A couple stands hand-in-hand on a rock surrounded by serene waters, gazing at the horizon where the setting sun kisses the sea, creating a tranquil backdrop by the beach.

El Matador Beach Engagement Photos

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 an incredibly long time, these unique structures serve beautifully as props and backgrounds. Many are easy to hop on as the tide rolls in, and then others tower over the ocean with magnificent presence.

Another cool aspect of this beach is its rich filming history. The “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” scene from The Notebook was shot here. Sandy & Danny spent some time here at the beginning of Grease. Countless other movies, tv shows, and music videos have also used this historic location.

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 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.

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

Another little tip is to try to shoot here during low tide. Otherwise, you may end up getting 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 especially striking. Just bring a coat because it can get a little chilly.

One last thing to consider is that you have to hike down a rocky path and a set of rugged stairs to get to the actual beach. And then you have to hike back up afterward. It may be a challenge for certain individuals, so I recommend checking it out online first to make sure that it doesn’t pose any issues.

And/or you can always stay up top and shoot along the cliff. The parking lot is right there, so it’s very accessible 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.

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