Gretchen Adams

Gretchen Adams


A Boutique Portrait Studio

San Francisco, Bay Area


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about us

Gretchen Adams has been creating custom portraiture for clients all around the San Francisco Bay Area since 1999. Our studio is proud to have been a three-time winner of the coveted Diablo Magazine Best of the East Bay "Best Portrait Photographer" award as well as Parent's Press Best of the Bay "Best Portrait Studio" award. 

We specialize in custom portraiture of the people you love, designed specifically with your home in mind. We are known throughout the Bay Area for providing the very highest level of service and quality and for making the process of obtaining heirloom quality portraits an easy and enjoyable experience. Gretchen Adams creates artwork that will be cherished for a lifetime.


sisters outdoor portrait session waterfront grasses setting sun


Our Specialties



Our portrait sessions take place everywhere and anywhere...from the rolling hills of the east bay to the lush vineyards of the wine country, to the gorgeous sweeping cliffs of the coast. Where we choose to capture your family portrait will depend on the look and feel we are aiming to capture based on your family's style, taste, and the decor of your home. Some clients are drawn to a formal aesthetic and wish to have their portraits created in an atmosphere that has classic architecture with arches and columns and dress in more formal attire. Other clients may prefer a more casual scene, something with a soft quality of light and the calming feel of a small body of water, where they can pose easily in jeans and snuggle up with the kiddos. And others clients may get really excited about the idea of creating a more urban portrait, with lots of texture of worn walls and old brick buildings. The possibilities are endless and that is exactly why we always start the process with a private design consultation so that we can get to know your taste and style and go over the many options with you to design a look and concept that you will love.

Hearth and Home portraits

Sometimes we don't have to look any farther than our client's own backyard (or front porch) to find the perfect spot for a family portrait session. A session at home has many holds a special warmth and meaning as this is the "family home" where your children have/are growing up, it's easy to include your beloved pets, clothes are readily available if someone would like to switch outfits during the session or run an iron back over a piece, we can artfully incorporate personal mementos that will give your portraits extra sentimental value, and it's convenient to you! But don't worry, you don't need a expansive villa or ocean front property to set the scene for a Hearth and Home Session, you just need a place that you love, that your family calls "home" and we will make sure we find beautiful angles and nooks and crannies that will show it (and your family) off in the best light. These sessions always start with a personal "go see" appointment done by Gretchen prior to the portrait shoot to scout out the location and map out the session.  

A Hearth and Home Session is also a wonderful time to include the grandparents in your portrait session. Or if you are the grandparent, it's a wonderful time to invite your adult children and their families over for a portrait!  What matters most is family, and we refer to these generational portrait sessions as a Legacy Portrait.  It's a time to gather the extended family together and celebrate the generations.  Whether a Legacy Portrait Session is being planned out by the adult children or by the grandparents, it's truly a gift for all of the generations. As with any of our sessions, the session does not end with just the family grouping. We also make time to create individual portraits as well as all of the combinations, so grandparents are sure to get some beautiful and special portraits of just them with their grandchildren. When was the last time your parents had a professional portrait made of themselves? If the answer is your wedding a decade ago, then it's time to book this session. Here's a small sampling of some of our sessions created in the comfort of our client's own homes.

high school senior portraits

Senior portraits are a rite of passage. And you don't have to settle for the standard yearbook shot, either. Our sessions are crafted to give your graduate a special experience that will make them feel like a star and show off exactly who THEY are as they are hitting this incredible milestone and transitioning into adulthood. Senior sessions range from a complete session just for the senior with many outfit changes and multiple locations, to a senior session that is combined with a family session (what better time to capture a family portrait when one child is about to leave the nest!). If you have a child who is going to be graduating soon, give us a call and we will be happy to go over all of the options with you!

Business Head shots

Your professional image is a key marketing tool in your online and print advertising.  A head shot can effectively convey your personality and the purpose of your work to your clients or customers. It gives them a brief, but vibrant, insight into who you are and how you can help them. When that first impression is made in as short as a 100 milliseconds, you want to make sure your clients get the right message. We are very skilled at crafting images that will speak to your audience

Pet Portraits

As huge animal lovers ourselves, we definitely understand the bond between a human and their fury four legged friend. We absolutely love (and encourage) our clients to include their pets in their portrait session. But sometimes those special companions need a session of their own, and here are some of our favorites.




Welcome to

the studio

cottage portrait studio in the east bay


the custom experience


portrait design

Every portrait that we create is a special commission made specifically with our client's family and home in mind. We design our artwork to reflect family connections, personalities, style, and to enhance the home in which it will hang. A lot of thought and careful planning goes into each portrait session and it all starts with creating the concept. When you reach out to us as a potential client, we start the ball rolling by going over some basic information about our process and fees and then invite you over to our cottage studio so we can dive deeper. This is our design consultation where we get to know you, show you examples of our work in person so you can see and feel the quality of the pieces, and start really coming up with a concept for your session.

wardrobe assistance

Many clients are nervous about what to wear for their sessions. Either they don't feel competent in their skills of outfitting the entire family for a portrait or they are just too busy to even think about it. We get it.  That's what we are here for as a full-service studio. We will give many suggestions during our design consultation and will even send you home with a swatch card to give you a visual for the color palette we are recommending, but most times we are taking it even farther than that. Sometimes our clients text us photos of the outfits they are considering while they are shopping or going through their closets and we offer tips and suggestions as the texts are coming in, other times we are going to the client's home to sort through closets with them and pick out options. Many times we are meeting our clients at shops to help guide them, and other times we are doing all of the shopping ourselves and bringing the options to our client's homes prior to the session for a "dress rehearsal". Think of us as your personal image consultants. The clothes can make or break the final portrait and we are the experts on what will work best for the vision we have created, so let us help in whatever capacity you need from us! 


interior space planning

Who doesn't like some help with interior design? The biggest compliment we receive (and we receive it a lot!) is that our portraits "complete the room" in which they hang. This is the cherry on the sundae for us, as that is the ultimate goal when designing a portrait session. Just like any piece of art that you would choose for your home, the colors and lines and feel of the art need to work in the room. It's more than just a beautifully posed portrait where everyone looks their absolute best, it's the crowning jewel of your home and we take the job of creating that very seriously. We ask our clients to either send us snapshots of their interior spaces or we will offer to come to their home and take some photos of the space ourselves. This serves two very important purposes. For one, we can't design a portrait to fit a room we haven't seen. The other important purpose of those photographs is to help us when it comes time to choose your favorite images from the session and decide on sizes and placement. We use a sophisticated design program that will allow us to use those photographs of your wall space to see exactly what your finished artwork will look like at various sizes and placement around your home. This will take all of the guesswork out of the equation when we are choosing your final images to be made into beautiful wall art. 

custom framing 

Our job would not be complete without assisting you with framing your finished pieces. Sure, you can take your portrait to a frame shop and look over thousands of samples and handle it yourself. But our clients usually prefer the added service of  us bringing their portraits to their home with a collection of pre-selected corner mouldings that we feel will complement the art and work well in the home. You'll be able to see the moudlings we have selected  in your own home, against your own wall color and furniture, held against the finished artwork, and the best choice will become very obvious. Once we decide on the frame moulding, we handle getting artwork to the professional framer and then back to your home when it is all complete.


art installation

For those who do not wish to hang their own portraits, we are happy to install the artwork personally once it arrives back from our framer. This is actually a lot of fun for us!



Artwork Displays


Canvas wall art

Many of our clients are coming to us because they want to have a portrait created on canvas to hang in a prominent area of their home. These become the focal point of the room and help tie the entire decor together. Our canvases are not the same as the commercially available ink jet wrapped canvases that you may see from time to time. Our canvases are professionally printed photographic prints bonded to artist canvas and then mounted and coated with a protective finish, meant to be framed in an open front frame moulding with no glass. They are truly works of art that need to be seen to be appreciated. For clients who wish for a more painterly look for their piece, we also offer the added service of hand painting the portrait to give it subtle brushstrokes that add a layer of elegance to the piece. For our clients who prefer a more contemporary display, we also offer our larger pieces as photographic prints (non-canvas), mounted and matted and framed behind glass. We will assist you in determining the best choice for your home and style. 


Now, not ALL of our clients are interested in or have the space for wall art displays. Some of our clients come back year after year and are chronicling their annual session in albums. Our albums themselves are beautiful works of art. When we design an album, we design it to tell a story and become a treasured family heirloom, much like a wedding album. 


We also offer a display option that we call The Folio Box for those clients who want their images up on the wall but need a flexible display option. These are handmade linen covered 11 x 14 boxes that house a collection of anywhere from 10-30 7 x 10 prints matted in crisp white archival 11 x 14 mats. The boxes can sit on display, much like an album, and be opened up and gone through at your leisure. But the individually matted prints can also be slipped into 11 x 14 frames and hung on the wall as a collection to create an instant gallery wall. The beauty with this display is that the matted prints can be switched out of the frames with a new set the following year and the older set return to their box. This option gives our clients the freedom to have a display that changes as the kids grow.

portrait display folio box




Jack C.   REscue, CA


"Gretchen doesn't know this, but her work always makes me cry. So when you go to do the preview, bring a box of tissues. Her work has brought joy and happiness to our lives. We have been working with her for over 8 years, and she never ceases to amaze me. She has made every experience personal. So if you are looking for great work look no further. An amazing person and an equal great artist."

Nathan S.   Walnut Creek, CA

"Gretchen Adams ROCKS, her quality of work ROCKS and you MUST ABSOLUTELY use her services.  We had two sets of family photos done by Gretchen, one in Half Moon Bay and one in wine country (two years apart), and WOW they turned out amazing!  We also chose one family shot from each for our holiday cards and have never received more compliments on photos in our life. She is great with kids as well and makes the entire process enjoyable and stress free.  100 % recommended without hesitation."

Cathi C.   Rescue, CA

"Gretchen has an amazing ability to capture the essence of whomever she photographs.  She has been chronicling our family since my son was born 8 years ago and I am always surprised at how she can take a fussy baby or grumpy teenager and make them feel comfortable and look beautiful! I have received so many compliments from friends who see her work in our home, it truly is a piece of art."

Charlynne M.   San JOse, CA

"Gretchen has shot my maternity photos and my 3 children and she never ceases to amaze me with the her work.  She's always coming up with new ideas and new locations to avoid the mundane.  She's very patient and efficient which is important when working with kids.   Her style is timeless portraiture so the photos won't look dated and will last for generations.  I love her work and highly recommend her.  I travel from south San Jose to Concord because  her work is well worth it."

Erica L.   Brentwood, CA

"I just viewed my maternity and family photos at Gretchen's studio.  As soon as I saw the slide show of the pictures I started crying.  The family photos were amazing.  I have always loathed getting my picture taken because I never liked any of them.  However, every single picture was amazing.  Gretchen is a true artist and professional.  She captured every moment perfectly!!!  Not only that, but even the photo shoot at her studio was easy.  I went in uncomfortable, but something about her presence just puts me at ease.    

We go back next week with our newborn baby girl for her infant photos.  I cannot wait.  It is safe to say I will probably use her for family portraits from now on!

Gretchen you ROCK!!!"

Katherine S.   San Clemente, CA

"Gretchen is an absolute expert in her field. Her photography talent is beyond phenomenal. From the first conversation about my headshots, I could tell the experience was going to be amazing. Gretchen took time to understand my business and the type of images that would work best to reflect my brand. She then fully customized our shoot so my shots were relevant to my business. She offered tips on wardrobe, colors, makeup, and determined the perfect location to shoot. She effortlessly took into account lighting, time of day, and background to get the perfect images. Gretchen made me feel comfortable while ensuring that I looked great. I was blown away by the shots she took and could not have been happier with her service and product. Plus, her customer service is stellar. I highly recommend Gretchen Adams Photography!"

Katie S.   clayton, CA

"Gretchen took my professional business headshots and I couldn't have been happier with the results. She made me feel comfortable and the pictures turned out better than I ever could have imagined. I was thrilled to have found her!"




Gretchen Adams


A Boutique Portrait Studio

San Francisco, Bay Area





"I'm too busy to plan a portrait session! And even if I had the time, the thought of coming up with what to wear for my family overwhelms me."

The majority of our clientele are dual income working professionals, so we are accustomed to working with very busy people! We handle all of the details for you. All we need from you is a time to sit down and have a design consultation here at our studio and then we will take the planning from there. As far as wardrobe is concerned, don't worry, you are in good hands! Some people like to handle the outfits themselves and others like for us to take the reins completely. You will be given lots of tips at the design consultation and even given a swatch card with examples of the color palette we have decided on to carry with you while shopping or pulling from your closets. But if you need more assistance, we are here to help! Anything from stopping by your home to help you go through the closets and pulling options to doing all of the actual shopping for you. We are experts at planning and designing portrait sessions, so utilize our expertise as little or as much as you need!

"I've always dreamt of decorating my home with portraits of my kids, but decorating isn't my thing."

One of the benefits of working with us is that you are not only getting an award-winning photographer who has over 17 years experience creating beautiful portraits, but also we have extensive experience with home decor and space planning. Think of us as your personal interior designers who will not only craft gorgeous imagery for you, but will help you plan out how to display your finished pieces in your home.

"I just want to lose 20 pounds first, then I'll finally be ready to have a portrait made."

We hear this a lot, and we get it. But honestly, how you look in a portrait is based more on how you are posed, dressed, and lit than on how much you weigh. Proper posing, angles, and even the length of lens used to create the portrait, can instantly make you look 20 pounds lighter, just as bad posing and angles can add weight. Luckily, you are working with a professional who has years of experience making people look their best. We would not be in business after all of these years if our clients weren't thrilled with the way they looked in their portraits. And this is a topic of conversation at our design consultation. We want to know if there is anything that tends to bother you or your family members in photographs. We also want to know what things you DO like in photographs! We will be paying close attention to downplaying the features you don't love and highlighting the things you do love. Like Vidal Sassoon said...if you don't look good, we don't look good! 

"I have young kids and I'm worried about them following directions."

To give you some background on us as a couple, we have 2 children of our own, one of which happens to have autism and the other is a teenager. There is nothing we have not seen or dealt with. Gretchen also has many years experience directing child care programs and her education was originally focused on early childhood education. We pride ourselves and being able to elicit beautiful and authentic expressions from everyone during the session and children are no exception. We have many tricks up our sleeves (including our famous treasure box that the younger kids love!) and will pull out all the stops to make sure everyone has a wonderful time. This is our promise to you. We have never met a child that we could not win over within 10 minutes. Our secret is we don't say smile, we earn their smile by engaging them and letting their personalities come out. 









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