When planning a photoshoot in San Francisco there are so many beautiful locations to choose from! Here are a few ideas for where to have your San Francisco photography session including unique, epic Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints, sprawling manicured gardens, architectural ruins and mini redwood forests, all located within the city.
Natural San Francisco Photoshoot Locations
Sutro Baths next to Land’s End Lookout in San Francisco
Lover’s Lane in The Presidio
This spot is perfect for family sessions, personal branding photoshoots and engagement photography. Even on foggy or overcast days, the natural vibe of this spot is always so picturesque. This location features a natural art sculpture, Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line, comprised of curving trees that stretch along this romantic path. There is usually free street parking only a few minute’s walk from this location and it’s best to arrive in the early AM if shooting here on the weekends as it gets busy later on in the day 😉
Mile Rock Beach
I highly recommend Mile Rock Beach if you’re looking for a natural environment with an epic sunset. This spot is a bit of a downward climb to get to but it is absolutely worth the trip as it has beautiful picturesque views of the water and rocks. It is around a 10 minutes’ walk from free parking at the Legion of Honor. Super romantic and cinematic for photos!
Elk Glen Picnic Area
This location is perfect for anyone who may be a bit camera shy and hoping to avoid crowds and messy traffic situations! It is super low-key, always easy to park at and the overgrown forest area is beautiful and varied. There is a walking / hiking path, a pond which makes for great picturesque views and lush greenery and vibrant wildflowers. It’s truly a hidden gem inside Golden Gate Park and is great for photography sessions!
San Francisco Botanical Gardens
Nestled inside Golden Gate Park, this huge garden is super well maintained and has many picturesque areas to choose from. There is a rose garden, a pond crossed by a bridge and of course an abundance of plant life and flowers which make for fairy-tale vibe photos. There is free street parking but it fills up quick, there is also paid parking inside a garage as well. This spot is great for those visiting from out of town since it’s located right next to the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young art museum. Note there is a small entrance fee for non-residents.
Other garden and forest locations…
• Elk Glen Picnic Area inside Golden Gate Park
Best Golden Gate Bridge Views
Battery Spencer in Sausalito
This spot is my absolute favorite view of the bridge! Battery Spencer has a fantastic city and bridge view on one side and a picturesque view of the Marin headlands on the opposite side. It has accessible (and free) parking and in addition to having an epic view of the bridge, there are also gates covered in locks hung up as testaments of couples’ eternal love. It’s a very romantic spot and is especially beautiful at sunrise (as seen in the above images).
Marshall’s Beach does involve a bit of a climb (around 15 mins from the parking lot) but is absolutely worth it as it puts you right up close next to the bridge while also on the beach. There are huge rock faces which make for very pretty backdrops. Bring walking shoes for this one and be advised it may not be best to bring the kids here as it is a nudity-friendly beach.
Other Golden Gate Bridge view locations…
SF City and Architecture Views
Ina Coolbirth Park
This is the best San Francisco skyline view I’ve found. It is super easy to get great photos with the city in the background here and street parking is typically available and free. Pro tip: avoid shooting at Ina Coolbirth Park during midday as there is little shade; best to schedule for early AM or PM instead!
- Taylor & Vallejo Streets San Francisco, CA 94101
San Francisco City Hall
Whether you’re planning your wedding at San Francisco City Hall or looking for an architecturally stunning backdrop for a fashion or branding session, this is one of the most elegant locations in the city. The huge intricate dome and dramatic four-floor staircase are particularly stunning elements of this extremely intricately designed building. There is a parking garage on the same block and it is open and free to the public most week days.
- 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place San Francisco, CA 94102
Other beautiful city views and architectural locations…
• Legion of Honor
• Coit Tower
• Luxe Cruises
• Pier 14
Other Local Photoshoot Location Ideas…
Morcom Rose Garden | Oakland
Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland
The Morcom Rose Garden has numerous compositions to choose from, including varied angles that make your photos unique. The garden is particularly beautiful during Springtime when the roses are in full bloom, but it remains a beautiful location year-round.
Indian Rock Park, Berkeley
This tiny park has picturesque rock faces and is such a good find – nestled in the Berkeley hills, it makes for a great photo spot for families, engagement or maternity photos and would even work well for headshots / lifestyle portraits too! Gotta love a good rock wall – it’s an instant immobile backdrop 😉
- 950 Indian Rock Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
Fioli Gardens in Woodside
Fioli Gardens, located in Woodside, CA, is an exceptional location for a professional photoshoot. The well-manicured grounds offer a stunning backdrop for any type of photography, whether it’s a portrait, family, or engagement session. With its sprawling and lush landscape, Fioli Gardens has a multitude of areas to choose from, allowing for great composition and angles. Although it may not be inexpensive compared to other options, it’s worth the cost for the high-quality results. Additionally, Fioli Gardens also functions as a wedding and event venue, making it a versatile location for any occasion. Overall, Fioli Gardens is a fantastic choice for anyone looking to capture beautiful, high-quality photographs in a stunning outdoor setting.
Dracena Quarry Park in Piedmont
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• Practicing the art of photography since 2013, I have dedicated my career to capturing your precious memories with an artistic touch. With extensive experience in Fine Art, composition and design, I craft every gallery to be its own work of art •
Emily was super easy to work with and very accommodating. This was our first time in the area and Emily was extremely helpful with assisting us in choosing the perfect location for our shoot. We enjoyed getting to know her as well as telling our personal story. I think she caught the essence of who we are as a couple and definitely memorialized this special trip for us. – Jamie A.
Working with Emily was awesome! It felt so natural and I was at ease taking photos. She knew what she was doing and captured spectacular candid pictures throughout the night as well! She took fantastic pictures despite terrible weather and lighting conditions. 10/10 would recommend hiring her for your wedding! Thank you Emily!! – Kayla F.
Emily did a fantastic job! I somewhat planned my engagement on the Fly with about a week (or less) for her to prepare and she did a phenomenal job working with me and making me feel at ease In a part of the country I’ve never traveled to. She was able to stay in contact with me (secretly) up until about 1 min before I proposed which was a MASSIVE help. Super easy to work with, made it fun, was also very professional and I would recommend her NO DOUBT. Thanks again! You made an insanely stressful “operation” (haha) go incredibly smooth! Her photos were fabulous and turned out great! I honestly didn’t know what to expect! Well done!! – Spencer H.
Emily is an outstanding photographer! My husband and I hired her for our outdoor maternity shoot with our first born. Booking Emily was painless, and she was extremely easy to communicate with throughout the entire process. She suggested multiple beautiful locations to shoot. We met at a gorgeous nearby beach she suggested. To top it off Emily sent us our photos ahead of scheduled time. Overall, Emily is exceptionally professional, pleasant and creative. She is one of the best I’ve ever worked with. Book her for your next photography needs, and you won’t be disappointed!! – Samantha K.
We hired Emily for our engagement photo shoot this past weekend and I honestly cannot recommend her enough! Not only is she super polite, kind, and professional, but she is also extremely talented. She has such an eye for detail and is fantastic at helping pose her clients. We did our photo shoot on my cousin’s property and Emily was so good at picking spots and playing with the light and surroundings. My fiancé and I were both completely out of our element, because we had never done a professional shoot before, but Emily made us feel comfortable, confident, and natural from the start and we completely love every picture we received! On top of all that the turnaround time for pictures was quick and she was very communicative from start to finish! 10/10, highly recommend! – Emily A.
Emily was amazing. She made my day easy and more special than I could have imagined. She’s sweet and knows what you want. She made her way around the family effortlessly. My family will definitely use her again. – Charmaine Z.
Emily captured my wedding in a way I never thought was imaginable! We had a beautiful outdoor wedding, Emily was really able to use the natural light in our favor. (I love natural light) She came early to set up and was extremely professional! Emily was easy to work with and great with my family and guests. I love the way our photos turned out and would recommend her to anyone that I knew!! Thanks again Emily you’re part of the family now! – Jennifer S
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