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 Take Pictures in San Diego
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.
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.
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.
3. Point Loma Harbor
Another one of the best photography spots in San Diego is Point Loma Harbor. This spot is great for taking photos of the harbor with the city lights in the background. I still need to head back here when it’s not overcast.
Read more: 15 Best Things To Do In San Diego
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!
If you get lucky and visit in August, you might even see some leopard sharks!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read more: 15 Best Weekend Getaways in California
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Balboa Park does not require a permit for non-commercial photography.
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