Guess what?! Many of the best locations for photography in the Bay Area are the regional open spaces. These wide open areas have beautiful landscapes that serve as perfect backdrops for portrait sessions. As an alternative to some of the more famous Bay Area surroundings (e.g. the Golden Gate Bridge), the open spaces may be preferable. Open spaces are less crowded and offer a very natural theme. I definitely recommend these locations to my clients, as is evident in one of my recent blog posts: Top Ten Family Photo Locations.
Although any open space can exceed expectations in unique style and beauty, a critical element to achieving success in such a setting is the timing of the photo session. I highly recommend scheduling these sessions in the late afternoon, close to or during sunset. The sun will be low in the sky, producing a soft and diffused light. The reduced contrast in light minimizes the risk that the portrait subjects will have their features hidden in the deep shadows or bright light. Further, the warm glow adds a pleasing feel to the scene, and the long shadows help to pick out details, adding texture and depth to the image. Another benefit to shooting around sunset is that the sky is at it’s most vibrant. The blue of the sky and orange of the sun merge and create beautiful array of creamy pastel colors.
I understand that it is sometimes difficult for families with small children to have a late session. If that is the case, I recommend planning ahead to ensure the convenience of the clients. If my clients cannot easily accommodate an evening shoot, I recommend a morning session, as light in the early morning has similar qualities to sunset. Alternatively, I work with my clients to find an open space with greater shade in order to make the light more even. For this purpose, oak trees work very well. They are beautiful and most are very large, creating lots of cover. Nevertheless, the creamy golden glow of the “golden hour” before sunset is irreplaceable.
Another benefit of choosing an open space location is the intimate environment. Children feel free to play and show their personalities without distractions which allows me to better capture the true essence of a family.
About the Session
I took the images featured in this blog at the Rancho San Antonio Preserve. It was a perfect late afternoon with the loveliest of people. Originally from the UK, this family made San Francisco Bay Area their permanent home. Despite being quite young, these kiddos didn’t mind at all staying a little past their bed time. The promise of after-session donuts kept them in good spirits and their playful energy was in abundance throughout the entire two hour shoot. There were many unscripted moments of pure joy that I readily captured with my camera. Enjoy!