and graffiti make photographing here feel fresh and new every time.

The RiNo District is Denver’s best place for urban photo shoots. And whether you’re the subject or bringing someone else along, the ever-changing graffiti walls make funky, colorful backdrops ideal for Instagram.

Instagram tip: For Alejandro, symmetry is key when shooting the fun storefronts and graffiti in the RiNo District. “Use the grid lines on your phone Instagram to take symmetrical photos,” he says. “When in doubt, work the perspective on your photo-editing app. I use Lightroom since it allows me to adjust the lines on the photo to make it perfectly symmetrical; there’s just something visually pleasing about symmetry.”

Larimer Square

Known as Denver’s “first block,” this historic street exceeds expectations offers plenty of photographic opportunities. Here, Victorian-era buildings housing specialty shops and restaurants mingle with modern structures and bustling crowds.

The string of lights stretching across Larimer Square makes for magical nighttime snaps. Look to pair these lights with iconic sights, like the Market Clock, a tall, still-working timepiece dating to 1910.

Instagram tip: Once you snap the clock and Larimer Square close up, use Instagram’s Moon or Willow filters to transform your image into a moody black-and-white capture. Get more ideas for shots by following @larimersquare on Instagram.

Daniels Park

See the majestic mountains of Colorado’s Front Range in this 1,000-acre park set high on a mesa. The area is known for its bison herd and is also home to beautiful, historic ranch buildings.

Drive along Daniels Park Road and stop at a historic red hay barn and silo for a beautiful capture. Find other epic overlooks and photography locations by following #danielspark on Instagram.

Instagram tip: To shoot the best Front Range views near Denver, visit during “golden hour,” just before sunset, for ideal color and lighting. And when it comes to choosing your photography equipment, Alejandro says the two best options for picture taking are ironically complete opposites.

“I suggest either going with a wide lens to capture as much as you can of this wide space, or using a telephoto lens to focus on small details that stand out, like the buffalo herds, old barns, trees and rock formations,” he says.

Forest Room 5

Though it’s only a block west of the I-25, Forest Room 5 feels like a world unto itself. A center for music, art and film, Forest Room 5’s patio is the place to capture epic outdoor shots in the city that express to your audience more than they might expect from such a space. Expect flowing brooks, tree-lined alcoves, wood-stump chairs and roaring fire pits that make you forget you’re in the city at all.

Instagram tip: In this space, you can feel like you’re indoors or in the forest, all within the same location. For a unique capture here, Alejandro suggests playing up Forest Room’s nature side. “Position yourself in a way that you can isolate the photo and make it seem like you’re really in the forest.”

After taking the photo, use Instagram’s Tilt Shift setting to selectively blur your image to focus on objects like the candles on the tables or one of the 12 beautifully crafted specialty cocktails.

See More of Alejandro’s Journey in Denver