“The City of Angels,” Los Angeles is a photographers playground filled with many iconic sites, beautiful scenery, and amazing sunsets. Sprawling over 500 square miles, there is no shortage of photography spots to check out while in the city. Whether you are a local renting an apartment in West Hollywood, a tourist just visiting for the week, or you’re simply interested in learning more about what it’s like to live in Los Angeles because you’re thinking about moving here, this article is for you. We reached out to local photographers to give us their best photography spots that you need to check out. From the Santa Monica Pier to Griffith Observatory, read on to see what they had to say.
El Matador State Beach
El Matador is one of three beaches, located within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. There are beautiful views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, large sea stacks, looming sea caves, and stunning sunsets which makes this a popular destination for professional photographers.
“No doubt I won’t be the first photographer to swoon over El Matador Beach,” states J Heroun Portrait Photography. “Situated north of Malibu on the glorious SoCal coast, its arches and rock formations etched over thousands of years by the roaring Pacific, inspire and arouse, sending the senses soaring, always resulting in magical images.”
A popular time to visit the beach is during low tide – the perfect time to capture tide pools and sea caves. KateHaus Photography shares, “I have always loved shooting at El Matador State Beach in Malibu at low tide. It’s one of the most unique beach locations in LA, littered with large rocks and towering ocean-carved caves that provide plenty of variety in beautiful backdrops, as well as some stunning sunset views to get your creative juices flowing.”
Stephen Lewis Photography recommends arriving about an hour before sunset. It’s a great opportunity “to explore the beach and take advantage of that dreamy golden-hour sunlight.”
Overall, “El Matador Beach in Malibu is my favorite Los Angeles location for family, maternity, or couple photoshoots,” says Olesya Photography. “The distinct rock cliffs along the coast and the beautiful rocks in the water create a dynamic space to play with the light and play up the romance in this breathtaking place.”
Glasslands Trail at Malibu Creek State Park
The Grasslands Trail is a popular 6.2-mile out and back hiking trail that features rolling hills, large rocks, and panoramic views. It is also home to the M*A*S*H* outdoor filming set.
“My absolute favorite photography spot in Los Angeles is the Grasslands Trail at Malibu Creek State Park,” shares Legacy Union. “Besides the beautiful rolling grass hills, the view features the rugged Santa Monica Mountains and magnificent trees with wildflowers growing beneath their shade, it is the perfect trail to capture a sunset view of a stunning California landscape.”
Pasadena City Hall
Built in 1927, Pasadena City Hall is a beautiful Beaux-Arts, Spanish Colonial Revival style building designed by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown. The main feature is a massive circular structure in the center that rises six stories high. If you’re moving to the area, it’s a sight worth exploring.
“One of my favorite locations for engagement sessions with couples looking for old-world glamor and European-style architecture is Pasadena City Hall. It’s a historic building with photogenic hallways, staircases, and courtyards. It’s also near Old Pasadena, a photogenic and eclectic neighborhood that’s fun to explore with clients,” boasts Pamela Tatz Photography.
Kiernan Michelle Photography adds, “This is one of my favorite spots because it has such a grand look to it. Built in a Spanish baroque style, with grand staircases, a gigantic fountain, bridge, and multiple towers, it doesn’t even feel like you’re in LA.”
The Griffith Observatory provides sweeping views of the Los Angeles Basin with Hollywood to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and Downtown Los Angeles to the southeast. Construction on the building started on June 20, 1933, and it officially opened on May 14, 1935.
“My favorite photography spot is Griffith Observatory,” boasts Stanley Wu Photography. “it has sweeping panoramic views of the city with gorgeous sunsets. If you hike up the hill, you’ll also get an amazing view of the observatory itself.”
Rafael Larin, Photographer & Studio Owner of The Light Committee shares, “Griffith Observatory is a favorite spot because the vibe of the crowd there is cheerful. You can’t help but be in a good mood there and the great views of Los Angeles from above are a must-see for locals and tourists alike.” Gloria Mesa Photography adds, “It is the perfect location for couples who love the city and want to experience nature at its closest to a massive white building that takes your breath away.” With an estimated 1.6 million people visiting the observatory this year, many people come to enjoy the breathtaking views Griffith Observatory has to offer.
While the observatory boasts breathtaking views at any hour of the day, the best time to go is at sunrise remarks, Magnolia West Photography. “Not only is the architecture of the observatory stunning, but you’ll also have great views of the Hollywood sign and the sunrise over the iconic Los Angeles skyline. The observatory is currently closed Monday-Thursday and very few people are out and about in LA at sunrise, so if you go during the week, you’ll likely have the grounds to yourself.”
Downtown LA is the city center of Los Angeles. There are many attractions you can check out including the Broad Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Olvera Street, Grand Central Market, and Angels Flight.
“My favorite place to take pictures in Los Angeles is the downtown area. You have an incredible amount of diversity in a few square miles. It is such an incredible mix of modern, like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Museum, and classics like the Bradbury and the Pope of Broadway mural. There is no other place in LA that has the density of iconic locations,” says Bob Kent Photography.
Named after Los Angeles civil engineer William Mulholland, Mulholland Drive is a long, winding road that connects the Hollywood Hills to Malibu. “If you’re looking for the perfect backdrop, you can’t miss out on Mulholland Drive. Nestled within the hills of the Santa Monica Mountains the scenic 55-mile drive offers various lookout points with views of Los Angeles, The San Fernando Valley, and beyond. This trip makes for one unforgettable experience,” shares Heather Koepp.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Located at 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The building was designed by architect Frank Gehry. Walt Disney Concert Hall has been featured in several movies including Get Smart and Iron Man. LA Photo LA notes that the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a “beautiful building right in the heart of LA, where you can find shade any time of the day.”
Plaza Olvera at Olvera Street
“One of my favorite spots in LA where I feel inspired to photograph is Plaza Olvera on Sundays,” says Rocco Ceselin. “The Latino community gets together there on the weekends, the little colorful shops open very early, and there is always a fun gathering in the area. Music and dancing and the smell of yummy street food make this part of Downtown very special and joyful.”
Olvera Street is known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles” and consists of a block-long, brick-lined market filled with concession stalls, street vendors, and restaurants. At the end of the street is the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. It is the perfect place to go shoot photos if you are looking for a lively environment filled with beautiful and vibrant colors.
Venice Canal Historic District
The Venice Canal Historic District, located in Venice, CA, features beautiful man-made canals reminiscent of Venice, Italy. There are a handful of pathways that you can stroll to enjoy the water.
Heidi Garcia shares, “One of my favorite photography spots in Los Angeles is the Venice Canals Historic District. This area is one of the more unique and picturesque spots in LA. The canals, alongside the beautiful homes, make for a beautiful backdrop. It’s the perfect location for a romantic couple’s photo shoot.”
Leo Carrillo State Beach
Leo Carrillo State Beach stretches 1.5 miles and is filled with beautiful reefs, caves and tidepools. There are also several hiking trails that make it the perfect spot to take pictures of the Pacific Ocean.
“My favorite beach for maternity sessions is hands down Leo Carrillo beach,” notes Arial Cannon, a Los Angeles maternity and newborn photographer. “It’s much less crowded than El Matador Beach, but still has gorgeous rock formations at low tide. The bluff walk above the beach is an added bonus.”
Malibu Creek State Park
A state park that preserves the Malibu Creek canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu Creek State Park provides goers with over 8,000 acres of looming peaks, tall grass plains, and oak savannahs.
“I love to photograph and hike Malibu Creek State Park in Malibu. It’s excellent for hiking, checking out the water hole to swim in, and shooting engagement sessions,” says Kelli Bee Photography.
Santa Monica Pier
A heavily photographed destination in LA, Santa Monica Pier features breathtaking ocean views, an amusement park, and many surrounding restaurants. Be sure to catch a stunning sunset when taking pictures. “My favorite photo session location in LA is actually the Santa Monica Pier. Not only is it a classic west coast landmark, but it’s colorful and lively, which makes every session different. With the beach just underneath it, you can easily get two different looks for your session with one location,” shares Amber Garrett Photo.
Lulan Studio seconds the versatility of Santa Monica Pier saying, “A playful type of person will enjoy taking photography by the Santa Monica Pier with the beach, roller coaster, and other carnivalesque scenery. We love Santa Monica Pier for the variety of backgrounds we can place our couples, as well as its ability to be photographed during the day and night.”
Manhattan Beach Pier
Manhattan Beach Pier offers photographers many unique scenes to photograph with a large red-roofed roundhouse, turquois steel railings, and looming palm trees in the parking lot. It is considered the oldest concrete pier on the west coast.
“One of my favorite spots that I love to photograph in Los Angeles is around the Manhattan Beach Pier,” remarks Joanne Leung Photography. “It’s not as crowded as the highly touristy Santa Monica Pier, which gives it a really relaxed California vibe and helps the photos feel much more intimate.
She adds: “The colors of the sunset in Manhattan Beach is a gorgeous golden glow under the pier with really interesting textures and shapes, and an amazing pastel gradient of pink and blue in the sky as soon as the sun sets below the horizon. The pier itself provides a really beautiful backdrop for photos with the iconic red roof at the end of the pier.”
A beachfront city in Los Angeles County, Hermosa Beach is a popular destination for beach volleyball, surfing, sunbathing, and paddle boarding with almost 2 miles of oceanfront to explore.
Nurture Baby Photography says the best beach to shoot on in Los Angeles is anywhere on Hermosa Beach (anywhere from 8th street to 22nd). “The warm golden-toned, shiny, sparkly sand is what makes this beach so beautiful to shoot on. If you want a beach that exudes beautiful California vibes — that’s your spot.”
Have you ever been to Palos Verdes, the peninsula 20 miles south of Los Angeles? Located along the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, Palos Verdes consists of several cities including Racho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes Estates, and Rolling Hills Estates. The peninsula is home to stunning waterfront scenery and city views.
“From jagged cliffs to the calming deep blue of the ocean and dazzling sunsets there is plenty to see. Pointe Vincente Lighthouse is the prime place to experience all of this and go for a scenic stroll,” notes Ute Reckhorn of California Lover Creative Photography.
Arlington Garden is a 3-acre garden that serves as a refuge for Pasadena’s native fauna. Candid and unplanned photography is allowed in the garden, but if you would like to do a planned photo shoot, be sure to obtain a permit.
“One of my favorite places to photograph families in Los Angeles is Arlington Garden in Pasadena,” raves LA Kids Photography. “I love the garden’s variety of trees, flowers, benches, and views. The kids also love running around through the maze they have there.”
Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island Beach is a sandy beach nestled in a cove in Laguna Beach, CA. The beach showcases stunning ocean views, a large natural rock arch, and tide pools that appear during low tide.
Juliet Peel Photography remarks, “My favorite place to take photos is Treasure Island in Laguna Beach. It is the area below The Montage Hotel. There is a huge natural arch in the rocks below and it makes for very epic photos. The area above the Treasure Island beach is full of flora and fauna reminiscent of a tropical vacation and is a popular proposal spot. Come here for photos, bring a picnic, get a drink at The Montage, and watch the sunset.”