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Ultimate San Francisco HeadShot Guide: 2020 Edition

5.29.20

For your business headshot, the photo’s background can say as much about your personality as your clothing.

Over the last five years, more and more customers have been requesting outdoor sessions versus indoor studio shots. This request is generally on-trend for workplaces that are becoming increasingly casual.

But, picking the perfect spot for an outdoor headshot isn’t easy. 

When selecting the perfect location, you have to account for The Big 5 Factors. (We’re going to write a separate article on this topic soon.)

Here’s a summary of the factors to consider when picking an outdoor headshot location:

  1. Texture of the backdrop: Sharp lines combined with stark changes of color in the background can be distracting.
  2. “Vibe” of the backdrop: There’s a big difference between a park, a city, a residential area, and an office backdrop.
  3. Wind conditions: Locations near hills or large bodies of water will create difficult wind conditions. You don’t want to look like Fabio in your photo.
  4. Light conditions: What time will your shoot be? Some locations are only good at certain times of day.
  5. Traffic conditions: Particularly for city backdrops, cars/people milling around in the back can be distracting. If you like a “candid” look, some traffic is good, but most people don’t want a red car in the background, etc.

 

Given these factors, many of our customers wonder where the best backdrops are across San Francisco. So, we decided to create a handy list based on popularity. 

To see the full list of outdoor locations available, visit the HeadShots San Francisco Locations page.

 

Location 1: Maiden Lane

outdoor headshot example san francisco maiden lane

Example Backdrop at Maiden Lane

Why we love it:

Located in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Maiden Lane provides beautiful outdoor backdrops at a convenient Financial District location. The corridor is urban and lined with fancy coffee shops and upscale European clothing stores.

Who it is perfect for: 

Realtors. Fashion industry. Commercial real estate.

Availability:

Both morning and afternoon sessions are good at this location. In the late afternoons, beautiful sunset lighting reflects off the surrounding glass windows.

Pros:

  • Available for both morning and afternoon sessions. 
  • Tons of brick/stone textures for nice clean backdrops.
  • Trees and Christmas lights in the backdrop look cool.
  • Super-convenient walk from downtown if you work nearby.

 

Cons:

  • Sometimes, there are cars and trucks parked on the street, limiting specific shot options.

 

Pro tip:

Avoid this location during lunchtime, when there’s a ton of foot traffic.

 

Location 2: FiDi Corridor

san francisco headshot example fidi corridor

Example Backdrop at FiDi Corridor

Why we love it:

FiDi Corridor is a very special little nook on Trinity Place between Sutter and Bush Street. Like Maiden Lane, FiDi Corridor has an urban alleyway, which creates depth behind the subject in the photo. 

Best Lighting:

Afternoons, usually around two to three hours before sunset.

Who it is perfect for:

FiDi Corridor and #6 St Mary’s Square (covered below) are likely the most neutral of the background options available across SF. This is a good choice for any business person.

Pros:

  • Cool European-looking alleyway, which creates depth in the background of the photo.
  • Beautiful smooth grey stone textures and cobblestone floor.

 

Cons:

  • There’s not a ton of different background options.
  • The light can be finicky, so we need to shoot at very specific times of day.


Pro tip:

Stay away during lunchtime. There’s a ton of foot traffic in the area.

 

Location #3: SF City Hall

headshots outdoor example sf city hall

Example Backdrop at City Hall

Why we love it:

Convenient location in between the residential and commercial parts of San Francisco. You don’t need to work in local politics to get a great photo in front of City Hall! 

Best Lighting:

Both afternoons and mornings.

Who it is perfect for:

Government/local politics. Nonprofit industry. Realtors. Lawyers. Media/News.

Pros:

  • Perfect for government, nonprofit, real estate, or other professionals who want to associate with the local civic scene. 
  • Sweet stone buildings create modern/smooth backdrops.
  • Alleyway of trees in the middle courtyard. 

 

Cons:

  • Sometimes, there’s a dicey crowd in the area.

 

Pro Tip:

Watch out for festivals that occasionally pop up in the middle of the square. Specifically, late November to early January are off-limits because the winter skate rink is installed. (via Civic Skate Center.)

 

Location #4: Ina Coolbrith Park

outdoor headshot example san francisco inna coolbrith park

Example Backdrop at Ina Coolbrith (Example with model coming soon)

Why we love it: 

Breathtaking view of the city in the background. We can adjust the camera settings to allow for a more blurry/less blurry backdrop, according to your tastes. 

Availability:

There’s only one hour of availability in the afternoon.

Who it is perfect for: 

Anyone with short hair. The location is too windy for client’s with long hair.

Pros:

  • That view… .
  • Great diversity of unique backgrounds, including stone staircases and greenery.

 

Cons:

  • You’ll probably have to take an Uber, because the location is at the top of Russian Hill, with limited parking and a steep hike.
  • Limited availability due to being on the front of a hill.
  • It’s typically windy, so you’ll need to either A) have short hair or B) make sure to check the weather the day beforehand.

 

Pro tip:

Make sure to arrive on time. We have a short window available to shoot at this spot. 

 

Location #5: One Montgomery Street Terrace

outdoor headshot example san francisco one montgomery

Example Backdrop at One Montgomery

Why we love it: 

Most people don’t realize that San Francisco has a series of rooftop Privately Owned Public Spaces (“POPOS)” built to give SF residents room to have lunch and enjoy the great outdoors. (SF Planning Commission.) One Montgomery is one of those spaces, built on top of the Wells Fargo Bank on the corner of Post Street and Montgomery Street. 

Come enjoy this cool rooftop space and get a new headshot with sweeping views of downtown SF streets and high-end office buildings. 

Availability:  

Best natural light shots are three hours before sunset.

Who it is perfect for: 

This is a good all-around location.

Pros: 

  • Shots down Montgomery Street are beautiful, and add some depth to the photos.
  • Incredibly convenient location.
  • Great diversity of backgrounds to choose from.

 

Cons:

  • It’s crowded during lunchtime, so be prepared to dodge some people. But, our photographers will ask people to move for you.

 

Pro Tip:

We’ll ask you to avoid this location if you’re under 5’6”. The railings across the edge of the rooftop block the backdrop unless you’re at least that tall. 

 

Location #6: St Mary’s Square

outdoor headshot example san francisco st marys square

Example Backdrop at St Mary’s Square

Why we love it:

St Mary’s Square is probably our favorite HeadShots location in San Francisco. You get multiple backdrops, from glass office buildings to greenery to even a dark-ish alleyway. 

Availability:

Available in the mid-afternoon.

Who it is perfect for:

Generally good for all industries. There’s a playground we can shoot around, so if you work in child care or any kid-focused industry, this could be a perfect fit.

Pros:

  • Great downtown location.
  • Lots of backgrounds to choose from.
  • Modern urban vibe.

 

Cons:

  • Can be windy at times.

 

Pro tip:

If you want a photo around the playground, we can’t schedule a session around lunch, as there will be kids running around.

 

Notable exclusions to this list:

 

Salesforce Park: Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take professional photos here. In order to take any photos, you’ll need a commercial license and permission from the local property management company. Please see Section 3.3.1 (w) of the Salesforce Park Rule Book.

Yerba Buena Garden: While there are a ton of beautiful textures at YBCA, unfortunately, you’ll need a commercial license to take professional photos here as well. (YBG FAQ)

Golden Gate Bridge: While we’ve offered shoots for this location before, landmarks can be tricky. You’ll need the precise right time of day, and when the photo is cropped close to your face, you may not see the landmark. The best option is to meet at the Golden Gate Visitor Center.

SF Ferry Building: In theory, the San Francisco Ferry Building should make for a perfect backdrop. In practice, you’ll have to shoot in the afternoon (about three hours before sunset) for optimal lighting. This is also when the area is blisteringly windy and packed with tourists — who you may not want in the background of your LinkedIn photo.

—–

 

That’s a wrap!

We hope you enjoyed this list. Pick one of these spots, and you’ll be sure to get a rockin’ new business headshot. 

We’ll update it every year to make sure the locations are still available. 

If you have any questions, or want to schedule a shoot at one of these locations, feel free to email us at [email protected] or call (415) 343 5961.

Or, if you want a studio session, head on over to headshots-inc.com.

 

 

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