The Wedding Photojournalist Association routinely holds contests for engagement photos. I selected some of my favorite photos from past Bay Area engagement sessions and sent them in. The good news is that several won San Francisco engagement photographer awards in that contest round. Even though I love pre-wedding photos in Lake Tahoe, I do enjoy a change of scenery from time to time. Are you getting married in Lake Tahoe, but thinking about engagement photos in the Bay Area? If so, let’s talk!

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring award-winning photos. I am reviewing, critiquing, and reminiscing about past sessions. Just as I did in this post, as well as in this post. The most important thing to remember is there are no perfect photos. Every shoot presents unique challenges and learning opportunities.

Keep Priorities Straight, Horizons Level, and Lighting Loose

The photo below didn’t happen the first time around. I drove from Lake Tahoe early in order to beat the rush hour. But Erika and Adam traveled up the Peninsula and were tied up in Bay Area traffic on the way to our shoot. The traffic on the Peninsula was so slow that we missed the our lighting window. Even though I drove to San Francisco specifically for this session, I suggested we postpone rather than shoot into the night.

I always want to make sure we got the best conditions, without anyone feeling rushed. In this case, the lesson for me was twofold. First, it is important to listen to my intuition. Even if it means an extra drive to the coast. Second, it is always worth it when I put the photos first. I knew Erika and Adam’s photos would be better if we rescheduled, and it paid off.

The next photo reminds me that simple compositions are often the best. Moreover, it encourages me to let Mother Nature do the heavy lifting in a photo from time to time. In this session with Kresten and Derrick, we visited Sutro Baths late in the afternoon. After some close-up photos, I backed up to try to capture a wider view of the scene. At first, I thought there wasn’t enough subject matter in the frame. Plus, the sun was still too high and a little too bright. So, I waited.

As the sun dropped down towards the horizon, I simplified the scene. Keeping the horizon level, I lined Kresten and Derrick up below the setting sun and included just their upper torsos. This composition creates several triangles in the frame, a bonus element in any simple frame. I exposed for the highlights in their hair, and made the photo. Compared to sunsets in the mountains, a sunset by the sea (or in the wine country) can be very different. I love the glowing light in this photo, something we don’t get higher up in the atmosphere.

In this last photo, I learned that flash leaks and light tweaks can make for an more compelling image. As twilight set in, Shannon, Scott, and I were wrapping up our session below the Golden Gate Bridge. First, I positioned them on the only flat area of rocks we could find. Then, I balanced a light stand on the rocky jetty behind them to mirror the lighting coming from the bridge and the stream of evening traffic. However, I struggled to line up the flash on the uneven boulders right where I wanted it.

Then, I realized that a slightly offset (and just out of frame) flash was creating a light leak around them. I liked the golden flare it created and I realized it added to the setting and ambiance of the moment. So, I left the light stand where it was. Some photos benefit from a precise, well-executed lighting setup. But sometimes, a “mistake” turns into an innovation that works well!

San Francisco engagement photographer awards go to portrait artists that combine visual artistry with authentic connection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *