If you didn’t know, I was born and raised here in the Bay Area. I am so happy to call this place home forever and always. The Bay Area is filled with little gems from San Francisco to the Napa Valley which will give you the most unique, fun, and adventurous couples session possible! The option of places to go and things to do is absolute endless and you are bound to find unique and colorful experiences that can be 100% geared towards you!
I want all of the couples to get a one of a kind experience that feels just like a date out on the town with their best friend, all while capturing them in all their beautiful normalness. You want this experience to feel like you, but a little turned up if you know what I mean.
Look no further for this elopement photographers guide, to plan the perfect couples session with the Bay Area as a stunning backdrop.
Couples Session in the Bay Area: Picking A Location
When it comes to deciding where to have your couples session in the Bay Area it can be the hardest part to decide where. I mean there is no shortage of absolutely beautiful places. And find the right place or places that fit the vibe and what you’re looking for can be a tall task. And that’s why I’m here to help! Below are 10 places that I absolute love throughout the whole Bay Area that can give you a little bit of everything. I’m sure you’ll find at least one that’ll fit the vibe you’re looking for! I love talking my couples through this decision making process and helping them find the absolute best place for them. If you need more help in this department I’d love to chat and feel free to inquire here!
1. Sutro Baths, San Francisco
I love the Sutro Baths! Especially when you can get a clear sunrise or sunset. The best time for a session, would be sunrise. It is crazy beautiful at that time of day, plus you will most likely be the only couple there. There’s a little beach that’s perfect for something a little different, of course there are the baths and then there is also a little trail with lots of wild flowers. Definitely a gem that you should visit whether you plan on taking photos or not!
2. Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek
A little succulent tucked garden in Walnut Creek a true hidden gem. Small but very diverse. The overall vibe of this garden will make you feel like you’re in Arizona, without actually be there. I definitely recommend the winter months for this spot since the garden closes around 5, especially if you want some golden lighting.
3. Grizzly Peak, Berkeley
If you grew up in the Bay, you know all about Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak. It’s a true local spot. The view never, ever disappoints. A great spot to see the entire Bay Area, especially when the light start turning. WOW. If you are interested in this spot for your session, be mindful that has a tendency to be a little more crowded, especially during the evening.
4. Alameda Naval Base, Alameda
Looking for an edgy and somewhat industrial photo location, then this spot is definitely the perfect fit. Plus, it can be a fun date site in the afternoon. Besides being a great spot for photos, the Alameda Naval Base, holds some of my favorite chill spots in the Bay. I recommend places like Almanac Brewery and Rock Wall Wines, as great places to grab a drink and get some really unique views of the Bay Bridge.
5. Baker Beach, San Francisco
One of the few beaches that provides an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I absolutely love this beach, especially for the sunrise. I wouldn’t recommend taking sunset photos here. Between the dozens of people (even more on the weekends) and nude beach goers you might be a little thrown off and not feeling romantic. But, sunrise – WOW. Either way, it will be chilly, but so freaking worth it.
6. Marin Headlands, Marin
Talk about a view of the Golden Gate Bridge! Plus you get a whole view of the city. The view here has to be one of my favorites. If you are looking for a gorgeous view of the most iconic part of San Francisco, this is where your photo session needs to be. Keep in mind that people flock to this amazing spot and parking is VERY limited.
7. Reinhardt Regional Park, Oakland
Sometimes I can’t even believe these redwoods are in my own backyard. I’ve taken so many couples and families to this gem of a spot. Every time I am there, I shock and awe my clients on the beauty of the stunning park. I know we’re in NorCal, but I think sometimes we even forget we are and that these beautiful redwoods!
8. Lake Chabot, Oakland
A lake near redwoods, makes for some stunning photo location options. Depending on the length of time you book, both locations can probably be squeezed into the session. It’s just a bonus that this is a quite spot with not a whole bunch of foot traffic. There may be small groups of people fishing and hanging around sunset, but nothing too crazy; especially if you go on a weekday there will be next to no one. I love this little beach. As the sun sets there is the prettiest lighting ever.
9. Ocean Beach, San Francisco
When you think of California’s coastline and how expansive and massive, this is the beach that full encompasses that. This beach is huge. It is almost always a little busy, but if you can get there a little before sunrise, you’re sure to find a spot. Sunset can be a little crowded, but not impossible to have an intimate photo session here. Just be mindful that people will be running around while you you kiss. The best thing to do is to just have fun on the beach.
10. Palace of the Arts, San Francisco
I honestly had never been to this spot until maybe 3 years ago. I had seen about it, heard about it, but for the life of me could not figure out where it was lol. That’s because it’s kind of hidden in a neighborhood in San Francisco. This site is so beautiful! If you decide to do a session here, you will most likely not be the only ones taking photos here. That’s totally ok because there’s lots of space and depending on the time of day usually not that many people.
Couples Session in the Bay Area: Picking an Activity
Now I’m all for the poses, for the smiling, running around, laughing and just having fun. But, the best way to have a fun and unique session is to pick activity. You may be like what exactly does that mean? The activity will take the pressure off of your having to pose to get the perfect photo. Some great ideas for activities that make sense for you are your partner include: having a picnic, getting a drink at a brewery, or riding around on skateboards. Picking something for you and your partner to do so that you’re not just standing around smiling but that you two are engaging in something fun, easy, and that you enjoy to do together.
This will make all the difference in the world because then you’re not just getting ready or dressing up for photos. You’re getting ready and dressed up to have a fun night or day out, which adds to the photo experience. Those memories that are created will go far beyond the photos that will be captured.
So, therein lies the question what should you do? You can do anything you want, I mean at least for the most part. We can go to a beer or wine tasting. Maybe grab some ice cream from your favorite spot? What about having a really nice relaxing picnic in a park? You can hop on scooters and ride through the city. Or you can jump into the freezing old Bay Area water and then sit by a warm bonfire. You can grab a slice or whole pizza (I don’t judge) and hang. Or we can simply just explore a new place together dance along the beach and just enjoy your partner’s presence.
There are so many things big and little that can make your couples session unique to you and you should take advantage of that. Celebrate this season and bask in all that is being with each other.
Couples Session in the Bay Area: Picking Outfits
When it comes to picking outfits I feel like this part really stumps peoples, so please let me give you my absolute best tips for pulling your whole look together as a whole!
My go to advice is always if you feel good you’ll feel confident and that’s the most important part. Dresses for women add movement to photos which always looks good! I love to see layers and accessories. Anything from jackets, vest, belts, necklaces, bracelets, etc. Those little details help pull a whole outfit together!
If you’re really struggling think timeless and simple. That means no big bold prints, patterns, team jerseys, piece of clothing that indicate a specific period time (to avoid dating a photo due to fads). If that makes sense. I also always suggest a color palette usually dependent on the location. This means if you’re getting photographed in the redwoods you’re not wearing brown and green, but rather something that stands out a smidge on it’s own.
If you’re still loss, I’m your photographer would be happy to help you out. At the end of the day, these are your photos and if you need to feel comfortable! If you are not a fan of wearing a dress don’t wear one, if you want one casual look and one formal look, let’s do it. You will be looking at these photos for years to come, so let’s make sure you love how you look.
I love wearing makeup! But, not everyone does! So, do what feel most authentic and natural to you! If you don’t wear makeup normally and don’t want to then don’t. It’s totally up to you. However, this is also a great opportunity to maybe test out a makeup artist you may want to hire for your wedding if these are you engagement photos. Or maybe you do want to wear makeup you just don’t really own any personally! No worries, you can always go to your local Sephora or Ulta or even ask your photographer they might know someone. At Sephora, it costs I believe around $60 and takes about an hour depending on how you’re getting your makeup done and they make it so easy.
Not going to lie I really don’t know that much about hair. I have very curly hair so that limits my knowledge on what products and styles would work best. However, what I will say is most women opt to have their hair down and I would look for a pomade or spray that can keep the frizz at Bay. For me personally, I will edit any like crazy baby hair out but if we can tackle them before that then all the better.
Depending on the location you may want to take the wind into consideration. For instance, during one couple’s session, the women ended up putting a braid on one side which really helped as the wind gusted around us.
No matter what, the focus is to make you feel the most confident.
This one is for everyone especially if there are your engagement photos! You’re going to make sure your nails don’t look busted – to put it bluntly. Whether you can them done or you keep them clean yourself just make sure that they look clean and cared for.
There are definitely a lot more details that go into planning a couples session that you may have realized. Just take everything one step at a step and make decisions that you feel confident in. Start with identifying the location, then the outfit. Don’t worry so much about all the little stuff in between.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or need help, that what I’m here for! I love walking my couples through each and every step. Being a sounding board for outfits, makeup, and hair is my jam. I am happy to help with the research for the perfect activity, place, and vendors to help out. I’m more than just your average photographer.
If you’d like to book a session or even just chat about the my process, my door (figuratively of course) is always open! Fill out the form below and I’ll get back to you the next day.