22 BEST Places to Photograph in San Diego (From a Local)

Best Places to Photograph in San Diego

A local’s guide to the best spots to photograph in San Diego County to get the most instagrammable shots during your stay!

When I’m not traveling, you can find me taking photos in my hometown. From east county to downtown, these are a few of the best places to photograph in San Diego from a local photographer.

Best Places to Photograph in San Diego

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

1. Downtown

Southern San Diego feels like a world away from where I live, but some of the most spectacular places to take pictures in San Diego are near downtown — in South San Diego.

One of my favorite shots is from the San Diego harbor overlooking the buildings downtown — as pictured below. This photo was taken from N. Harbor Drive.

Best Photo Spots in San Diego

The Gaslamp Quarter and the Gaslamp Quarter Archway Sign is another favorite for photographers. This spot in San Diego is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and it’s especially popular for wedding photos!

For some of the best views of the San Diego Skyline and Coronado Bridge, I highly recommend taking this San Diego harbor cruise during your visit.

Read more: Ultimate Guide to San Diego in a Weekend

2. Coronado Overlooking Downtown San Diego

Centennial Park in Coronado is located just off of the ferry landing and is the perfect spot at sunset! If the water is glassy, you’ll get the most amazing reflections of downtown San Diego.

Read more: The Most Beautiful Oceanfront Hotels in California

3. Point Loma

Another one of the best photography spots in San Diego is Point Loma. From the Point Loma neighborhoods, you can get some great photos of the marina with San Diego’s city lights in the background. There are some cute shops around this area as well.

Read more: Things to Do in San Diego for Couples

4. La Jolla Cove

Children’s Pool is in La Jolla Cove and is the spot to photograph wildlife. There’s great photo ops of pelicans on the cliffs and seals on the beach. You can also take a La Jolla sea caves kayak tour for some really unique shots!

Best Photography Spots San Diego

If you get lucky and visit in August, you might even see some leopard sharks!

Read more: 25 Easy Weekend Getaways from San Diego (By a Local)

Leopard Shark Photos La Jolla California

5. Blacks Beach

At Blacks Beach, in La Jolla, I like heading to the south end of the beach at low tide and exploring the way the water hits the rocks. There’s also the Ho Chi Minh Trail for those sure-footed photographers. Blacks is a nude beach so be respectful when you’re taking photos down at the beach!

Read more: Where to Stay in San Diego: Best Neighborhoods & Hotels

6. Windansea Beach

Windansea is another must-visit beach in La Jolla and one of the most unique photoshoot locations in San Diego. In my opinion, it’s the prettiest beach in San Diego. The first photo below was taken with a drone and the second was taken on a open-cockpit biplane tour. 

Prettiest Places in San Diego
Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

7. Horton Plaza

This Alice in Wonderland-esque mall in downtown San Diego is just about the only mall I will visit. Not to buy things, but to marvel at the unique architecture. Keep in mind, they don’t allow tripods in this mall and security guards will get suspicious and ask you to leave if you look too much like a professional photographer.

Horton Plaza Mall San Diego

8. Torrey Pines Gliderport

The Torrey Pines Gliderport is the most historic aviation site in North America and it’s is one of my all-time favorite places to take photos in San Diego. I have probably been there at least 100 times and it never gets old.

You can take pictures of the hang gliders and paragliders with the sunset as your backdrop and dolphins frequent this area as well!

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to California’s Pacific Coast Hwy

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego
The best Photography Spots in San Diego

9. Scripps Memorial Pier

Piers are some of the best photo spots in San Diego — especially Scripps Pier in La Jolla. I like to play around with long exposures, especially when there are people walking along the pier. This pier is located in La Jolla.

Scripps Pier La Jolla San Diego Photograph

10. Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach was named because of its awe-inspiring sunsets and it’s definitely one of the prettiest places in San Diego. It’s also a great place to bring your camera at low tide as there are some places you can only get to when the tide is extremely low. 

The Best San Diego Photo Spots

Of course, photos from the cliffs are spectacular as well. I recommend getting there early to find parking and scope out your favorite shot before the sun begins to set.

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

11. Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is a small aquarium in La Jolla and it’s my favorite place to get photos and videos of jellyfish. They also have an octopus, lots of seahorses and the world’s smallest penguins!!

Reservations are required and you have to purchase tickets online. The last time I visited the aquarium, I purchased the San Diego Go City Pass, which gave me free entrance to multiple places around San Diego, including Belmont Park (another good spot for photos), Birch Aquarium, two-person kayak rental in La Jolla and free beer tasting in Carlsbad. You really get your money’s worth and you get to experience a lot of San Diego in one day!

I purchased the Explorer Pass, but you can also get multi-day passes.

San Diego's Best Photo Spots

12. Swamis

Another photogenic spot at low tide is Swamis in Encinitas. Surfers flock to Swamis when the waves are good, but at low tide, it’s the perfect spot for those who seek out little sea creatures hidden in the rocks.

Read more: 20 Best Restaurants in Encinitas

Tide Pools Swamis Encinitas

13. Balboa Park

Balboa Park is definitely worth a visit for photographers visiting this area. My favorite photography spots here include the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Kate O. Sessions Cactus Garden, the Zoro Garden, and the Botanical Building.

If you’re visiting during the spring, make sure to check out the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Cherry Blossoms at Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park San Diego

Read more: 15 Best Weekend Getaways in California

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

14. Salk Institute

The Salk Institute isn’t open to the public, but during daylight hours you can enter the courtyard, which is where you’ll find the best photos!

Best San Diego Photo Spots - Salk Institute

15. Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is located at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula. All commercial photography requires a permit, but you can take photos for free as long as it’s not for commercial purposes.

16. Oceanside Harbor

Oceanside Harbor is my best-kept secret and a place I like to visit as often as possible. It’s a small harbor with lots of colorful buildings and great photo opportunities of the boats in the harbor.

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego
Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

17. Kate Sessions Park

This Pacific Beach park offers stunning views of Mission Bay. It’s especially gorgeous at sunset!

18. Potato Chip Rock

Potato Chip Rock, in Poway, was made famous by Instagram and now there’s often a line for photos. I recommend visiting when it’s not too hot out because the 7.4-mile hike is quite the climb!

19. The Flower Fields

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are in bloom for approximately six to eight weeks each year — from early March through early May. If you’ll be in San Diego during this time, it’s worth a visit. There is an entrance fee so keep that in mind.

20. San Diego Wild Animal Park

I’m not a big fan of zoos. Even the San Diego Zoo, which is somehow known as one of the best zoos in the States, makes me sick to my stomach.

I don’t like when animals are confined to such small spaces. The Wild Animal Park is a different story. The larger animals are given acres of land to roam around on and it makes me feel a little better about visiting and taking photos.

You can purchase tickets here!

San Diego Wild Animal Park Colobus Monkey

21. Cedar Creek Falls

Cedar Creek Falls in Ramona had to be included on my list because in my opinion, it is the most spectacular waterfall in San Diego. This waterfall and swimming hole has become one of San Diego’s hot spots.

Best Places to Take Pictures in San Diego

22. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Another place that is worthy of making this list is the magical display of wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

There are plenty more spots to photograph in San Diego but if you have limited time while visiting and you want to make sure you get some good pictures of San Diego, these places won’t disappoint.

FAQs: Most Instagrammable Spots in San Diego

Where can I get Instagram pictures in San Diego?

As a San Diego local photographer, the best spots for Instagram photos in San Diego are Balboa Park, The Flower Fields, Potato Chip Rock, Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla Cove and Torrey Pines Gliderport.

Where can I take family photos in San Diego?

The best spot for family photos is, hands down, in La Jolla Cove. There’s so many options along the rocks, overlooking the ocean (with the sunset as your backdrop). Other popular spots include Scripps Pier, Oceanside Pier, Coronado and Sunset Cliffs.

Where can I photograph the skyline in San Diego?

Centennial Park in Coronado has the best skyline view of San Diego. This is a great spot for family photos, couples photos, Instagram shots, and sunset pictures.

Do you need a permit to take pictures at Balboa Park?

Balboa Park does not require a permit for non-commercial photography.

Plan Your Trip

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Let us book your trip! Looking for a Travel Advisor to help you plan your trip? Contact us here for more information!

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  1. As a native San Diegan I will say, these are great locations. I had forgotten how cool Horton Plaza could be, especially for photography. I’ve shot at a few of these suggestions myself. Now, here’s a secret that you may know about. There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the 5 right before the Pacific Highway exit. There’s a hole cut in the fence, right over the freeway portion. Guess what it’s for? Photographers!! The hole is perfect for you to set up a tri-pod, put your lens through the hole and get some great shots of downtown San Diego with approaching planes. If you didn’t know about this, then…You’re Welcome!! BTW: Love Your Blog!!

  2. Randy Kalp says:

    Ahh, all my favorite places! That’s sad news about the death at Cedar Creek Falls. Sadly, I’m not too surprised; I’ve seen some people do some crazy stuff off the higher cliffs. Another great spot is a public parking area right next to the runway of the San Diego Airport. From this spot, you have an amazing vantage point of 747s slicing through the skyline before flying directly over your head. The parking lot is located at the convergence of Laurel and Harbor Island Drive (just below the Casbah) in downtown San Diego. I’ve never shot here myself, but I have seen others taking photographs here.

  3. Quirky Travel Guy says:

    What amazing photos! I only spent 2 days in SD and didn’t get to see most of these places. I’ve actually been thinking of warm-weather locations I could visit this winter and work remotely from… and San Diego had slipped my mind. Now, it’s on the list!

  4. I know you what you mean about exploring the beautiful places closer to home. I live in a gorgeous place, too and only recently have I really gone out and marvel at what’s in my backyard. Its amazing what you can find. Looking at these photos, I’m totally sold on San Diego. What a great place for water photography. Its been at least a decade since I step foot down there and I’ll definitely make a stop before I leave the country next year. I’m bookmarking these suggestions for when I come down.

  5. Luizze Oliveira says:

    San Diego is a counted in a most beautiful cities in the world so there are so many tourist are coming for photography. As a my opinion Scripps Pier La Jolla is most popular and best place for photography and specially at the sunset and sunrise time is looking amazing. Then Children’s Pool La Jolla, Centennial Park Coronado, Sunset Cliffs Ocean Beach are also best places where prople should go for photography.

  6. samstravblog says:

    I lived in SO Cal most of my life and always loved going down to San Diego, especially Coronado. So enjoyable and beautiful for taking pictures. I know live in CO and miss the ocean. Thanks for happy memories.