16 Gorgeous Spots to Take Photos in San Francisco
Looking for the perfect Instagram spot, locations for engagement shoots, or just a nice place to take photos? Here are my favorite spots that I’ve been and the spots at the top of my list to go to on a future trip!
1. Palace of Fine Arts
This is probably an obvious one to anyone who knows San Francisco. The architecture is stunning and the massive structures make for incredible photos. This would be an especially beautiful place for wedding photos, but is great for Instagram photos, too!
2. 16th Avenue Tiled Steps
While usually crowded with people taking photos and walking up and down these gorgeous steps, you can find a moment to snap a few non-photobombed pictures if you’re patient. It helps if you go closer to the top of the steps so there is less of a chance for people to be in the background. If you’re a Photoshop wiz, you may be able to take multiple photos and stitch them together to make it look empty! Molly from @molllified on Instagram took an incredible shot there and used her Photoshop/Lightroom magic to create a stunning result!
3. Pier 7
This is usually a pier we just drive by as we are going down the Embarcadero, but it is actually a beautiful photo spot! You can take a picture with your back to the bay to get the water and Bay bridge in the background or walk to the end and turn your back to the city to get the Transamerica Pyramid and city in the background. Either one makes for an incredible photo!
4. Baker Beach
Just a warning first: this is a nude beach and you may see nude people! So beware of that if you are a photographer taking a family to this spot.
Baker Beach is an amazing spot to take photos on the beach with the Golden Gate prominently in the background. It is a breath-taking combination of ocean, sand, and the very famous landmark. It can be cold and windy, but well worth it for a good photo. The best photos I’ve seen at this spot are bright, sunny days or during sunset with glowing clouds in the sky. The day I went was unfortunately a grey, cloudy day.
5. Legion of Honor Museum
The grounds around this art museum are so beautiful. The museum sits on top of a grassy hill with a view looking over San Francisco. You don’t have to buy tickets and go inside the museum to get the great photos. If you want a more simple background for fashion/outfit photos or for photos more focused on a person/people, the grassy hill here is a good option with the city far in the distance. In the museum courtyard is a mini version of the glass pyramid at the Lourve in Paris.
6. West Bluff Picnic Area & Torpedo Wharf
Drive all the way down Mason Street toward the Golden Gate Bridge and you’ll end up at a parking lot. You can park here (must pay for a permit Saturday & Sunday) and walk right onto the grass or to the wharf. Take photos in the picnic area if you want grass underneath your feet or walk down the wharf, which is more like a small pier, to get more ocean views and a closer shot of the bridge.
There is also a small building right there called the Warming Hut where you can get “freshly made sandwiches, soups, healthy snacks, delicious bakery items, and hot or cold drinks.”
7. Painted Ladies
Re-create the opening credits of Full House in front of these Victorian-style houses at Alamo Square park! I’m sure most people reading this know already, but these were the actual houses from the opening credits of Full House! They are a famous, historical landmark in SF where many photos are taken. I myself have yet to see these, but they are a great background for a very San Francisco photo that isn’t the bridge or the bay.
8. Japanese Tea Garden
The tea garden is a beautiful, calming place to walk around and enjoy the scenery. It is located right next to the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. You can also take beautiful photos here among the flowers, zen garden, trees, “Treasure Tower” pagoda, or Drum bridge (Moon Bridge). I have been here more than once, but only as a kid!
Photos via Wikipedia
9. Bernal Heights Park (the swing!)
While many people were upset when the swing at Kirby Cove Beach was taken down, the swing at Bernal Heights Park is still up and it also has amazing 360º views of the city below. According to people on yelp, you can drive to the top so it’s just a short walk to the park/swing (great if you are wearing a dress or skirt you don’t want to walk too far in) or park at the bottom and walk up. There is also a large rock painted with rainbow stripes on the walk up if you’re looking for a colorful prop!
I haven’t been here yet, but it is at the TOP of my list for the next trip!
Tip: Don’t come here if you’re scared of dogs. People on yelp say many people walk their dogs up here and let them off leash at the top – dog party!
10. Haight Street Murals
Haight Street is one of my favorite areas in SF. This grungy street has murals all over! Some of the murals are small and simple while others are dozens of feet tall – which is great for the low-angle shots. I have a few favorites that are always there, but there are new ones each time I go! Even on crowded days, there are so many murals you shouldn’t have a problem getting a photo without other people.
11. Lands End Labyrinth
Another spot that I’ve wanted to visit for awhile but haven’t gone, YET! You have to take photos from a higher vantage-point so you can get the full labyrinth design. This is a more popular spot it seems on Instagram, so you may have to wait your turn to get a photo without other people in it.
12. Sutro Baths
Next to Lands End at 680 Point Lobos, these ruins on the water are such a stunning scene for photos. Dark, moody photos can be taken here and you can play with reflections in the water for a more artsy shot. I’ve been to this spot once, but it was outrangeously windy so we didn’t walk down to the ruins but just viewed them from above. After looking at more photos of this place like the one below, I’m excited to get back and take some photos here!
13. Alcatraz Island & Federal Prison
Going to Alcatraz for photos is something you will need to plan ahead of time. Reservations need to be made ahead of time on their website since a ferry is needed to get there. Once on the island, there are many spots to take photos on the grounds with the weathered building and doors. Inside the prison itself you can get some cool shots down the rows of cells. It’s also just an interesting place to visit even if you aren’t taking photos!
14. Conservatory of Flowers
Calling all plant lovers! The Conservatory of Flowers, located at 100 J F Kennedy Drive, is not only a beautiful place to stroll around, but it makes for a great place to take photos with lots of greenery around. The conservatory has a large, windowed ceiling giving it the perfect lighting. Another place I have yet to go, but cannot wait to go see!
15. Flora Grubb Gardens
Another location to get your fix of greenery photos! They have a living succulent wall, palms, banana leaf trees, and the best part – an old car which has been repurposed as a planter and is a very instagrammable prop. You can even stand/sit on it to get the perfect shot seen below! I cannot wait to go here and take photos with the plants and car.
16. SF MOMA
Of course, there are endless photo opportunities at a Modern Art Museum. SF Museum of Modern Art has tons of large art pieces and installations to take unique photos with. One of the most instagrammed spots is an untitled grid made of colored lights by Dan Flavin. If you’re looking for unique, interesting photos (and amazing art), MOMA is your place!