There are so many choices for engagement shoots in the Bay Area, but with the history, moodiness, and raw beauty of the ocean, doing Sutro Baths engagement photos is always an amazing choice
California wedding photographer | Bay Area engagement photographer | Sutro Baths engagement photographer
Engagement photos at the Sutro Baths are iconic San Francisco shots, and in this article I’ll tell you how to get the most out of your SF engagement photos. Interestingly enough, the history of this unique location is not what you’d expect. Before you have your Sutro Baths engagement photos taken, here’s how the ruins came to be.
If you live in San Francisco, you’re familiar with the Sutro Baths. If not, you probably wonder what the heck they are. No, there’s no relation to Turkish baths, nor bathtubs, nor Kama Sutra.
Now that I have your attention, I’ll tell you that the Sutro Baths were built in 1894 by Adolph Sutro, a millionaire who wanted to give thousands of San Franciscans a place to swim. 10,000 people at a time could visit his public bathhouse and ocean front complex, and the pools allowed 1.3 million gallons of ocean water to flow in and out. Slides, diving boards, and even trapezes graced the pools under a giant glass dome, while the entrance contained historical artifacts from Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and more.
Sunrise engagement photos at Sutro Baths is very popular, but honestly, they’re pretty great any time of day. And the best part of doing Sutro Baths engagement photos? It’s not just this one part that’s photogenic. Very near are hills with ocean views, wind-swept tree groves, graffiti and even Golden Gate Bridge views and beaches.
It’s not just engagement photos at Sutro Baths that are famous. This is a great place for a proposal, for an anniversary shoot, for wedding photos, or for an elopement!
Unfortunately, Mr. Sutro passed away around the turn of the century, and his family wasn’t able to keep the business afloat for long. What was once an incredible site for education, exercise, and fun turned into today’s graffiti-covered concrete maze remains. Don’t be too depressed, though. The site has been around for over 125 years, and the ocean has now reclaimed most of the space. Mother nature for the win, right?!
What to Wear for Your Sutro Baths Engagement Photos
A few pieces of advice:
- It’s often windy, so you probably don’t want to wear a short skirt. For those opting for skirts and dresses, a long skirt or dress is a safer option—unless, of course, you want that Marilyn Monroe look.
- There are some more narrow ledges to walk on where one could potentially fall in water, so wear sturdy shoes. This goes for both the photographer and couple. Hiking sandals, sneakers, or boots are best. This really isn’t the place for high heels or flip-flops, though if you want to bring a pair to change into…well, wear at your own risk!
- Color-wise, I find that reds, pinks, purples, and yellows work beautifully. You probably want to avoid anything that is a similar color here, including blues, blacks, beiges, or some greens.
PRO TIP: The sun usually is at a crazy angle over the baths, so your Sutro Baths engagement photos are best for the artsy, romantic, and funky far-away shots versus close and intimate. You may be in silhouette depending on the time of day you’re there, so definitely choose a second location for shots that show your faces and smiles!
Engagement photo locations in San Francisco are a-plenty (check out my guide for where to take San Francisco engagement photos here), but the Sutro Baths are always a cool area to get a variety of photos. There are little hikes you can do, beautiful views of the blue ocean, and views across to Marin. Foggy or sunny, you’re bound to get some memorable engagement photos.
Eloping in San Francisco, or looking for a location other than the Palace of Fine Arts and Legion of Honor for your wedding or adventure session photos? Sutro Baths is great for wedding or proposal photos, too!
As a San Francisco wedding photographer, there are several locations I love photographing at no matter what, and Sutro Baths is one of them. As far as the best places in San Francisco for engagement photos goes, I’d say the Sutro Baths, Palace of Fine Arts, Marin-Bridge Views, and SF Botanical Gardens. Those are the famous ones, however, and there are so many others in short walking or driving distance.
Contact me here to figure out a time for your Sutro Baths engagement photos, and we’ll also visit the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, take engagement photos in Shakespeare Garden, or stroll down the Presidio. When it comes to SF engagement photos, there are so many choices and so little time!
Kathryn Cooper Weddings: San Francisco wedding photographer | San Francisco engagement photos | California elopement photographer
This looks like such a unique location – what a gem you’ve found! Great for shoots!
Bay Area is just a jaw dropping location for an intimate adventure! Take me there today!
I love that landscape photo of them walking with the perfect reflection in the water! So many different angles to capture at Sutro.
What a unique location for an engagement session! Love the reflection photos. Thanks for sharing this history of the Sutro Baths!
Thanks Emily! I didn’t really know it myself until I started researching. The scope of the project was really quite amazing for the 1800s.
What a unique location! I love all the reflection shots, and how we see so many incredible points of view!
What a cool spot!!! I love finding places like this to really make a session unique. Amazing work!
What a great guide to the Sutro Baths ruins! I love how much variety you’ve shown in the location — it really is one of the coolest spots in San Francisco!
Well this is just the coolest, funkiest place! Thanks for sharing the history, fascinating. And gorgeous pics, love the ones playing with the light!