Salt & Wind Travel

Where and How to Take the Best Photos in San Diego

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We’ll come right out and say it: San Diego is a looker. Yes, as Southern Californians, we’re biased, but one visit to “America’s Finest City” and we’re sure you’ll agree.

Even the most amateur of photographers wins at Instagram when visiting one of our favorite places to visit in Southern California. With coastal ombre sunsets, miles of earthy textures to take in on a stroll or hike – like Instagram favorite Potato Chip Rock – and neighborhoods bustling with character, the photo opportunities are endless.

Tips For Where To Take The Best Photos In San Diego

To ensure your San Diego pics pop, we tapped a few local photographers who know their way around a camera – and the most visually-stunning corners of the city. Here are their tips for the best photos in San Diego.

Girl At Beach Sunset

For Gorgeous Sunsets

First and foremost, let’s talk golden hour. You know that glowy ambiance right around sunset and sunrise? That is golden hour and widely considered the best time to take outdoor photos. Simply put: taking photos at golden hour is the best way to set yourself up for the best photos in San Diego.

Travel and lifestyle photographer Alina Mendoza is all about Sunset Cliffs for San Diego photos at golden hour. Nearby downtown San Diego, Sunset Cliffs is a stretch of coastline between Ocean Beach and Point Loma where sandy bluffs and arches trace the Pacific Ocean.

She also likes to time her snaps according to the tide, and low tide in particular. Doing this, Alina says, will give you more space to choose from as you setup your perfect shot. For a dreamy look, position the sun at the top corner of the frame so the rays of light stream across.

Nila Buchanan, a natural light photographer recommends heading to Coronado Beach (“the sunlight is dramatically gorgeous,”) for sunset photos. And, since most beaches can get pretty crowded during this time, she has a quick hack of using the subject’s body to block other people out of the background of the photo.

Girl At Sunset Cliffs San Diego Sunset

For Iconic San Diego

When it comes to San Diego, few landmarks are as iconic as the Hotel del Coronado. To capture sweeping landmarks like the Hotel del Coronado, Nila recommends putting a lot of space between you and the hotel. According to Nila, this way all of the Del’s regal red tiles make it into the frame.

Oh, and get there by taking the ferry across the bay from downtown San Diego because the ride over and back will provide you with even more photo opps, like the Coronado Bridge that connects the Island with downtown.

For City Blocks

For snippets of urban life, head to San Diego’s eclectic neighborhoods and take in colorful alleyways full of street art, smartly curated cafes, indie bookstores, and fashion boutiques.

Some of San Diego’s most walkable (and photo-worthy) neighborhoods are those around Balboa Park including South Park, North Park, and University Heights. Speaking of, Balboa Park is another iconic San Diego spot that’s so photogenic it could easily max out the memory of your iPhone.

South Park, located East of Balboa Park is one of Alina’s favorite neighborhoods. “It’s such a friendly neighborhood with really cool alleys, flowers and different backdrops to work with,” she says. It’s also lined with craftsman style bungalows, which you’ll find around the surrounding neighborhoods, too.

Nearby, Nila recommends North Park for its diversity of businesses, coffee shops (swing by Dark Horse for a cold brew, or Holsem for an espresso shake mid-stroll) and no shortage of colorful finds.

Don’t miss the Greetings from San Diego mural splashed across the side of Belching Beaver Brewery, the rainbow of gifts from Mexican gift shop Artelexia, the DIY decor of the Modern Times craft beer tasting room, and the funky backyard vibes at Atypical Waffle.

The neighborhood is also a fun place to channel your inner plant lady. Pigment, a home decor boutique on 30th street features a living succulent wall outside of its shop that might just be more popular than the coveted goods inside.

Oh, and before you head out to photograph San Diego, remember to keep an extra battery so you can snap photos from sunrise to sunset.

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All photos by Alina Mendoza

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