Have you ever heard a parent gripe that they wish they had fewer photos from when their kids were younger? Didn’t think so. We live in a time where, for many of us, our moments are constantly documented and shared, and perhaps you’ve got thousands of pictures of your family on your phone. But it’s even better when you throw an experienced professional into the mix — they bring a set of tools to the table that most of us don’t even think about, from a constant awareness of lighting conditions to knowing just how to direct families to produce sincere moments instead of awkward poses. These 11 individuals are among the best family photographers in San Francisco — check them out.
1. Emily Payne
Emily Payne is a particularly prolific pregnancy and newborn photographer, but she’s also an accomplished general family photographer. She’s a mother herself, so she’s good at wrangling kids. And, if that weren’t enough, she’s also the San Francisco Ambassador for the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. Her involvement with the organization means she’s got a sharp mind for how she approaches working with children and sets sky-high standards for herself. It shows in her style, which is clean and sweet.
Shefali Parekh adores beautiful golden light, so if you’re into that style of outdoor photography, give her a call. An experienced lifestyle photographer, Parekh keeps an eye out for fleeting moments, allowing her subjects to just be themselves while she captures the emotions that arise organically. She puts it this way, “I want to photograph you as you are. Raw. Kiss your spouse. Play with your kids. This moment is short-lived.”
Cathy of Breslow Imaging seems to split her time between weddings and families, and her family sessions show a bit of influence from popular wedding styles. Her shots exhibit a touch of drama, a flair for the striking. She’s a great photographer to stick with for years, through birth to the first day of school, graduation, and beyond.
Old photos fascinate Ashley Kaplan, who says she “loves to live in nostalgic ‘remember-when’ moments.” Each time she takes a photo, she’s thinking about how you’re going to feel looking at it decades later, as well as how the style of the image itself is going to age. It’s no surprise that her work has a timeless, natural feel, as she specializes in natural light portraiture.
5. Anita Barcsa
Antia Barcsa seeks the power in the small, seemingly insignificant moments, not just in the obvious ones. Often, in a session, you catch all of the “right,” beautiful moments — such as the child’s expression when mom kisses them on the cheek, or the goofy face dad wears to make them laugh. However, some of the most special shots will be the ones you weren’t on the lookout for at all, the fleeting moments that went unnoticed by everyone else in the room except the photographer. Barcsa remarks that “everyone should see themselves as others see them; we would all walk taller and a little prouder,” which is a fine creative sentiment if there ever was one.
Caroline Pacula describes her style as “clean, light, and airy,” and that’s an accurate assessment. She makes lifestyle photographs that feel technically adept and dazzlingly pretty. Pacula’s snapshots from the best years of our lives capture the fleeting moments that busy parents can so easily forget amidst the hustle and bustle of life. Her work speaks for itself, so check out her portfolio.
Like many great family photographers, Tina Maciej is more interested in capturing interactions and emotions than surface-level visuals. She specializes in on-location outdoor shoots as opposed to studio sessions. In addition, she takes special care to foster a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. She wants her shoots to feel like a casual get-together, not a formal occasion. Maciej has won a variety of awards, frequently topping best-of lists for Bay Area family photographers.
8. Katie Rain
Katie Rain makes colorful, lively portraits of families leading their best lives. Clients say she’s easygoing and authentic, and that she connects with children effortlessly. Rain is also an associate of the following photographer on our list, Cristin More. Together, they run a business called “Business, Woman,” which offers workshops and mentorship programs for developing female photographers. They’re sure to usher in the next generation of great San Francisco family photographers.
9. Cristin More
Cristin More’s photos are full of authentic emotion and, even when the shots are on location and posed, it never feels that way. After all, you can direct the position of people in a shot, but you can’t fake true emotion — only capture it. More really shines in her in-home sessions (also called “Day in the Life”). These are becoming more popular among family photographers, but More is especially gifted when it comes to capturing a family’s quirks, personality, and love. One of the coolest business ideas More has had yet is what she calls a “Lifetime Family” designation, which is for families who have used her photography services multiple times. Lifetime Families get special treatment, extras, and free sessions for family milestone moments. In other words, she treats your family like her family.
Travis Watts can do it all, but he specializes in natural light photography — like many of the photographers on our list. He takes care to help families prepare for their shoot, and his website even has a cool style guide with clothing ideas and matching color palettes, so your family can look as stylish as possible. He has an educational background in early childhood education — thus, he knows what he’s doing when it’s time to interact with finicky children.
Scope out any list of popular San Francisco family photographers and Hi+Hello Photography will be near the top. In the photographer’s own words, “I make fun, playful, honest images of real families actually being humans!” She’s spunky, funny, and stylish; her fierce sense of fun shows through in every shot she takes. It’s probably why clients react so strongly to her — she brings a positive energy to her shoots.
Everyone should hire a pro to document their family, even if only once. There’s just no replacement for it. A lot of excellent family photographers reside in San Francisco, but any of these 11 will give you the kind of results you can cherish for decades. Better yet, your kids can cherish them, and maybe their children can, too. Real art and emotion have staying power, and that’s why beautiful family photos can become beloved heirlooms.