San Francisco has to be one of my favorite cities to photograph. The stunning hills, Golden Gate Bridge, and unique buildings make for a fantastic place to visit as a photographer. Whether you’re a DSLR shooter or taking photos on your iPhone there are unique perspects all over San Francisco due to its unique layout.
I have been to San Francisco many times over the years so I figured I would share the best places to take pictures in San Francisco.
There is so much to do in this iconic city on the bay and hopefully these photo spots will jump start your trip.
Here is my list of the best places to take photos in San Francisco:
Golden Gate Bridge
The most iconic symbol of San Francisco has to be the Golden Gate Bridge. This massive suspension bridge with its bright red color it’s hard to miss. It can be seen from so many angles within the city but at the very least I recommend walking a bit of it. It’s so interesting to get up and close with the suspension wires. Read through the entire post for suggested photography angles of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Slacker Hill is a fantastic place to watch sunrise over San Francisco. It involves a 1/2 mile hike to the summit but the view of the Golden Gate Bridge is well worth it. You’ll likely see Karl the fog flowing over the hills around the bay.
Palace of Fine Arts
This Roman styled dome looks fantastic at golden hour, the Palace of Fine Arts is a scenic park especially great for engagement or wedding photos. Along with its iconic dome there is a pond surrounding the dome and plenty of flowers to photograph.
Pier 7 offers fantastic views of the Bay Bridge and the SF city skyline. Located right downtown you can line up the pier with the Transamerica Pyramid. The pier is also lined with street lamps that is great for night photography. It’s also popular for photographers to line up the circle arms in the benches down their pier.
Seals! Pier 39 is known for seals that lay out on wooden planks on the bay. If you’re walking the whole bayside of San Francisco you can’t miss it.
If you love photographing waves and current Baker Beach offers incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure to bring a coat since it’s usually chilly on the beach at night. On a sunny day it can also be hard to find a spot in the parking lot so prepare accordingly.
Note: Most of Baker Beach is a nude beach so don’t be surprised if you see nude people sunbathing on a nice day here. I don’t recommend using your camera if nudists are there since it’ll make people uncomfortable. Luckily it’s typically empty at night.
This monument tower overlooks San Francisco with a 360 view from its 212 ft tower. You can get tickets to go to the top for even better views of San Francisco.
Built in 1932 the tower is often referred to as Coit Memorial Tower, it was built to honor the volunteer firemen who died in major San Francisco fires. The design resemble a fire hose nozzle but is purely a coincidence.
Golden Gate Overlook
In addition to the overlook there are bunkers around the park to explore.
San Francisco’s curvy road is known by many and hard to miss. Lombard Street with its super steep and curvy turns draws many tourists and photographers. If you have rental car make sure to make a trip down the road. Also if you have a telephoto lens you can get interesting angles from the opposite hill.
Alamo Square Park & The Painted Ladies
Heavily featured in the Full House Intro Alamo Square Park is home of the famous Painted Ladies. Depending on where you are in the park you can get views of the painted ladies and the entire city skyline in the background. Plus it’s a great spot to just sit and relax between your travels.
If you want to soak up some sun and views of the city Dolores Park is a great place to relax during the day.
Twin Peaks is as the name describes two peaks! Twin Peaks offers 360 views of SF along with unique roads that curve around the peaks for some creative long exposure photos.
Establishment in 1848 San Francisco’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest outside of Asia. It’s packed with interesting Chinese architecture plus you can see the locals playing mahjongg. If you stop by the area make sure to buy fortune cookies or have a good Dim Sum meal.
You’ll need to take the Ferry to get to Alcatraz which I recommend buying tickets beforehand. After you’re on the island you’re free to explore and you can even do a self guided audio tour inside.
Just located over the bay bridge is Treasure island which offers plenty of unique vantage points of San Francisco’s skyline. Plus you can find epic views of the Bay Bridge lining up with the skyline.
Located next to the Bay Bridge it’s hard to miss this massive Cupid’s arrow stuck in the ground. Quite the unique sight that is fun to capture with a wide angle lens.
If you want to hike some of the coast I recommend doing the Lands End Trail. At the end of the trail is the Sutro Baths which you can also reach by car but it’s so much more fun to hike the area. Originally built in 1896 Sutro Baths was a private swimming complex but burned down in 1966. It’s a very photogenic spot since there is fragments of the building left overrun with water.
SF-Oakland Bay Bridge
Often overlooked the Bay Bridge in San Francisco is also stunning at times. Located on the east side of the city there are plenty of vantage points to photograph the bridge; especially with all of the piers in the area.
The Ferry Building
The Ferry Building can be seen all the way down Market St in Downtown SF. If you have a drone the front of the building hosts a giant “Port of San Francisco”. Not to worry if you’re on foot, there are also piers in the area to take photos from the front as well.
The Ferry Building is also full of shops inside so be sure to grab a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee when stopping in.
San Francisco from the Sky
San Francisco’s dynamic skyline makes for stunning aerials. A popular company photographers use to fly in SF is FlyNYON.
I hope these San Francisco photo spots jump start your trip to the bay.
If I missed any locations let us know in the comments!
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