Optimizations made:
San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography Logo
Home »
San Francisco Photoshoot 101: All the Basics You Need to Know in 2024

San Francisco Photoshoot 101: All the Basics You Need to Know in 2024

It's no secret that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With its stunning architecture and amazing views, it's a perfect location for a photoshoot. With its iconic scenery and perfect weather, San Francisco is one of the most popular places in the world to get photographed. And with good reason - there's simply no place like it!

San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography- Bride at the Palace of Fine Arts

But if you're thinking about getting your own SF photoshoot done, there are a few things you should know first. Here's everything you need to know about scheduling a San Francisco photoshoot in 2022!

Timing is everything.

The best time of day for natural light is early morning or late afternoon/evening, so if possible, try to schedule your session for one of those times. Of course, that might not always be possible depending on your schedule, so don't worry if you can only shoot during the middle of the day. Just make sure to find a location with good lighting and avoid shooting in direct sunlight.

Choose your location carefully.

With so many different neighborhoods and landmarks to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to shoot. Do some research beforehand and narrow down your options based on what kind of photos you're hoping to take.

San Francisco is an incredibly photogenic city, so there are endless possibilities for backdrops. With so many different neighborhoods and landmarks to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to shoot. Think about what kind of vibe you want for your photos. Do you want something urban and edgy? Industrial? Romantic? Do some research beforehand and narrow down your options based on what kind of photos you're hoping to take.

Be aware of the crowds.

San Francisco is a popular tourist destination, so some of the most popular photo spots can get very crowded, especially on weekends. If you're planning on shooting at a popular location, try to do it mid-week or early in the morning to avoid crowds.

Always book your shoot well in advance.

San Francisco is an incredibly popular destination for photographers, so it's important to book your session as early as possible to ensure that you get the date and time that you want. The best time to book is typically two or three months in advance, but depending on the season and availability, you may need to book even further in advance

Be prepared for the weather.

San Francisco's weather is notoriously unpredictable, so it's important to have a backup plan in case of rain or fog. If you're set on shooting outdoors, consider booking a shoot during the summer months when the chances of good weather are highest.

Make sure you have a backup plan. Even if the weather forecast is clear, there's always a chance that the fog could roll in unexpectedly. If possible, choose a few different locations for your shoot so you have options in case one location is too foggy.

Permits are required for some locations.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, those looking to capture engagement or wedding moments benefit from a historically lenient approach to enforcing photo permits across numerous stunning locations. Iconic spots like the San Francisco City Hall and the Palace of Fine Arts typically do not require photo permits, making these venues more accessible for photography.

However, it's important to understand the official policy. Film permits are regulated by the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department's Film Permit Office and the San Francisco Film Commission. Generally, a permit is needed at least 7 business days before the shoot. This applies to various scenarios such as shooting between 10 pm and 7 am, filming on SMTA vehicles, using traffic control, street closures, or drones. These scenarios are relevant to wedding and engagement photography, especially for drones and sunrise shoots.

These rules apply to both commercial and non-commercial productions. Nonetheless, it's crucial to stay updated on any changes in enforcement policies, as they could impact photography fees. Shooting on private property, like PIER 39, is exempt from these permit requirements, providing a loophole for capturing 'public' scenes.

However, some locations in San Francisco have more restrictive policies. For example, the Mechanics' Institute permits photography only in its stairwell and lobby, and bans the use of lighting or tripods. Surprisingly, the Civic Center Plaza across from City Hall can require a $300 permit, as I experienced firsthand in 2015.

Outside the city, the East Bay Parks are more lenient, often allowing wedding and engagement photography without much interference from rangers. In contrast, state parks in Marin County, like Mt. Tamalpais State Park, usually require permits, as enforced by park rangers. I have frequently been asked for permits there and always obtain the appropriate permits for those shoots.

In my 15 years of experience photographing over 1,000 couples in San Francisco, I have only been asked for a film permit once, at the Civic Center Plaza.

For detailed information on technical rules and fees or specific inquiries about filming permits, contact the San Francisco Film Commission at City Hall, Room 473, San Francisco, CA 94102, by phone at 415-554-6241 or via email at film@sfgov.org. More information is also available on their website at www.filmsf.org.

Factor in the cost of your shoot.

While there are many talented and affordable photographers in San Francisco, shoots can still be pricey - especially if you're looking for a longer session or want to add on extras like hair and makeup artists. Always get a quote from your photographer before booking to avoid any surprises down the line.

What is the most appropriate clothing to wear

This depends on the overall look and feels you're going for. If you want something casual and relaxed, jeans and a cute top or sundress would be perfect. If you're going for a more glam look, a flowy dress or skirt always photographs beautifully. And if you can't decide, why not bring a few different outfit options and we'll help style you on the day of the shoot?

Recognize the time you have booked with your photographer.

This is very important since if you booked a two-hour session, it will go by quickly, and you don't want to miss out on any of it. Recognizing the time also helps ensure that you won't feel rushed or stressed during your session. When you're having fun, it will show in your photos. So take a deep breath and relax so that you can enjoy the moment.

Your photographer should be able to help guide you on how to best use the time booked, but it's always helpful to have an idea of what you want before the shoot begins. Do you want a mix of posed and candid shots? Or do you want mostly posed shots? Knowing this ahead of time will help things go smoothly on shoot day.

Wedding Couple in white, golden gate bridge in background dancing | San Francisco City Hall

Are You Looking for a San Francisco Wedding Photographer You Can Trust?

The team at San Francisco City Hall Wedding Photography
 are specialists in capturing the beauty of your wedding day in the magnificent surroundings of City Hall. We serve both local and destination wedding clients from all over the world. Photography packages are available for just Ceremony coverage or all-day premium photo tours with transportation included! No matter what package you select, you will get absolutely stunning photographs that exceed your wildest dreams. Contact us today!

Previous Article - Why We Love San Francisco Photoshoots (and You Should Too!)


Next Article - 7 Quick Tips About San Francisco Photoshoots in 2022