There’s no denying that Los Angeles, CA, is a photogenic city. Better known as Hollywood, La-La Land or Tinseltown, L.A. has gained visual recognition around the world as the backdrop for major motion pictures, television shows and all things glitz and glamour. Yet, even though L.A. has cinematic clout, there is far more to the city and its surrounding area that make it an attractive destination.
When in Los Angeles, you can explore the city life of downtown, take a trip out to the beach at Malibu, witness the skaters and surfers of Venice or walk the boardwalk at Santa Monica, there are endless options to experiencing the California lifestyle.
Whether you’re interested in shooting the landscape, architecture or scouring the perfect backdrop for your portraits, there is a photography spot in Los Angeles for you. Here is our list of the top 12 spots for your L.A. photography.
Reaching These Locations
Before we jump into the list of our top 12 photography spots, we want to note that some of these locations are outside the central city limits of Los Angeles. As Los Angeles is a large, sprawling city, you will most likely need a car to reach your destinations. For any spots mentioned that are on the coast of California with close proximity to the ocean, we recommend starting your trip from Malibu, then making your way to Santa Monica and finally finishing up at Venice Beach.
Since you will most likely be seeing these photographic spots by car, we have included the address for each location. Although Los Angeles isn’t exactly a walkable city, don’t be afraid to rent a car or even ask a friend to help you explore the outer areas of the town and coast.
From our creative eye to yours, we have included what we believe are 12 sites you have to see in order to create your most unique and captivating L.A. photography. You can check out our list below:
Santa Monica Pier
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Our first spot on the top L.A. photography list is located less than a half hour drive from central Los Angeles — the Santa Monica Pier. The pier sits on the iconic landscape of Santa Monica beach and has been a go-to destination for tourists and residents alike for over 100 years. The pier is famously known for its landmark of an entrance, a neon sign reading “Santa Monica, Yacht Harbor.” Behind the entrance lies the slew of attractions from rollercoasters to boardwalk shops and a massive ferris wheel located at the center of it all.
The Santa Monica Pier can be a great place to capture your L.A. photography in both portrait and landscape form. Use the location as a place for vintage, California-inspired lifestyle portraits and have your subject spend a few hours exploring the pier. Capture them taking in the attractions, riding the ferris wheel, rollerblading the length of the boardwalk or even snacking on some colorful cotton candy. If you have the time, create your images over the duration of the day with the sun up and sun down. Instruct your subject to run around and adventure through the pier while you snap images along the way.
If you’re a landscape photographer, photographing the Santa Monica Pier will create colorful, engaging compositions. During the day, use the natural light to highlight the attractions as they meet the blue California sea. When the sun goes down, adjust your shutter speed to create long exposures and capture the bright lights and movements of this miniature theme park.
Vista Hermosa Park
Address: 100 N Toluca St, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA
Our second spot on the top L.A. photography list is the Vista Hermosa Natural Park. Located within Los Angeles, the park is a peaceful and tranquil place to overlook the city. With picnic areas, grassy field, hiking trails, playgrounds and a waterfall, the park is often inhabited by locals looking for a green space to spend time and relax. The top of the park offers a lookout point that gives you a full view of the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles.
For your L.A. photography, you can use this location for a variety of different shoots. The overlook at the peak of the park is complete with an iconic bench that is often featured in many photographs of this locations. You can use this framing to create cinematic styled portraits as if your subject is the star of their very own Hollywood production. This is also a prime location to suggest for any portrait clients who may be searching for a location for proposals, engagements or even family sessions. With the wide open space and greenery, this park is a solid photography spot that offers a small escape from the big city.
Lake Hollywood Park
Address: 3160 Canyon Lake Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068, USA
Our third spot on the top L.A. photography list is the Lake Hollywood Park. This park is located at the base of Mount Lee, which is home to the infamous “Hollywood” sign. This park is a nice alternative from the busyness from other viewpoints such as Griffith Park, which can often become too crowded during the daytime. Entrance to the park is free and offers a large green space for you to picnic, sunbathe or play fetch with your dog.
This park is an easily accessible location for your landscape L.A. photography. The Hollywood sign is a spot that you cannot miss and this area allows you an uninterrupted view of the landmark.
If seeing the sign from below isn’t quite enough, you can always journey up one of the trails to hike behind the Hollywood sign. From the base of Lake Hollywood Park, take the trail via Mount Lee drive. The hike is around 4.8 miles round trip and offers spectacular views of the entire city of Los Angeles.
Greystone Mansion and Gardens
Address: 905 Loma Vista Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA
The fourth spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Greystone Mansion and Gardens. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing what a Beverly Hills mansion is all about, this spot is for you. Although only the grounds are open to the public through self-guided tours, it is still a unique spot that gives you a glimpse into the lavish life of Beverly Hills.
The gardens surrounding the Mansion are incredibly photogenic. You can use them to capture some portraits, but as the mansion is still a very secluded spot, you would need full permission to plan an entire shoot here. For example, the mansion is often used for weddings with a hefty booking price of anywhere between $10,000 to $24,000. Although you cannot expect a full production here, it is still a beautiful spot to take some casual lifestyle imagery.
Urban Lights at LACMA
Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
The fifth spot on our top L.A. photography list are the Urban Lights at LACMA. Designed by the artist, Chris Burden, this display is popularly known throughout Los Angeles and has ever been featured in films such as No Strings Attached. This large scale light sculpture sits at the entrance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The lights used in the sculpture are repurposed street lights from the 1920-1930s, many of which used to light the streets of Los Angeles.
For your L.A. photography, this piece of art would be most dynamic during the evening when it becomes illuminated for the public. Due to the height of the sculpture, use varying depths of composition to create drama and interest for your viewer. Placing your subject within the lights, will allow their statue to appear smaller and giving you a true visual juxtaposition.
If you’re shooting the lights from a landscape perspective, adjust your shutter speed to create a long exposure. By doing this, you can capture the lights and movement of the people as they frame the sculpture.
The Sunset Pacific Hotel
Address: 1113 Bates Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029
The sixth spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Sunset Pacific Hotel. Located on Sunset Boulevard and Bates Avenue, this run-down hotel has often been noted as the inspiration for the popular television series and spinoff of the 1960’s film Psycho, Bates Motel. The hotel in Los Angeles was once a place for the more seedier crowd of the city and has been run-down for years. Yet, in 2015 a French artist decided to turn the entirety of the hotel white as an expression of art.
The hotel is an interesting dichotomy from the more appealing spots within Los Angeles, but is one with character and history of how the city has changed over the years. As a good photography spot in the city, capturing the hotel can be done from afar as it is not open to the public. With the entirety of the structure white, this can make for an interesting reversal of color pallette and contrast between the outer surroundings if captured with intention.
Venice Beach Skate Park
Address: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291, USA
The seventh spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Venice Beach Skate Park. Located at the Venice Beach Boardwalk, the skate park is less than an hour drive from the center of Los Angeles. The park is of true skater fashion complete with a sunken in swimming pool, stairs, ledges and rails. There is graffiti and street art, which gives the area character and a sense of community for those who come to skate or even just watch the performances.
The Venice Beach area is notoriously known for being the go-to spot for surfers and skaters. For your L.A. photography images, take this opportunity to shoot some street images of these locals. Switch your style up a bit and capture your subjects in mid-air with a documentary style approach. You could even approach some of the skaters and introduce yourself and ask to take their portrait. Create a photo series of the skaters of Venice Beach. As this L.A. spot is truly a place for gathering and socializing, take this time as a photographer to capture the distinct youth culture and club that exists within the skate ramps of Venice.
Address: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
The eighth spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Griffith Observatory. Located on Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles Griffith Park, the observatory gives you an expansive view of the city. From the Los Angeles Basin to downtown to Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean, if you’re searching for a place to truly see the entirety of Los Angeles, this is the spot for you. The building itself is a stunning masterpiece, visiblilly recognizable even from afar.
To capture your best L.A. photography images from the Griffith Observatory, you will need to shoot a wide-angle landscape. This will allow you to include the massive terrain that can be witnessed from the top of the observatory. As this is one of the most popular viewpoints in all of the city, you may need to arrive early in the day for optimal photography conditions. The observatory also allows for stunning sunset images, so be sure to choose which type of light is the most ideal for your photographs.
If you’re looking for shoot portraits at the observatory, make sure that you use a lens without too much compression of the background. As the cityscape of Los Angeles is one of the selling points of this vista, you will want to be able to create portraits that include your background scenery.
Address: Cliffside Dr & Birdview Ave, Malibu, CA 90265, United States
The ninth spot on our top L.A. photography list is Point Dume in Malibu. This location is a bit further from the center of Los Angeles than the rest of our list, with about an hour and a half drive commute, but is well worth the journey. Point Dume is a beach situated on the coast of the Pacific Ocean with views of Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island. In addition to being a beautiful spot for pictures, the beach is a popular place to take in the ocean views and is generally a very popular spot.
In this area you can easily create captivating images of the landscape, where the mountains meet the sea, as well as some high quality portrait images. In most situations for shooting on the beach, aim to photograph Point Dume in either the early morning hours or before sunset as this when the light will be soft and more forgiving. Additionally, because you may want to capture the entire landscape without people, you may need to arrive earlier than the crowds to have an unobstructed view.
If you’re a California based photographer and looking for a new location spot for portraits, Point Dume would be a perfect option. Because of the dynamic landscape, flattering color palette and softness of natural light, you could use this as a location choice for portraits, family sessions, engagements and even wedding images.
Angels Gate Park (Korean Friendship Bell)
Address: 3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731, USA
The tenth spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Angels Gate Park. Located about 45 minutes outside central Los Angeles by car, the Angels Gate Park is located fairly close to Long Beach. This park is popularly known for its proximity to the ocean with a wide open view. It also houses a basketball court and the Korean Friendship Bell which is 12 feet tall.
The attraction’s location to the beach makes it a great spot for landscape photography. When visiting the park, you should aim to photograph both the green space of the park as well as the Korean Friendship Bell. At the base of the park is the basketball court. This is a spot that is often being used by locals who have come to enjoy the amenities of this 64 acre park. While playing a game of hoops, athletes can witness encompassing views of Santa Catalina island.
In addition to the recreation area of the park, Angels Gate is mostly known for its Korean Friendship Bell. This bronze bell is housed in a stone pavillion and was donated by the Republic of Korea to the people of Los Angeles in 1976. The best time to photograph the bell would be when you have the most available natural light. It is also a landmark that benefits from its location and proximity to the ocean, making it a stunning display to capture as the sun sets over the horizon.
The Pedestrian Bridge at Slauson Station
Address: Florence-Graham, CA 90001, USA
The eleventh spot on our top L.A. photography list is the Pedestrian Bridge at Slauson Station. As another location that is not exactly the most appealing of Los Angeles, the pedestrian bridge is still a unique spot frequented by many photographers. As the bridge is located at the elevated rail station on the Los Angeles Metro Line, this spot isn’t necessarily a significant historical landmark of the city.
The appeal of this bridge as a photographer is its location over the Los Angeles highway. As there are not many ways for you to overlook the L.A. traffic, this bridge makes for a perfect spot to take some iconically Los Angeles images. You can choose to capture some landscapes of the city from this spot, but the bridge is often a more popular place for evening and night time portraits. As the bridge is illuminated with a single light that runs the entirety of the walkway, you can create some emotion filled and moody portraiture.
Grimes Canyon Road
Address: 8884 Grimes Canyon Road Moorpark, CA 93021
The final and twelfth spot on our top L.A. photography list is Grimes Canyon Road. Located an hour outside of Los Angeles’ downtown district, Grimes Canyon road is located in Ventura County. To get the best view of the winding roads, you will need to park your car and hike up to the lookout point. There are spots to pull off on the side of the highway, just make sure that you are parking in a spot that has enough distance from the passing by cars.
Once you park your car, you head up to the lookout point which can be found by a ten minute hike up a somewhat steep path. Follow the path until you reach the curve of the road. When you have reached the top, you will be able to see the wrap around bend of the highway, a perfect spot to end your L.A. photography.
Create some wide-angled landscape compositions or include a subject in your frame to give life and action to your image. If you are going to capture a portrait at this location, make sure to have both a visible foreground and background to include the texture of the landscape. Additionally, if you want there to be zero cars passing on the road, you can choose to photograph this location during a more desolate time of day such as right before sunrise.
With its distinct curvature and unique engineering, Grimes Canyon Road is truly a stunning visual location to finalize your L.A. photography snapshots.
This is merely just the start to the list of places you can visit and shoot for your ideal L.A. photography.