April 11, 2021

El Matador Beach, Malibu

Engagement sessions are so awesome for so many reasons:

      1. They’re a great way to break the ice with your photographer and to get in the groove of taking photos.
      2. They’re a perfect accompaniment to your hair & makeup trial. Make the most of it AND see how everything looks on camera.
      3. They give you a bunch of pretty pictures for anything that you may need: wedding websites, save the dates & invitations, decor & wall art, the list goes on!
      4. They’re not on a tight schedule (like, say, your wedding). There’s time to roam around and explore somewhere new.
      5. They’re really fun!

One of my favorite locations is El Matador State Beach. Nestled right off of PCH in Malibu, this spot is both breathtaking and iconic. Best of all, it’s incredibly reliable. It doesn’t have an off-season so you can shoot there any day, all year.

What makes this beach so especially beautiful is its collection of rocks and sea stacks. Formed by waves & wind over a verrry long time, these unique structures can serve as props and/or backgrounds. There are many that are easy to hop on as the tide rolls in, and then there are others that tower over the ocean with magnificent presence. It’s pretty darn cool.

Another rad aspect of this beach is its rich filming history. The “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” scene from The Notebook? Filmed here. Sandy & Danny at the beginning of Grease? Filmed here. Countless other movies, tv shows, and music videos have also used this historic location. I see it pop up all of the time, from Westworld to The Good Place. 

The best time to shoot here is — surprise! — golden hour. This area is really quite magical when ensconced with that warm glow. And if there are clouds in the sky, then you’re probably in for a killer sunset, too.

Now even though I said that you can shoot here 365 days a year doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea… This beach isn’t a secret and it gets quite packed as the weather warms up. Parking and finding clear shooting paths become competitive sports. And this is after you’ve trekked all the way up there, likely hitting some traffic along the way. 

Because of all of that, I nearly always suggest scheduling a session here on a weekday. Because really, who wants to deal with all of that noise?! 

Another little tip is to try to shoot here during low tide. Otherwise, you may end up getting a bit soaked. But that can also make for some fantastic photos, so it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.

Here’s a handy website to check the current conditions: Tide Forecast

Don’t worry either if you’re thinking of doing a session here during the winter. Those are some of my favorite months to shoot because the sunsets are so striking. The cold fronts come down and clean & dehumidify the air. We are also literally physically closer to the sun. All of this makes for some especially spectacular skies. Just bring a coat because it can get a little chilly.

One last thing to consider is that you have to walk down a steep rocky path and a set of rugged stairs to get down to the actual beach. It can be a challenge for small children and those who are pregnant. It would be extremely difficult for those with mobility issues. 

But you can always just stay up top and shoot along the cliff. The parking lot is right there, so it’s very easy in that regard. And there are a few picnic tables if you want to relax. The views are spectacular.

To sum everything up: this beach makes you work for it but it’s totally worth it. ✨