Capturing the personality of someone through a still image is not always an easy task but can be achieved through the effective use of lighting, backdrops, and poses. In most cases, the best portrait photographers are talented at documenting emotions and creating a connection between their subjects and the viewer.

On the doorstep of San Francisco, Oakland forms part of the Bay Area’s creative community and is home to highly skilled photographers who have turned portraiture into an art. In this guide, we’ll share with you 10 who are among the best and specialize in everything from weddings to boudoir and business portraits.

Janice Charlson Photography

A sibling portrait session at the stables [Janice Charlson Photography]

Based in Walnut Creek, Janice Charlson is a talented portrait photographer who serves clients throughout the Oakland area. She’s a horse lover and regularly photographs clients at the stables, as well as doing maternity shoots and documenting events.

Janice says she is passionate about helping clients turn images into lasting memories, and clients rave about her flexibility, generosity, and communication. Her images capture the personality of her subjects in a relaxed, easy-going manner.

Phoenix Wang Photography

A couple kiss on an icy Lake Tahoe [Phoenix Wang Photography]

Phoenix Wang believes that happiness can be delivered through photographs and has been striving to achieve this since establishing his business in 2009. Originating from Hong Kong, he moved to the San Francisco area in 2011.

Phoenix holds a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Academy of Art University, and his work has been featured in more than ten magazines. Fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, he regularly documents weddings and captures photos that will make you laugh and cry.

Clayton J. Mitchell Photography

A portrait of a man in leather [Clayton J. Mitchell Photography]

Operating out of a historic studio in Alameda, Clayton J. Mitchell first fell in love with photography at the age of four. He holds a BA in Photography from the University of Redlands and honed his craft while working with various portrait studios throughout the United States. Clayton J. Mitchell Photography was launched in 2006 and is committed to creating meaningful imagery with a fun and professional approach. Aside from in-studio portraits, Clayton also offers location shoots at one of the many spectacular spots nearby.

Nightingale Photography

An ice cream-inspired portrait by Christina Hernandez [Nightingale Photography]

Christina Hernandez is the photographer behind Nightingale Photography and is passionate about finding the moments between the moments. She worked for 15 years as a photojournalist at the “San Francisco Chronicle” before establishing her own business and draws on her documentary experience to constantly adapt and embrace changing environments.

In addition to maternity and newborn portraits, Christina also offers family portrait sessions and professional headshots. No matter who she’s shooting, she strives to create photo galleries that tell their unique story through rich, memorable images.

Julia Miho Photography

A relaxed portrait by Julia Miho [Julia Miho Photography]

Julia Miho is a self-taught photographer and canvas artist who works throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has lived her entire life. Her overseas travels have had a lasting influence on her work, which ranges from engagement and wedding portraits to family photo sessions and professional headshots. As a henna artist, Julia also incorporates henna design into her photography through the use of color and light and strives to offer the viewer a glimpse into her subject’s realities.

Sam Willard Photography

A sophisticated business portrait by Sam Willard [Sam Willard Photography]

Sam Willard Photography specializes in headshots for business professionals, as well as documenting business events and assisting in the creation of brand imagery. His focus solely on business imagery sets him apart from other photographers on this list, many of whom also offer family, maternity, and newborn portraits. Sam graduated from business school at UC Berkeley before establishing Sam Willard Photography in 2003 and has been serving clients throughout the Bay Area ever since.

Oaktown Boudoir

A black and white boudoir session by Cheshire [Oaktown Boudoir]

Established in 2015, Oaktown Boudoir specializes in capturing natural, intimate portraits that say “this is me.” It’s owned and operated by Cheshire, who has worked as a professional photographer for more than ten years and is driven by the desire to make people feel good about themselves. He has a natural talent for making people feel at ease in front of the camera and teaching them to pose in a way that enables self-expression. He works out of his studio at Lake Merritt where he has brought dozens of clients’ visions to life.

Kreate Photography

An intimate couple portrait by Katie Rummel [Kreate Photography]

Born and raised in Sonoma County, Katie Rummel now calls the San Francisco Bay Area “home” and established her business, Kreate Photography, here in 2007. Her goal as a fine art portrait photographer is to not only capture emotion but provoke a feeling in the viewer and a connection with her subjects. She says that her client relationships are the foundation of her success and help her to achieve honest and compelling images. Aside from her keen eye for capturing intimacy, wit, and beauty, she also has a light-hearted approach that helps to put her clients at ease.

SF Portraits

A young girl runs through the fall leaves [SF Portraits]

Jason Todd is the man behind SF Portraits, which specializes in family and business portraits, as well as weddings, events, and branding. He established his business in 1998 after attending the Art Center College of Design and working with editorial and advertising clients in New York. Testament to his talent is the fact that his work has appeared in magazines such as “US Weekly,” “Seventeen,” and “Travel & Leisure.” Based in San Rafael, Todd also works with a team of talented professionals for documenting large weddings and events.

Ella Sophie Photo

A powerful portrait by Ella Sophie [Ella Sophie Photo]

Specializing in photographing women, Ella Sophie is a visual artist and commercial photographer who relocated to Oakland from New York City in 2016. Her images are bold and engaging, with a strong focus on light, form, and texture. Aside from women’s portraits and boudoir sessions, she also does product photography and brand advertising, with a fascination for where the worlds of fine art and advertising meet. Previous clients include Bliss Fitness, Dorian Webb Jewelry, and Care Division.

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