San Diego is a historic city that has aged like a fine wine — which, incidentally, is another thing California’s great for. There’s so much to love in this city, from the scenic beaches to the excellent Mexican food. In coming up with 14 awesome photoshoot ideas in San Diego, we’ve tried to strike a balance between well-known landmarks and breathtaking private properties that are now opening their doors to photographers.
1. Take the best lifestyle shots of all time in this beautiful loft
This airy place was designed with chic, stylish lifestyle shots in mind. Think Norwegian design, mid-century modern aesthetics, and desaturated greens and oranges. One wall is made up largely of windows, allowing you to draw the curtains and let light spill in to the scene — or not. Your call. They’ve also got a reversible and movable backdrop on wheels that you’ll love.
2. Monkey around at the San Diego zoo
Not every photoshoot needs human subjects. On the contrary, some of the best models in San Diego have fur, fins, or feathers. The San Diego Zoo is home to over 3,500 animals and, at 100 acres, it’s one of the largest zoos in the world. You could probably make an entire career out of doing wildlife photography on these grounds. Especially rare are the giant pandas that live here, which only exist in captivity in a handful of places.
3. Chill out a while at this Old Mission church turned mixed-use space
This place oozes cool, and there’s so much potential for unforgettable photography in this setting. The eclectic décor of the indoor walls make for excellent backdrops, and you’ve got outdoor options, too. The rustic and grunge exterior walls frame both a small bar and intimate stage, giving you a rich mixture of textures and colors to work with in your compositions.
4. Enjoy the hilltop views from this stylin’ mid-century home
If mid-century modern design is your jam, you’ll like this pretty private residence. If outdoor panoramic views are more to your liking, this home’s got that covered, too. You can see for miles to the east, all the way out past the Valley, Mt. Helix, and the mountains further beyond. When you’re pulling in, don’t miss the Mayan block entry wall at the gatehouse — it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself in 1933.
5. Wander away the afternoon in Balboa Park
The San Diego Zoo is actually in Balboa Park, but there’s so much more here to shoot. In fact, there are 16 museums, multiple art venues, and endless gardens and trails. When the weather’s nice and the light’s good, Balboa Park is the ideal place to just walk around and see what photo opportunities present themselves.
6. Pretend to be shipwrecked on a deserted island in this jungle-inspired oasis
This private home has been outfitted from the ground up to resemble a jungle-themed tropical oasis, complete with thatched roofs and a treehouse. Swings, a pool, and a bridge over water provide even further options for great angles. From time to time, cranes and herons may even crash the party to photobomb your shoot.
7. Fly your rockstar flag in this Oceanside recording studio
The owners of Cinematic Arts and Sound describe this space as a “creative hub,” and with good reason. Not only is it a sound and film recording studio, but it’s also home to Old School Cameras, a high-end camera house that rents cameras and rare lenses. This is the ideal place for music-themed photoshoots to capture the behind-the-scenes production side of things, but there’s also a well-lit white cyclorama photo studio on the premises as well — so all of your bases are covered.
8. Take stylish, primal portraits in this tropical casa
The “Jungle Agenda” is a lush mixed-use space designed solely to be as beautiful and stylish as possible. Awash in natural light, the space is filled with greenery, furry blankets, and pillows. Not to mention, the back patio is just as picturesque as the interior. As a bonus, just down the street, you can also snap epic pictures of the coast.
9. Free your inner child at the San Diego Fair
In the summer months, there’s a lot going on at the Del Mar fairgrounds. For one, there are frequent concerts and performances that are fun to shoot all on their own. And there are dozens of rides! These make for some fun-loving, breezy photo ops that perfectly capture the feeling of summertime.
10. Capture funky photos in this ’60s and ’70s-inspired home
Groovy photoshoots need groovy surroundings, and this home in La Mesa serves up funk in spades. The architecture is unique, and the indoor furnishings perfectly accent the look the owners are going for. However, don’t overlook the outdoor area as well, which offers stunning panoramic views of the valley below.
11. Sip something delicious at this craft winery
“In wine, truth,” they say. This craft winery is warm, cozy, and inviting. Creative culinary shoots would flourish here, and there’s a wonderful room full of wine casks on racks that make for a unique backdrop. All in all, it’s a great place to photograph models looking luxurious but relaxed while sipping a glass of a sweet red.
12. Escape the heat in this backyard tropical oasis
Skip exotic locales and come to this tropical-style Carlsbad home for a relaxing vacation. The interior of this home is charming, but the true star is the backyard. From the Tom Sawyer treehouse to the stone-styled waterslide pouring into the pool, there are options galore for some poolside photo fun. It’s even got an adorable tiki bar, which you can use either as another photoshoot location or just to take a rest between sessions.
13. Get your feet wet beneath Scripps Pier at La Jolla Beach
You’ve probably seen photos of the long, majestic Scripps Pier before. It’s one of the most recognizable images of San Diego. But for a shoot with a model, beneath the pier is where the real magic happens. Posing between the pylons at Golden Hour as the tide rushes in creates portraits with a mysterious and wild feeling.
14. Live your best life in this opulent private villa
This spacious estate is perched atop Ramona Hills and, the minute you step onto the property, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into a resort. Or perhaps onto the set for a music video. There are multiple event spaces on the property, offering a range of options. The house is as upscale as you can get, and the balconies and outdoor common areas allow for countless sun-soaked cliffside angles. All in all, it’s a brilliant space for a luxury-themed shoot.
Since the weather here is arguably the best in the United States, you should probably take advantage of the ample gorgeous outdoor spaces available to you — which is exactly why we’ve included several among our list of 14 awesome photoshoot ideas in San Diego. As with so many other cities in California, San Diego is a beautiful and multifaceted city, which makes it one of the country’s greatest gems when it comes to photography. Every day you’re shooting here is a lucky day, and we hope you love honing your craft as much as we love seeing what you produce.