After working as a photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years, I have gotten to know so many incredible locations that are the perfect backdrop for your next photoshoot. Each location has striking, unique scenery that highlights the beauty of Northern California. We have all seen the iconic shoots at Chrissy field and in front of the Painted Ladies. This time I wanted to make sure I highlighted not just postcard locations in San Francisco proper, but in the surrounding areas and on the SF peninsula. There is so much variation within 30 square miles and I am excited to share some of my favorites with you!
1. Lands End: Lands end is a favorite for me and clients time and time again. The mix of ocean, sunsets, fog and cypress trees lining the cliffs of this Golden Gate park offer a little bit of everything. Parking is easy and there are several lots to choose from. Pro tip: This location is best shot in the evening time. Be sure to leave nothing in your car as there are frequent break-ins. Bathrooms available.
2. Coyote Point
Coyote Point is a beautiful regional park in San Mateo that has access to the bay, towering eucalyptus trees and glowing sunsets. It is lush and green in the spring and golden during the fall. If you hit the tide right you can access the rocky shore of the San Francisco bay where green algae covers the rocks bordered by striking California cliffs. Easy to access, paved trails and lots of parking. Permits required for commercial photography.
3. Sutro Baths
At the base of Lands end, lays the ruins of an old bath house from the early 1900’s. It has since fallen into disarray and the ocean has taken most of it away. Nowadays, all that is left is the foundation. When the sun is setting the light is stunning, offering a mix of unique architecture with expansive ocean views. Don’t miss the beautiful rubble to the right of the ruins. If you decide to continue the climb down the rocks, you can access the wide sweeping sands of Ocean Beach. Pro tip: Make sure you are wearing suitable shoes to make the decent. The trail down is slippery, steep and gravel. Leave no valuables in your car.
5. Lion Street Steps
The area and streets surrounding the famous Lion Street Steps are dripping in gorgeous San Francisco history, architecture and landscapes. Stroll the streets, and capture SF life or make the descent down to Lovers Lane. No matter what you like, you will find a little bit of everything sophisticated and SF in in this area.
6. San Francisco Botanical Gardens
If you are looking for a location that has just about every type of vegetation you can imagine, the SF Botanical Gardens is your place. You can go from Arizona cactus landscape to an English garden and then onto a New Zealand jungle in just a few steps. In spring and summer the flowers bloom all over the park. Lighting is gorgeous at sunset but is also beautiful earlier in the day when the large trees give shade to the trails below. Admission is free to SF residents and very reasonable for everyone else. Permits are not required unless you are doing commercial work.
7. Lovers Lane
Lover’s Lane, also known as the Andy Goldsworthy trail, is an iconic, beautifully lit tree line in the San Francisco Presidio. A line of cut Eucalyptus logs weaves back and forth across the ground through a hall of towering Eucalyptus trees. The light can be bright and airy or darker and moodier depending on the fog and time of day you shoot there. It can also be freezing cold as the wind makes its way down the trail of trees. If you are up to brave the SF summer-winter this is a perfect location for you.
8. Berkley Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens at Berkley are more wild than the well manicured SF botanical gardens. Inside you will find several interesting green houses full of cactus and other curious plant life. The hiking trails through the gardens get beautiful light filtering through large, old oak trees. If you are looking for a garden setting that is a little more “wild”, the Berkley Botanical gardens are a beautiful option. Admittance fee is required but no permits fees.
Tevi Hardy is a seasoned family photographer specializing in heartfelt, child-led sessions in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves working with clients to create stunning lifestyle family portraits that will be cherished for generations.