San Diego has some of the best photoshoot locations in Southern California and I’m excited to share a few of my favorites with you! Whether you’re looking for the perfect place for your Engagement photos or the right spot for your family pics, you’re sure to love one of these spots as much as I do!
If you’re wanting something different than beach photos but still want to highlight San Diego’s finest ocean views then Sunset Cliffs is the perfect spot for you! Most people don’t venture around the cliff trails but if you’re up for exploring you can have cliffs all to yourself! I love this spot for engagement photos or anniversary sessions, it’s romantic, timeless and intimate. Plus that sunset is everything!
Cabrillo National Monument
This is one of my secret little gems in San Diego. There is a $10 fee to park here since it’s a state park but Cabrillo National Monument makes for the perfect photo backdrop. The lighthouse is timeless and beautiful! You have a perfect view of the harbor, access to tide pools, lots of greenery and darling little walking paths. This is a very kid friendly location with lots of nooks and crannies to explore between photos!
Balboa Park is a classic photo location. You can have so many different locations all in one spot from the picturesque reflecting pond, to the Forest of Moreton Bay Fig Trees. You can stroll the colorful artist’s quarter or steal a few minutes away in the rose gardens. You can kiss in front of the historic St. Francis Chapel or have a few laughs in front of the Museum of Art. Renting out the Japanese Tea Gardens is an option that will guarantee privacy or you can take your chances standing on the Organ Pavilion Stage. Balboa Park is fabulous for engagements and families alike but it can be very busy. You’ll want to make sure your photo session takes place on an off day or early in the morning to avoid the crowds!
Leo Carillo Ranch
A North County secret, Leo Carillo Ranch is a fun and unique spot for photos! It’s exactly what you would imagine a ranch to be and so much more. There’s a wonderful patch of cactus right in the entrance, fields of pepper trees and tons of western architecture! I love bringing families to this location, the kids love running around and exploring while I grab a few shots of the parents alone! Leo Carillo also hosts a ton of weddings so it’s a stunning spot for those engagement pics too!
San Elijo Lagoon
Another North County Treasure, San Elijo Lagoon is nothing short of stunning! You can explore the mushroom caves, capture some fun photos in the succulent patches over looking the water or under the shade of the huge Eucalyptus Trees. This is one of my favorite morning photo session locations, you won’t encounter too many people on the trails and you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful sunrise lighting! You will have to do some walking so if you’re brining kiddos make sure they are in comfortable shoes and you have some of their favorite snacks to keep them busy!
Coronado Island is a dreamy beach town. The historic Hotel Del Coronado is a wonderful backdrop for engagement, family or even proposal photos. One of my favorite places are the small sand dunes just north of the hotel. You and your fiance could hop on a bike for a fun session biking the island or grab a glass of wine and have some photos snapped as your overlook the city. Coronado is a pretty busy location so you’ll want to be flexible and patient with this spot, but I promise it’ll be worth it in the end.
Carlsbad Tide Pools
Most people don’t even know the tide pools in Carlsbad exist and ya’ll they are STUNNING! When the tide is right you set yourself up for one of the best and most beautiful photo locations in San Diego without all the crowds. Because they aren’t well known they aren’t nearly as crowded as the Cabrillo National Monument tide pools. One thing to keep in mind with Tide Pools is that the tides change every day and every week so it can be tricky to plan your session around them. Looking a few weeks in advance will help ensure your session is booked on the right day and right time!
Oceanside Pier and Harbor
I love this alternative to the lines at the Scripps Pier plus you get the harbor as well! The Oceanside pier doesn’t get the recgonition that Scripps does but it will surely not disappoint for photos. There’s a wonderful pier walk going both north and south that provides lots of wonderful spots for photos. Within minutes you can go from pictures under the pier to photos at the harbor (with ice cream in hand). The Oceanside harbor is so romantic, full of colorful walls and lots of great treats to keep the kids bribed.
Ocotillo Sand Dunes
All I can say is: Woah!!!! The sand dunes are like nothing you’ve ever seen. You feel like you’ve been transported to another world in just a 3 hour drive. If you’re looking for engagement photos that make a statement I couldn’t pick a better place for you! YOu’ll want to book extra time for this session because you’ll want to take advantage of every spot you can so you’ll be walking a lot….and in sand it’ll take you a little longer! There’s a public bathroom at the top of the dunes which makes it really easy to switch outfits and freshen up. You do have to be really careful with all the desert enthusiasts out there on their bikes and dune buggies but if you cross the rode where vehicles aren’t allowed you’ll have the desert to yourself!
I cannot say enough about the Ramona Grasslands if you’re looking for a beach alternative. There are tons of trails to keep your session intimate and from every spot you’ll find beauty. I definitely recommend this spot for both sessions but there’s something about this place that seems sacred and perfect for those engagement photos. You’ll get lost in the tall grass and be so glad you did when you get your photos back!
San Diego has so much to offer when it comes to photoshoot locations, from the beaches to the desert, the gardens to the “wild west” you really can’t go wrong. I hope these help when it comes to choosing the perfect location for you and please feel free to shoot any questions and recommendations my way!