Top 10 SF Bay Area Engagement Photo Locations
Born and raised in the Bay Area, after shooting engagement sessions here for the past 10 years, I’ve decided to create the Top 10 photo locations that I absolutely love. This list includes garden, beach, and city locations and has been curated to those that are new to the area and just need inspiration, as well as the couples that lived here their entire lives! So without further ado, here are the Top 10 locations, split in half with 5 spots in North Bay and 5 spots in South Bay:
1. Palace of Fine Arts | My Personal Favorite
Mimicking ancient Rome architecture, the Palace of Fine Arts has green grass all around a swan filled lake in the middle, and during golden hour, the sun will shine through the structure and create a beautiful glow in your photos. Afterwards, I suggest all my couples to picnic here and just enjoy the view. This is also a personal favorite, and I always make sure to take my friends here when they visit.
2. Legion of Honor | Paris in California
Fun fact: The Legion of Honor is actually a three-quarter-scale version of the Palais de la Legion d'Honneur (Hotel de Salm) located in Paris, France! Not only that, but the glass pyramid skylight in the middle is reminiscent of the Museum Louvre Pyramid. For the couples that love art, the Legion of Honor museum itself is wonderful too, and showcases a mix of ancient artifacts and European art. After taking your engagement session here, enjoy some art in the museum at your own pace with your loved one!
3. Pulgas Water Temple | Ancient Greek Mythology anyone?
If you’re in South Bay, Pulgas Water Temple is a hidden gem that the locals love. The Corinthian columns used on Pulgas Water Temple always transports me back in time to Ancient Greece where you might lounge around, take baths, drink wine, and just enjoy the day. Recently, this location has become something of a tourist attraction as an “Instagrammable location”, and it’s easy to see why.
4. Davenport Beach | A "Small" Big Sur!
Further south I’m taking you to Davenport Beach, and this is the first beach location on this list! However, it’s not just beach. Davenport offers a combination of grassy hills and wind swept cliffside scenery that I would argue is one of the hallmarks of Northern California along Highway State Route 1. If you’re not willing to drive all the way down to Big Sur, Davenport Beach is just a 45 minute drive from South Bay San Jose.
5. Carmel-By-the-Sea | Cottage-core Vibes
If you love driving, even further south, Carmel-By-The-Sea offers a beautiful view of the ocean as well, with charming cottage-core vibes downtown. After the engagement session, grab some sweets at my favorite candy store "Cottage of Sweets" to end the day on a (sugar) high!
6. Muir Beach | This Beach Rocks!
Further up north in San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll find a beach that’s unique because it has so many large boulders up close! This beach provides so much visual interest for your engagement photos, and for those who want to be close to the sea, the rocks are close enough for you to sit on! Just remember that since we’re in one of the north beaches, the water will be a lot chillier than the beaches down south!
7. Montalvo Arts Center | A Beautiful Garden Location
Montalvo is also a wedding venue in the south bay! If you’re looking for a garden session, look no further. However, keep in mind that since this is is also a wedding venue, weekends might be booked up so we would only shoot here on weekdays. In addition, there is a $200 photography permit fee that you will have to pay if you go this route.
8. Golden Gate Overlook | The Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
A location I don’t need to explain. If you’re a proud San Franciscan, this location is for you.
9. SF City Hall | Tie the Knot Here too!
San Francisco City Hall is one of the most beautiful and intricate City Halls I’ve ever been to. It is so well known, that couples from out of the state come here to take their photos. Since this is a government building, it is only open on weekdays, and since people do officially get married here, you will find a lot of couples here tying the knot, which means occasionally locations will be off limits because an actual ceremony is going on! If you want to look more into the logistics of shooting here, I wrote another blog post to check out here!
10. Capitola Beach | Colorful Beach Town with Painted Houses
And finally, we have Capitola Beach further south! Well known for their colorful houses along the sand, Capitola offers a colorful and unique opportunity for your photos to stand out, as well as the classic beach photos you would get! Depending on how busy it is that day, there are two sides to the beach, where one side is a lot more secluded and private, and this is where I take all my couples after we get that iconic shot with the houses in the background.
5 Extra Engagement Photo Locations that I love!
There are so many others that didn’t make the cut of the top 10. However, California is so beautiful that I just had to include 5 more! I especially love shooting at locations that mean something special to the couple. Whether you had your first date here, shared a special memory, or have always wanted to visit, I would love to talk about a location that’s meaningful to you! Here are 5 extra locations that didn’t make top 10, but are beautiful in their own right:
11. Sausalito: A location north of SF! Sausalito has a perfect seaside charm to it, and across the bay you can see the skyline of San Francisco!
12. SalesForce Tower: For the city people! Along with shooting around the city, if you want some greenery in your shots, SalesForce Tower has a garden that’s at the heart of everything, so we won’t have to travel far to get here.
13. Kirby Beach: A more secluded beach that not many go to! This is a great private location with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. However with the bridge being a little far away, if you want a beach with the Golden Gate, I would suggest Crissy Beach instead.
14. Filoli Historic House & Garden: Another garden location that has a charming red brick building, along with an entrance fee of $25/person if you decide to shoot here.
15. Point Reyes National Seashore: I’ll have to admit, if the weather was always cooperative, it would have made the top 10! However, if the fog rolls in that day, you might get beautiful cliffs, or you might get a sea of grey mist. The heaviest fog is in July, August, and September, so if you absolutely want to shoot here, I would keep this in mind while planning out your engagement photo session and avoid those months!
Next Steps for Booking your Bay Area Engagement Session!
And those are the Top 10 SF Bay Area Engagement Photo Locations, along with 5 extra locations! If you’re interested in getting your photos taken at one of the places I mentioned above and want to hear more about what it might be like shooting with me, fill out my contact form here, and let’s chat! I can't wait to see which location you choose, and congrats to finding your forever one!