Disclaimer: This article is a bit of a read - but the main questions I get asked for sessions are, "Where would be a good location for us to shoot?" and "What time should we start?" With 27 years of photography experience and 6 years as a full-time photography professional, I'll go ahead and pass on some of what I've learned about daylight, as well as provide you with a list of spots where I've shot! Of course, as an adventurer, one of my favorite things to do is to go where I haven't been, so if you pick a spot that's not on the list, great! Otherwise, I'm happy to be your guide! (Oh and, um, as a former English & Music double-major-turned-Photographer, I apologize in advance for the superfluousness. At least, I think that's a word. See... that's why I do photos now.) (I mean, I'm kidding, there are so many reasons why I "do photos" ... okay, let's just do this!)

So warmly (albeit awkwardly), Rachel

WHEN to schedule

If you aren't sure what time to choose for your session, 20 minutes before sunset is usually a great time to start for a 30-minute session, or 45 minutes before sunset is a great time to start for a 1-hour session - that way, we can catch the best lighting scenarios of the day, which, in my opinion, are just before and just after the sun goes down. (You can "google" the sunset time for your date and location - if you have it - to find out when sunset will "officially" occur.)

If we are shooting among trees and mountains, however, the sun may "disappear" sooner, depending on how high and thick the trees are or how high the mountains are to the West - so, we may want to bump up your session a bit earlier if you want to catch that golden glow as the sun hangs just high enough to shine within view. (Timing for that type of scene is something I'll help with once we do know the location.) Still, the light will be very good once the sun is low enough to be no longer in view, because after the sun is no longer visible is when the lighting is the most even. Ahhhh.... I love that light!!

The light that I don't love (as much) for photographing people is when the sun is super high up there. If there aren't mountains or hills blocking the sun or if there isn't thick, forest-type tree coverage, a higher sun creates a stark dynamic contrast of bright light with dark shadows, which isn't typically the most ideal lighting scenario for both subjects' faces and backgrounds. But, I will say - a high sun does mean BLUE WATER - which is what you might actually be going for, especially at a place like Lake Tahoe!

One other scenario that works especially well is SUNRISE. I mean, getting up super early, yeah, ugh - but the light will be beautiful, starting at about 20 minutes before sunrise and continuing through sunrise. Spectacular. (Sunset is, yeah, definitely easier though. I'm not a morning person myself - but I do love incredible photos - so I'm game!)

Now, all of the above depends on us having total control over the time of day we're shooting in. If you want to shoot at a particular venue instead of an open public area, you'll need to contact the owner to make an appointment, which may have to fall within their regular business hours and may not be the most ideal scenario for lighting. But that's okay! Yes, one of my jobs is to provide you with my technical photographic recommendations regarding the best lighting and background scenarios in my professional artistic opinion - but you are free to take or leave those recommendations. If shooting at a particular place is important to you, regardless of the lighting scenarios that may present themselves, let's do it! No matter when or where I'm shooting, I will find and use the best lighting and backgrounds in every situation! That's what I do!

One last thought about the session time: I only book one session per day! So, if we end up needing to change the time, that's okay! And, since there are so many amazing locations to choose from, you can certainly pick your date first and the location and final start time later!

WHERE to go

Speaking of locations, here's a list of locations where I've photographed sessions, if you need help deciding where to go!

Mountain Views & Forests

Sly Park Recreation Area

Strawberry Lodge

Caples Lake

Carson's Pass

Thunder Mountain

Silver Fork American River

South Fork American River

Silver Lake & Potholes

Donner Pass

Hope Valley (especially in Fall for yellow aspens)

Sardine Lake

Yosemite National Park 


Humboldt Redwoods

Oakland Redwoods

Apple Hill Area

Silverthorn Meadows

High Hill Ranch

High Sierra Iris Gardens (late April to mid-May for the irises)

Boa Vista Orchards

TONS OF OTHER FARMS! Vineyards, Apple Orchards and more at https://applehill.com!

Lake Tahoe Area

Emerald Bay

Fallen Leaf Lake

Upper Truckee Marsh

Taylor Creek

Baldwin Beach

Edgewood Tahoe Resort

Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

Zephyr Cove

Sand Harbor

Logan Shoals Vista Point

Spooner Lake

Chimney Trailhead & Beach

Placerville Area

Hangtown Placerville

Gold Bug Mine

Folsom Area

Lake Natoma Waterfront and Trail

Folsom Lake (especially in Spring for the purple lupines)

Roseville Area

Blue Oaks Park

Amador Area

Mokelumne River

Sacramento Area

Tower Bridge and Old Sacramento Waterfront

UC Davis Arboretum

Capitol Park

McKinley Rose Garden

Land Park

Austin B. Carroll Heritage Oak Grove

San Francisco Area

Baker Beach

Lands End Trail

Seal Rocks Beach

Palace of Fine Arts

Slacker Hill

Marin Headlands

Cliff House & Sutro Baths

Greater Bay Area

Bolinas Point

Bodega Bay

Stinson Beach

Alameda Beach

Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Monterey Area

Monterey Bay Aquarium & Lovers Point Park

Spring Flowers

Crystal Hermitage Gardens (especially in early April for the tulips)

Horse Ranch

Cool Hills Ranch

Alpaca Farm

Menagerie Hill Ranch

Sunflower Field

Various fields in Dixon (early to mid-July)

Almond Orchard

Various orchards in Woodland (late January to mid- February)

Vineyards & Breweries

Saluti Cellars

Cielo Estate Winery

Too Good Winery

Paradise Ridge Winery

For Kids (or Young at Heart)

Sacramento Zoo

Boa Vista Pumpkin Patch (Fall)

Old Sacramento Trains

And this list is growing all the time!

Now, with all the decisions you have to make, please also feel free to have me just pick a spot for you! Depending on your session date, I can choose a location that I think will be great that particular time of year.

More Q&A

What should we wear?

I recommend thinking first about your shoes, ensuring your comfort and ease of movement for the terrain and weather, and then about your outfit. As far as colors and styles, matching to the season or scene can be fun! But if you still aren't sure, white is always a great shirt color for a masculine partner (button-up with a white undershirt), with a solid color pant, and for a feminine partner, most colors are great, whether solids or patterns, to help you stand out. Mostly, I want you to feel amazing in whatever you're wearing, and feel like you're being true-to-you. Generally, I would probably stay away from lime green, cherry red, or any other super bright color that may reflect onto your partner's face. You can test this by standing chest-to-chest in the sun and checking a selfie to see what colors, if any, are reflecting onto each others' skin. Last clothing bit: Flowy dresses can be AWESOME if weather permits, because they look great in photos!

Can we bring a change of clothes?

Yes - just keep in mind it will cut into your session time, and there may not be an "obvious" place to change if we are going on a hike, besides behind a tree (although you can bring a blanket!).

Can we bring champagne and glasses?

Yes! Champagne pops are awesome, or even just a wine toast!

Can we bring dogs and/or kids?

Yes! For pets and kids, I also recommend bringing a third wheel to help with the pets and kids if you also want some photos with just the two of you.

Can we bring other picnic items and props?

Yes! Sometimes I do shoot continuously, and we will be leaving the car behind as we walk around the location, so whatever you're carrying may end up in some photos (so a picnic basket or a cute bag might be ideal), or we can just stop and you can put the stuff down and we can just not shoot the in-between spots, which is also fine!

Let's go

Okay, if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask! You can reach me via email at info@rachelandmarkphotography.com or text at (760) 468-0398. Otherwise, you can schedule your session using my calendar below!

See you soon!