This LGBTQ+ engagement was such an important one in my career. 

William and Shawn were one of the first couples I ever worked with back in 2017 (I’m editing this blog post in almost-2020). I had just arrived in San Francisco from the UK, and did not really know what I was doing, in all honesty. 

I didn’t realize it then, but William and Shawn informed the whole direction that my business would move in.

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From those early days when I was shooting for free, not knowing where it would take me, this couple were absolutely pivotal. 

For one thing, the images caught the attention of Equally Wed and that would get at least 5 more articles published, and lead to a relationship of mutual support with Kirsten, the editor.

I still to this day get large Instagram accounts reposting images from this shoot. (Instagram! And we’re talking 2 years later!)

Their photos were seen by subsequent LGBTQ+ couples.

As long as 2 years after this shoot, I had couples come to me saying ‘we were interested in working with you because we saw photos from those cute African-American guys’. 

I was so excited to do this shoot, even renting specialist lenses that I didn’t yet own. Immediately I knew that I wanted to do the best possible work I could for this shoot. 

It was incredible getting the opportunity to work with William & Shawn and I cannot even tell you the doors that have opened because of this great couple. 

So, I felt like this little preface was necessary while I am revamping my blog content. I couldn’t resist shouting out how grateful I am to William and Shawn who let me take their picture. 

That’s all from 2019 me. As you were… 


Introducing this engay-ged couple

For William and Shawn’s pre-wedding photography session, they wanted to spend some time enjoying spots that they really enjoy in their adopted home of the Bay Area.

The Marin County couple love hitting San Francisco, particularly the Castro. When they’re not trying out hot new eating spots. they’re working hard as educators in the science field.

They are recent transplants to the San Francisco Bay Area, having moved here earlier in 2017 from Memphis, TN.

During our initial meeting, William & Shawn told me their love story which was more recently featured on Equally Wed.

In the piece, Shawn wrote about their love story in his own, inimitable style. Enjoy.

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How they met

“We were at the Simply 24-Karat Gold Homecoming Fashion Show at Mississippi Valley State University.

The date? Tuesday, October 16, 2007. William was Mr. MVSU. I was late… as usual… but I was cute.

We say, “We fell in love the night we rubbed elbows” because that’s what happened—we rubbed elbows.

I mean, that sounds more exciting than “I just wanted the armrest,” right?

Anywho, then, we exchanged our first words, “My bad.” *bliss* … that man is so fine! My Lord.

Missed connections

After that, William hunted me down on eHarmony and Facebook because he just HAD to give me this photo of me that he happened upon from that night.

He knew what he was doing.

We then got to know each other for a few months, until his post-graduation disappearance. *single tear falls*

I made good use of my time, though. My life was filled with a series of … well … let’s just call them “lessons,” for risk of losing my halo.

They prepared me; they taught me things about myself that I, apparently, needed to learn.

September 2012 came, and would’ya look at that? A friend request from William E. Woods, Jr. a.k.a. “Still My Baby Daddy.” *ACCEPTS*

My mind was at, “We have unfinished business.”

Then William disappeared

He disappeared with no call, text, email, smoke signal, ape call, or nothing.

So, yes. My pride was like, “Oh, no! You don’t leave me. I leave you!” … I mean, I might’ve slid into his inbox like, “Hey, boo. Wussup?” but still….. Whatever.

I pursued him. Hard. For like. 3 months. Then I gave up because he was on some standoffishness. Come to find out, he had a man. -_-)…

So I went about my business and he slides back into my inbox on my birthday.

Until Shawn’s brithday!

That’s when I knew it was time to pounce. Valentine’s Day 2013 was the first time we kissed, since April 2008.

It was worth every single, solitary second of waiting.

The rest of 2013 was filled with peaks and valleys. I say that in the most positive way possible.

Why? Because the year presented a test of self for each of us.

A difficult year and the birth of the new

Battles were waged within ourselves—him with how he was going to love himself and me with my give-and-get expectations of partnership.

He wasn’t ready. I was impatient. We parted.

2014. Another new year came and he decided to love himself. That’s all I needed.

Since then, he has spent every waking moment unconditionally loving me, even to the point of surpassing my own understanding of what “love is…”

The only tears that fall because of him are filled with joy, and, if they aren’t because of him, he catches them. I guess we really do get what we deserve.”

LGBTQ+ San Francisco engagement photos

For our shoot, they carefully selected two locations from a shortlist that we’d discussed.

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They felt sure about the look and feel of the locations and the variety that would bring to the imagery.

One is a classic couples portraits location – the Palace of Fine Arts.

The other spot was a more casual, nature-steeped San Francisco city overlook point, Corona Heights Park.

On the shoot their enthusiasm was infectious! I loved shooting this same-sex engagement and consider it a high honor indeed.

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The couple’s review of my photography

“BLESSING is the word that comes to mind when I think about having Zoe as our engagement/pre-wedding photographer.

My fiancé, Shawn, and I were beyond excited to find a photographer who not only was a fantastic photographer but someone to whom we could relate.

Our photoshoot, with Zoe, was so relaxing, yet very professional. She provides a mixture of direction for the moments where a hand on the small of a back is breathtaking and the freedom for clients to be themselves and to show their love in the best way they know how.

We love how Zoe embraced our love for each other and was able to capture, with such accuracy, our love in her photographs…

Talented, professional, flexible, and humble, Zoe is our #1 choice… Fellow transplanter, a fan of dance music, and lover of love stories, she does not disappoint when it comes to providing quality work…

Know that you will leave your shoot with not just a photographer, but a potential friend. Zoe, it was a privilege to be your clients, and we are sad that you were unavailable to be a guest at our wedding. Until next time.”

This shoot was featured on Equally Wed, the United States’ leading LGBTQ+ wedding publication

featured on equally wed blog

Pin this to your San Francisco engagement photography inspiration board!

Same-sex engagement photos in San Francisco! This very special couple, William and Shawn were an inspiration to me in so many ways. I loved working with them and honoring their journey. On this long form blog article, we dive into their story. The San Francisco locations they chose were the Palace of Fine Arts and Corona Heights Park. Amazing places for your SF engagement session! #engagementinspo #lgbtq #samesexengagement #bayareaengagement #bayareaweddingphotographer | Zoe Larkin Photography


I’ve worked with a wide range of clients from the LGBTQ+ community including gay, trans and non-binary folx. To learn more, check out my information then contact me!

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For more details about our engagement photography services in the San Francisco Bay Area, please check out the introductory guide and fun welcome video at the link below! I can’t wait to meet you!

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Engagement photos at Palace of Fine Arts & Corona Heights, San Francisco

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  1. Shawn Cole says:

    Zoe, thank you SO MUCH for this experience! Your skill as a photographer and easygoingness as a person helped make for an authentically beautiful outcome. Often times, it’s hard to mentally separate from work enough to get those much appreciated butterflies of being within reach of our nuptials, and this helps in making it all real. The excitement this post begets and our love for the time with you is immeasurable! You are a gem. Please, continue capturing love on film.

    Grateful to the extreme,


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