Welcome friends! Today I’m sharing the best places in the Mission District of San Francisco for your engagement photos!
As far as engagement photography goes, I have a few fave Mission District spots. As a wedding photographer, I’ve found myself shooting here on many occasions. Great because it’s also my home, ha!
For a more casual approach to photography, you can simply stroll around the area around Valencia and find awesome and unique photo spots. You don’t necessarily need a detailed plan, but it can make for a smoother process on the day. Time is usually quite limited so a plan pays off. Especially when you are chasing the gorgeous, golden sunset light! So let’s dive into some background info on San Francisco’s Mission District and why it’s such a fab choice for your engagement (or wedding) photos!
What is the Mission District known for?
The Mission District is known for its colorful murals and street art, Mexican eateries, and relaxed vibe. There are also gorgeous houses in the neighborhood, amazing trees and front yards. It’s a real hive of activity with so much going on at any one time. One of my favorite things to do in the Mission is simply taking a stroll and seeing what I find. There are a lot of things to take in!
The area is a mainly middle-class Latino family neighborhood, now with a plethora of hipsters, techies and homeless people. It’s a veritable tapestry of human life, with all ends of the spectrum represented here! The oldest monuments in all of San Francisco such as the Mission Dolores church, rubs shoulders with the hottest and newest of everything. From tech to tacos, ice-cream to innovation, boutiques to bars, coffee to kava, the Mission has it in spades.
Today, the Mission is centered around Dolores Park as well as Valencia and Mission streets. It’s known for its diverse and ever-evolving culture, innovative and striking street art, and a range of architecture. Victorian-style mansions painted pretty pastel colors? Check. Seriously old churches and cathedrals? Yep. Funky storefronts and old-school Mexican diners? You betcha.
Named for the 1776-built Mission Dolores, the Mission District is an exuberant, evolving neighborhood with its Latino roots and hipster sensibilities. Old-school taquerias and eclectic live-music clubs mix with chef-driven eateries and craft cocktail lounges. It may be San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood but has the hottest new restaurants and galleries.
One randomly awesome thing about this neighborhood is that it has the warmest and sunniest climate in all of San Francisco! This is a city of micro-climates after all. The Mission’s geographical location insulates it from the fog and wind from the west.
Not really feelin’ the Mission Vibes? Check out my detailed guide to my favorite SF photo locations, linked below!
Why the Mission District for wedding and engagement photos?
What does the Mission have to offer for wedding/ engagement photography? First and foremost, murals. The largest concentration of murals in the San Francisco adorn buildings, fences and walls throughout the neighborhood. Mission murals tend to be bright and colorful, with lots of vibrancy and life. Lots of the murals promote Latinx pride, and themes of union, love and peace.
There are plenty of pretty storefronts on the busy Valencia shopping street. Think: independent businesses with quirky window displays. The Mission District is also known for its lively food scene including plenty of Mexican food joints plus bars and cafes.
Mission Dolores Park is a major draw of the area too. This offers up amazing skyline views, beautiful palm trees, iconic Victorian mansions and lots of greenery. Come for the photo session, stay for the people-watching.
If you’re looking for a quirky San Francisco neighborhood that also has a lot of variety, the Mission is it!
You can easily pop here on your San Francisco wedding day thanks to a convenient, central location. The Mission District is super close to San Francisco City Hall. It’s essentially the next neighborhood over from Civic Center.
Pssst! Want to know other locations as well as the Mission that are within 3 miles of SF City Hall? I’ve written the guide on that, too!
Other popular, low-key wedding venues in the Mission District itself are Stable Cafe and Central Kitchen. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing weddings at both. Check out my blog post about weddings at Stable Cafe linked below!
Another couple married at Eristavi Winery, an up-and-coming San Francisco wedding venue located close to the 24th St Mission area.
What to avoid in the Mission
There’s also more in the way of political messaging on many Mission District murals which may not be right for everyone. Clarion Alley is the best-known mural street and is filled with political slogans. Balmy Alley is less politically-charged.
Another word of warning: if there was one piece in particular you have your heart set on, check on it right before shoot day to see that it’s still there. Some street art and murals change out frequently, to provide a canvas for something new. Think of them as temporary art installations.
As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen it happen. We get to the desired spot where the mural was and boom, not there. The beauty of the Mission District however, is that are so many colorful and beautiful murals. They are located very close by, so there’s always something else to pursue.
A general piece of advice – if you’re not familiar with the area, be sure to stay safe. There are often protests in this neighborhood, plus a high homeless proportion. Some streets are pristine, others are seedy. My old neighborhood around the 16th St Bart is sketchy. Keep your wits about you and items secure at all times. Be careful where you park, as cars do have their windows smashed. Never leave valuables – or any items – on display. There is a secure reasonably-priced parking garage on Hoff St and another on Bartlett.
Inspiration for your Mission, San Francisco shoot
For the full inspiration posts, check out previous Mission District engagement, love and wedding photo shoots here:
Top 10 photography spots in the Mission!
View on maps
1. Clarion Alley
One of the most well-known mural alleys, with frequently changing, politically charged messages focusing on social justice. Close to 16th area.
What to put into Google Maps: Clarion Alley Street Art
2. Balmy Alley
Probably the second most famous alleyways of murals, second only to Clarion Alley. These murals tend to be more abstract and colorful, and it’s quieter too. This alleyway is in the 24th St area.
What to put into Google Maps: Balmy Alley, Balmy Street, San Francisco, CA
3. 19th & Guerrero
A green, blue and gold mural with stunning colors that gives a beautiful, dreamy effect. It reads ‘You are something magical’ and is by Amanda Lynn. See also header image for more.
What to put into Google Maps: Guerrero St & 19th St
4. 17th & Church
This one really tickled Jessica in the image above. She loved the bears on bicycles and I couldn’t agree more. It’s by Lara Buelow.
What to put into Google Maps: 17th Street & Church Street, San Francisco, CA
5. Women’s Building
One of San Francisco’s largest and best-known murals, MaestraPeace and serves as a visual testament to the courageous contributions of women through time and around the world.
What to put into Google Maps: Women’s Building, 18th Street #8, San Francisco, CA
6. Dolores Park
Dolores Park is a cool hipster hang-out with dogs, tennis, palm trees and skyline views! Expect beautiful curved walkways and lots and lots of trees, flanked by iconic San Francisco mansions in pastel hues.
What to put into Google Maps: Dolores Park, 19th Street, San Francisco, CA
7. Linda Street
After careful consideration, I think Linda Street is the most beautiful street in the Mission. The houses are just adorable and the colors are to die for. At the right time of year (basically around early-mid summer, it has a long flowering period!), you get the prettiest bougainvillea. The best place to start is on 18th close to the Women’s Building.
What to put into Google Maps: Linda Street, San Francisco, CA
8. Lilac Alley Murals
Lilac Alley runs two blocks from 24th to 26th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Every wall, fence, and door here is completely saturated with graffiti and mural art. This is one of the lesser-known mural spots in the 24th St area, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the edgier pieces.
What to put into Google Maps: Lilac Alley Murals, 26th Street, San Francisco, CA (You can also wander in from 24th St)
9. Alley Cat Books
Just one of the many cute boutiques. The couple above, Caroline and Andrew, wanted to incorporate this meaningful spot as Caroline used to live very nearby, and browsing books on the weekend was a happy memory for them.
What to put into Google Maps: Alley Cat Bookstore and Gallery, 24th Street, San Francisco, CA
10. 19th & Valencia
OK, that’s me because I’ve never done a shoot there. But check out these super bold, primary colors. This would be great for a style-conscious couple who want to do something edgy and bold for your engagement shoot. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from many other spots too, being right off Valencia.
What to put into Google Maps: 19th Street & Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA
& a bonus tip
These two spots (as an example!):
Arinell Pizza, Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA
Humphry Slocombe, Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA
Grab a slice of your fave pizza (like this one at Arinell’s), or a couple fave tacos / pupusas / ice creams. Then have fun feeding one another! Sounds gross but I promise, it’s really fun! Think of it as practice for feeding each other wedding cake on the big day 😉
It’s polite to check in with the establishment’s manager first to make sure they don’t mind having photos taken either on the premises or right around them. Most places will be happy to allow shoots, so long as we don’t disturb other customers. When you have something to do, such as lick ice cream or ‘cheers’ cocktails, it really helps you feel relaxed.
To pin this to your engagement photos Pinterest inspiration board, use the graphic below, and hit this link to give us a follow!
Also check out:
nearby Pacific Heights!
Now all you need is a wedding (& engagement) photographer! To find out more about my wedding photography services go here. If you’re still shopping around and just looking for engagement photography information currently, hit the link below!
When you’re ready, you can go ahead and contact me at this link! Then give us a follow on Instagram @zoe.larkin.
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