Baker Beach in San Francisco is a perfect location for a beach photoshoot. Capturing sunlight both early and late in the day, you can count on great light for sunrise and sunset photo sessions. To the south, the Land’s End seacliffs create a stunning backdrop, and to the north is the Golden Gate Bridge. Baker Beach is also unique in providing a number of environments to help spark those unique photoshoot ideas. Within close proximity, you find sun dappled forest, a historical military outpost, nearly a mile of beach, and beautiful rock formations. I could spend all day at Baker Beach!
Looking for information about more photoshoot locations? Check out my guide to the 12 Best Places for Family Photos in San Francicso!
Baker beach logistics
Location: main parking area
Hours: Baker Beach is open 24 hours a day, but parking closes one hour after sundown.
Parking: Lower lots are right next to the beach. The upper lot serves as overflow. Can fill up on weekend afternoons.
Summer tends to be busy at Baker Beach, and is also the foggiest season of the year. It is quite possible that you will not be able to see the bridge during the summer months. Plan your photo sessions on weekdays in the late afternoon for the best chance of sunny skies and manageable crowds.
Fall brings the best weather and is a reliable time of year to schedule Baker Beach family photos. Keep in mind that it can also be a busy time of year, so target weekdays and mornings to avoid crowds.
Winter is a toss-up in San Francisco, but during the weather windows, you will find some of the most beautiful photoshoot lighting of the year. The sun is lower in the winter sky, meaning that more hours of the day are filled with soft, beautiful light. If you are booking a professional photoshoot during winter, make sure to know your photographer’s weather rescheduling policy.
Spring, especially early spring, is a great season for photography at Baker Beach, but note that strong afternoon winds usually set in by late April. March and early April are often glorious, but stick with early mornings as you approach summer.
Why Baker Beach is great for photoshoots
Baker Beach is wide and just over a half mile long. The sand is soft and the ocean is always a beautiful shade of blue or green. At the north and south ends of the beach are scenic, textured sandstone cliffs, and the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands serve as a backdrop to the north.
Just inland from the beach are two completely different and unique environments, both creating unlimited photography potential.
Battery Chamberlin is one of the many historic coastal defense sites around the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. The unique geometric lines, patterns of light and shadow, and textured backdrops make this an incredible spot to get creative with a photoshoot.
The eucalyptus and cypress forest that borders Baker Beach offers a third environment within walking distance. Morning and evening light filters through these trees for warm, glowy portraits.
Baker Beach is a favorite location for family photos. These three environments mean we can keep moving and keep the kids from getting bored!
Baker Beach Weather and Lighting
The best time of day for Baker Beach photos is 1 hour after sunrise, or 90 minutes before sunset. This is much easier to achieve for proposals, graduations, and couples than it is for families. If you are a family, I would consider a winter session at Baker, when sunset is earlier and more friendly to your schedule.
Baker Beach is best for photoshoots when you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. If you wake up to a grey day of low fog, I would consider a location like the Botanical Gardens or Golden Gate Park.
How can you tell what Karl the fog is up to? Great question! Here are some helpful forecasts, but keep in mind that San Francisco fog can change by the minute.
Baker Beach weather forecast
Baker Beach weather hourly
For live data, try the Crissy Field Webcams or the Golden Gate Bridge webcam. There is no Baker Beach webcam. If it is foggy on the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field, it is almost certainly foggy at Baker Beach.
Curious about other great spots for photos with the bridge? Check out my article – 10 Golden Gate Bridge Beach Views.
Tips for a great experience
Are dogs allowed?
Yes, Baker Beach is dog friendly! South of Lobos Creek, dogs are required to be on-leash, whereas north of the creek they are allowed off-leash. Definitely consider bringing the pup to your Baker Beach photo session!
Check out my article about dog friendly beaches in San Francisco.
What to wear
I work mostly with families, so my suggestions are geared toward them.
Coordinate, but don’t match. Does everyone in your family wear white and khaki to the beach? If not, then don’t do it for your family photos! Blue jeans are great, but I would avoid solid blue tops as they can blend with the ocean. Warm, earthy tones and lots of texture work really well at Baker Beach.
Also, wear things you’re willing to get sandy and wet. I promise that you will get sandy, and at my favorite beach photo sessions, we get our feet wet too. Sometimes more than our feet. Sandals are a great idea if you like to go barefoot.
What to bring
For families, I always suggest bringing these items to a beach photo session –
- Neutral colored blanket
- A towel
- Extra layers to warm up
It is also great to bring along something that will get your kids interacting. You do you, but here is some inspiration –
- A kite
- Shovels, buckets, and sandcastle molds
- A beach ball
Make it a day. What’s nearby?
If you are booking a family photoshoot, I always recommend getting the kids excited by pairing the session with a fun family outing.
For a beautiful, iconic hike, try the Land’s End trail just to the south. The Eagle Point trailhead is just minutes from Baker.
Crissy Field is less than 10 minutes in the other direction, where you’ll find big green lawns great for picnics and kite flying, Torpedo Wharf for incredible views of the big ships passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, and on weekends the Fort Point National Historic Site offers an incredible slice of Bay Area history.
Or, if your kids are a bit older, consider walking or biking across the Golden Gate Bridge!
It is worth noting that Baker Beach is clothing optional. Generally speaking, it is only the northern end of the beach, closest to the Golden Gate Bridge, that is treated as clothing-optional.
Leave No Trace
Baker Beach is a high-use coastal area. The way we conduct ourselves has a massive impact on this special place. And, it’s easy! Trash cans are available in the main parking lots, as are bathrooms. If you are walking along the bluffs or through the forest, please stick to established trails. Lastly, enjoy things where you find them. The marine plants and animals you might find on either end of the beach at low tide are extremely sensitive to human disturbance.
Baker Beach is integral to the history of San Francisco. It was part of the Presidio Military Base, starting in 1812. The first Burning Man was held here (really). And, most importantly, it has always been the spot for iconic beach photos in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Whether you are looking for graduation, couples, proposal, engagement, or family photos, Baker Beach is a great choice.
Thanks for being here. I’m David Enloe, a San Francisco family photographer. I make soul-stirring pictures for families that find adventure around every corner. Want to learn more about the person behind the camera?