Outdoor Location Ideas

The Bay Area has some great outdoor locations for having portrait sessions. Some of my favorites are Baker Beach in San Francisco, Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland, and Piedmont park in Piedmont.

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Morcom Rose Garden, Oakland

Morcom Rose Garden is one of my favorite locations to hold portrait sessions in Oakland. Garden has thousands of roses throughout, a cascading water fountain and a reflecting pool. There are several winding walkways that make their way under a tree canopy and provide a great overlook of the garden. Street parking can be found within the surrounding neighborhood. For easiest access enter through the main entrance on Jean Street, otherwise the additional entrances require descending stairs. 

700 Jean St, Oakland, CA 94610

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park lies at the most western point of Oakland. Its surrounded on three sides by the cranes and cargo containers of the ports. The fourth side provides a outstanding view of the bay bridge and San Francisco city skyline. Middle Harbor allow you to get a variety of backgrounds during a portrait session by just rotating 90 degrees. The park is easy to access from the 80 or 880 freeway. Parking is free and there is a large parking lot at the entrance to the park. There is plenty of green space throughout and paved sidewalks for easy navigation. 

2777 Middle Harbor Rd, Oakland, CA 94607

Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland

Located in the Oakland Hill, Joaquin Miller boost a variety of areas to capture images. The park has a tadpole pond, stone walls, a kids play area and grassy fields. Reaching different level areas requires use of stairs. Free street parking but requires parallel parking facing either up or down the hill.

Joaquin Miller Rd & Crane Way, Oakland, CA 94602 

Lake Merritt - Pergola, Oakland

Lake Merritt Pergola, located near downtown Oakland. You can have the pillars of the Pergola and the great view of the lake and downtown in your images. There is both meter street parking and pay lot nearby. Weekends can be crowded when the weather is real nice otherwise there is moderate crowding. Shoots are best scheduled early in the day.  

Lake Merritt Gardens, Oakland

Lake Merritt Gardens is a collection of many garden types: Bonsai, Japanese, Mediterranean, ETC maintained by volunteers. The Gardens allows changing up the looking of the scene by just walking a few minutes to a new garden area. Its located adjacent to Children's Fairyland and can be reached entering Bellevue Ave from Grand Ave. There is a small fee for parking. 

666 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

Piedmont Park, Piedmont

Piedmont Park is little hidden gem in the center of the city of Piedmont. The park contains wooded paths that leisurely whine between trees, a well kept open lawn that provides room to run or layout for a picnic and a playground that kids will love. This park is a great location for family and kid portrait sessions. There is plenty of street parking surrounding the park and  most areas are assessable through slopping paths or stairs. 

972 Magnolia Ave, Piedmont, CA 94611

Burckhalter Park, Oakland

Burckhalter park is a small park located just off the 580 freeway. Its easy to avoid the crowd at this park. It has a play structure, baseball field/grass area and wooded area with benches. There is a small parking lot but I've always been able to find open parking spots.

4080 Edwards Ave, Oakland, CA 94605

Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach is one of my favorite outdoor locations in the Bay Area. Having the Golden Gate bridge and the waves hitting the beach in the background make nearly every image pop. Shoot can be taken from the top of the sand dunes before reaching down to the water. When the weather is nice you will need to schedule your shoot early in the day since the free parking lot gets filled fast. Evening photo session benefit from the nice lighting near sunset and more available parking.

Battery Chamberlin Rd, San Francisco, CA 94129

Crissy Fields, San Francisco

Crissy Fields is located just inside the bay with picturesque views of the Golden Gate bridge. It boost both grass fields and a sandy beach. Its best to schedule an early morning photo session to get the good morning sun and to avoid crowds. There is both street parking and a few parking lots located nearby.

West Buff Picnic Area

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, S.F.

The Japanese Tea Garden located in the San Francisco Golden Gate park next to the de Young Museum. The Garden has numerous pathways to explore and provides beautiful locations around each corner including Cherry blossom trees, an arched drum bridge, koi ponds and a Zen garden. There is street parking as well as a paid parking garage near by. The Garden does have a entrance fee but its worth the cost of admission for such a great location.   

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts is an icon landmark in the Marina District of San Francisco. Both the rotonda and pond make the perfect backdrop of any portrait session.  Its best to schedule your portrait session as early in the day to avoid crowds and not have other visitors photobomb your images. A paved path that encircles the pond and leads to the interior of the rotonda has plenty of locations to take images. The entire site was easily accessible due to the smooth paved paths and sidewalks. There is plenty of street parking as well as a small parking lot on the backside of the rotonda. 

3399 Lyon St, San Francisco, CA 94123

Legion of Honor, San Francisco

Legion of Honor is a museum built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I. The Legion of Honor is a beautiful Beaux-arts building located in San Francisco's Lincoln Park. The area overlooks the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco. The museum exterior provides a great backdrop for images. There is free parking and the area is easy to access.

100 34th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121

Sultro Heights Park, San Francisco

Sultro Heights park is located North of Ocean beach in San Francisco next to the Cliff House. Its a nice green space that over looks Seal Rock, Ocean beach, Outer Richmond district and the Pacific ocean. The park offer plenty of areas to capture wonder images. The park is fairly assessible with several parking lots near by.

Berkeley Rose Garden, Berkeley

The Berkeley Rose garden, located north of UC Berkeley's campus, is beautiful location for a portrait session. The Rose garden is situated on a downward hill side with 7-8 large rows of numerous variety of roses. There are wooden benches and small walking bridges located throughout the garden. A paved path leads from the street down to the main entrance of the garden and first level of rose. Additional levels of the garden require walking down stairs to access. There is ample street parking with two hour limit.  

1200 Euclid Ave, Berkeley, CA 94708

Aquatic Park, Berkeley

Berkeley Aquatic Park, is a free public park located East of the Eastshore (80/580) freeway between Ashby and University Ave. The Aquatic park is a great location for family portrait session due to the kid friend environment. It best to have your session between 8-10am while their are few people around. The park is over a 100 acres which includes nearly a 70 acre lagoon, a walking/Bike path, a large wooden play structure, and plenty of grassy areas.  There are several parking lots and street parking available. 

Aquatic Park, 80 Bolivar Dr, Berkeley, CA 94710


Hayward Japanese Gardens, Hayward

The Japanese Gardens is a hidden gem located next to the Hayward Senior center on North Third Street in Hayward. It features well maintained landscaping with paved paths, a koi fish pond with turtles, and several pergolas. There are excellent photo ops throughout the gardens. The gardens are a perfect place for family portraits, proms pictures, and couples portrait sessions. There is no admission fee to visit the gardens. A small parking lot is near the entrance but there is ample street parking also available.

22325 N 3rd St, Hayward, CA 94546

Marina Park, San Leandro

Marina Park is an expansive green space at the bayside edge of San Leandro. There is a mix of open grass areas and paths lined with trees. The Marina Park offers a great scenes with with the bay water in the background. Its best to schedule session in the morning or late early evening. There is plenty of parking in both adjacent lots and on the street. The path surround the grass areas make it easy to move around. 

Marina Park, 14001 Monarch Bay Dr, San Leandro, CA 94577

San Lorenzo Community Center Park, San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo Community Center park is a large park located near the Hayward Executive airport. It contains an expansive grass fields, a lagoon with walking paths, a great play structure with slides and a zipline. I love capture images on the lagoon since the both the water and water plants make a vivid backdrop. There is plenty of free parking and smooth paths in and around the park.

1970 Via Buena Vista, San Lorenzo, CA 94580

Lake Elizabeth, Fremont

Central Park (Lake Elizabeth) is a beautify park that has large open green spaces that surrounds the two mile walking path that goes around the lake. Both the lake and rolling hills provide an incredible backdrop for portraits. The park is easy to access, with several free parking lots and street parking. Both the dirt and concert path ways are both smooth making it easy to get around.     

1 Sailway Dr, Fremont, CA 94538

Discovery Museum, San Jose

The Discovery Museum, located near the center of San Jose, has a large open green space, trees, and benches just outside its front entrance. There is plenty of parking lots located around the museum and green space.

180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110

Canyon Trail Park, El Cerrito

Canyon Trail Park is a wonderful park located in a hill neighborhood of El Cerrito. It has several different scenic areas including a grassy field, redwood tree laden paths, and a small pond. The entrance on Gatto Ave is easy to enter the park. If you enter from Crescent Way, you will be required to come down a flight of stairs. 

6757 Gatto Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

Toyon Park, San Leandro

Toyon Park is a small neighborhood park with a kids play area and large open grass field. The park is very assessible with sidewalks and paths that can be reached directly from the free parking lot.

14432 Bancroft Ave, San Leandro, CA 94578

Your Yard

You know a great place to have a portrait session. Your own yard. You may be able to find a great place to have a portrait session may be your own yard. It doesn't take much to find great nooks in your front or back yard that will add a nice backdrop to your images. 

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