Editors Note: Make sure you and your photographer have the proper permits to photograph at any of these locations.
Point Reyes is personally one of my favorite locations to photograph at and even visit. It has open space, scenic views, cypress trees, beaches, and sand dunes. You can travel all the way from the most northern point to the most southern point and still get an amazing view. This is a great location to enjoy a picnic on the beach and some parts of the coastal beaches are even dog friendly!
A lot of people think of open space, rolling hills, and nature when it comes to engagement sessions. Urban environments can provide just as many iconic backdrops as any other outdoor location. A favorite among my past clients is Telegraph Hill. You can find the financial district, historical Victorian San Francisco houses, and even a view of the Bay Bridge. You don’t even need to go far to find some greenery, with a few secret gardens nestled in-between homes and walkways.
3. Sutro Baths & Lands End
What was once a beautiful coastal recreational facility, is now iconic concrete ruins with gorgeous sunsets. In the 1960s the original late 19th-century building was demolition for high-rise buildings but plans folded once a fire hit what was left of the baths. That hasn’t stopped people from enjoying this amazing and very popular location. If you walk up the path, you then are surrounded by the amazing wooded landscape of Lands End. Both locations complement one another and provide a unique opportunity to have a variety of backdrops for your engagement session.
4. Crissy Field
Here is another historical location located at the northeast end of San Francisco’s Presidio. Did you know that Crissy Field was once the military’s first Air Coast Defense Station on the West Coast? Although, somewhat far away from direct action, this was a prime location for aviation research during World War II. Today, we are provided with amazing historical buildings with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge peeking through. The grass is green year round so it is an ideal location for those looking for bright green landscapes. But don’t expect the sun to be out all the time, Karl the Fog makes appear a lot during the summer.
5. Marin Headlands
Speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge, the neighbor on the other side of San Francisco provides another spectacular view of the bridge. The Marin Headlands also have their own fair share of historical significance, like most of the other iconic engagement locations. But it is more known for its rolling hills, rich wildlife, and coastal views. If you enjoy hiking and don’t mind the wind, this is an amazing location for an engagement session.
6. French Laundry Gardens
The French Laundry Gardens are a great hidden gem nestled in Napa County. The gardens are available for public access year-round and it is updated seasonally. It will never look the same year after year. There is also a cool greenhouse that provides a fun alternative backdrop for sessions. It is fun to be at the gardens and see all the amazing produce they are growing for their restaurant. I always get hungry when I go there.
7. Muir Woods
One of the most requested settings for engagement sessions is Redwoods and the most requested Redwood location is Muir Woods. Tucked away in West Marin, Muir Woods is an iconic Redwood forest that is well known for being the backdrop for Star Wars planet Endor in Episode 6, Return of the Jedi. Most of the Redwoods in the park are over 500+ years old! They were around before Shakespeare, Michelangelo, the creation of the Ottoman Empire, and the Forbidden City. To be a fly on those Redwood bark!
8. Slide Ranch
The one secret location that I don’t share very often is Slide Ranch in Muir Beach. This is one of the few beaches that rarely have any visitors and if you go at the right time of the year, the sun hits perfectly between the rocks to make a perfect glowing backdrop. The hike down and up can be an adventure all on its own, providing even more amazing coastal views. Just be aware that you will be walking through an environmental educational farm on your way down to the beach.
9. Monterey Bay
Anywhere on the California Coast is gorgeous and breathtaking. You really can’t go wrong pulling over on the side of the road on Highway 1 to get a great view. One location on Highway 1 that proves to always be a showstopper is the Monterey Bay. Known for amazing aquatic wildlife, this location provides quaint towns, amazing seafood, and iconic coastal views. Thinking of turning your engagement session into a mini trip? Monterey, Carmel-by-the Sea, Santa Cruz, or anywhere in this bay is a great location to do that at.
10. Your Favorite City or Downtown Area
Last but definitely not least, you don’t have to overthink where you should have your engagement session. You can even have it in your own backyard or downtown of your favorite city/town. The amazing thing about the Bay Area is every town here has its own unique history and city layout. You can always find some fun hidden gems in each town that can be more unique to your own engagement session experience. Some example locations are Tiburon, San Jose, Vallejo, and Berkeley.
10 Bonus Locations:
Armstrong Redwoods, Guerneville
Helen Putnam Regional Park, Petaluma
Oakland Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
Lake Merritt, Oakland
Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Fransisco
San Francisco Ferry Building
Lover’s Lane, San Francisco
UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, Berkeley
Hakone Gardens, Saratoga
Arizona Cactus Garden, Stanford