San Francisco Family Photographer Recommended Top 5 Fall Photography Locations

Fall is almost here and it is the perfect time of the year to get your family portraits done! As a San Francisco Family Photographer , I get asked a lot about best locations for family sessions near and around San Francisco, Bay Area. My answer always varies because, let’s face it, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world! Within 30 mins, you can get to the beach, a redwood forest, and (maybe in a little more than an hour) mountains too!

During a consultation appointment, I sit down with my clients and go over a list of questions that help me design their portrait experience. My first question, almost every time, is if they think a “beach portrait” or a “Greenery/landscape portrait” would go best with their home décor? Color palettes for both these types of images are so different (imagine a sunset session at Half-Moon Bay vs. a golden hour family session at Arastradero Preserve, Palo Alto). The goal is to always think about the end product- the big family portrait canvas on top of the fireplace or a beautiful gallery wall with photos that capture all the fun at the beach!

The next question that I get asked is if I have any favorite locations and if I can show them some examples. So, I decided to make things easier for everyone and put together a list of my top 5 locations for family photography in the San Francisco, Bay Area. But, since it’s fall that we are talking about, I’ve excluded beaches from these recommendations.

1. Marin Headlands, San Francisco

I think every San Francisco family photographer has their favorite spots to capture the gorgeousness of the Golden Gate Bridge in that perfect family portrait for locals and visiting families. Mine is definitely Marin Headlands in San Francisco! This hidden gem I know of has an old, abandoned fort that offers a beautiful green, rustic backdrop for images. Not only that, within a short walk, you have views of the pacific ocean with running hills and also some great patches of tall grass that add texture to portraits. The variety of “backdrops” within this short walk definitely make it a fabulous choice for San Francisco family photography sessions and maternity sessions!

Pro Tip: Bring jackets cos it sure gets super windy and chilly here! Also, check wind speed before hand so you can decide on whether to leave your hair down or pin it back!

San Francisco Family Photographer Family Photographs in front of Golden Gate Bridge Family Portraits in Marin Headlands

2. Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, Palo Alto

Now, if you love an old barn door and a gorgeous sunset nestled in between hills and trees, this place is for you! I like that there’s always easy parking and the area is fairly flat which allows me to easily lug all those props and blankets. This is also a great choice for families with young kids as cars aren’t anywhere close to the photographing location and they can run around freely! This is also a great location to use on a cloudy day. It is, however, a “preserve” so if you do use this location, pls be respectful of all the signs you see in the area and stay on the trail.

Pro Tip: Even though it’s kinda cold, evenings are notorious for mosquitoes and other biting insects. And every San Francisco family photographer has scars from mosquito bites around their ankles to prove this! Make sure to spray a lot of insecticide on hands and legs to prevent bug bites as the area is full of tall grasses and bushes!

Family photograph in front of Palo Alto BarnFamily portraits in Arastradero Preserve

3. Bay Meadows Park, San Mateo

This neighborhood park has a tiny duck pond/marsh in the centre. The sun sets in the perfect spot that can help capture beautiful water reflections too. Also, the duckpond is gated so don’t worry about kids running around close to the water. There’s a big football field, toilets and play area close by that some of my clients head out to after the session to drain all that leftover toddler energy!

Pro Tip: There are no benches around so be prepared to “sit” on the ground on blankets or I always carry some step stools to get those sitting family portraits!

Family Photographs in Bay Meadows Park in Hillsdale at golden hour Family photograph with lake in the background in Sam Mateo Toddler photographs with flowers

4. San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, San Jose

I know this is not exactly a “fall” location but I always find roses here even during fall! So if you missed doing spring photos, this is a good location to do your flowery-fall-photos! This location also serves as a beautiful location for maternity portraits. One thing to note though- you will need a permit (more info on this here)! I purchase all permits for my clients at no cost to them (after all, as a San Francisco Family Photographer, my goal is to create your dream portrait that becomes treasured heirloom!). If you do end up going with another San Francisco Family Photographer, make sure there’s a permit that either you or they acquired.

Pro Tip: Pls do not pluck the roses! Kids are extremely tempted to grab them which can hurt them too because of the thorns.

San Jose Municipal Rose Garden Family Photographs and Maternity pictures

5. Holbrook-Palmer Park, Atherton

This little park nestled in between Menlo Park and Palo Alto is the cutest!! I have so many memories of taking my son here when he was less than a year old and some of my favorite portraits of him are from this location. At the park here, you’ll find these beautiful and charming, ornate metal benches all around that make for great sitting portraits- esp. if grandparents are also joining the party! Holbrook-Palmer also requires a permit for professional photography. In addition to being a San Francisco Family Photographer favourite, this is also a very popular location for weddings and receptions!

Pro Tip: Make sure to to walk around the park as you’ll find a lot of different types of flowers/trees/stairs/old fountain (yea!!) that make wonderful backdrops and add charm to your pictures!

Fall Family Photos in Palo Alto Menlo Park and Atherton Family Portraits in Holbrook-Palmer Park

I hope you found all this information very helpful and if you are looking for a San Francisco Family Photographer to capture your fall photos, I would love to hear from you – Click here to send me a message!