Mount Laguna sits on the eastern edge of the Cleveland National Forest, just an hour’s drive from San Diego. At an elevation of 6,000 feet, the location offers scenic views of pine-covered forests, meadows, and lakes. There are also quaint little towns up in the mountain that make picturesque engagement photo backdrops. It is a refreshing alternative to the sun-soaked beaches and urbanscapes of San Diego.
Torrey Pines State Beach
Torrey Pines beach sits between La Jolla to the south and Del Mar to the north, and it’s a surfer’s paradise. It is a busy public beach with breathtaking views of the Pacific, trails through native pine trees, sandstone cliffs, and long stretches of pristine beach to use. It is the perfect setting for a San Diego engagement session because you get contrasting backdrops of the sandy beach against white sandstone cliffs and trails of wildflowers and pine trees. The surfing side of the beach is usually less busy, and there is limited free parking along Highway 101.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Unlike Torrey Pines and many other sandy beaches in San Diego, Sunset Cliffs is a rocky shoreline of sandstone cliffs and sea caves with some of the most spectacular sunset views of the ocean. The park runs along Point Loma’s western shoreline and stretches over 68 acres of undeveloped nature preserve. There are a few secluded beaches and caves below the cliffs, which are usually busy with visitors and surfers, so a midweek sunset engagement session is best. The park also features walking trails with scrub vegetation along the shoreline with expansive ocean views.
Cabrillo National Monument
At the southernmost tip of Point Loma, and not far from Sunset Cliffs, is the Cabrillo National Monument. This commemorative monument is within a park that also includes the Old Point Loma Lighthouse located at its highest point. The park offers panoramic views of the Pacific, the Point Loma Naval Base, the skyline of Downtown San Diego, and Coronado Island. The southern side of the park offers views of Tijuana, Mexico.
Below the cliffs, there is an easily accessible rugged beach with natural tidepools. Like Sunset Cliff, Cabrillo offers several spots for your engagement photo shoot with the best ocean views. The park opens every day from 9 am – 5 pm and charges an admission fee.
Coronado resort city features plenty of shoreline for beach engagement photos and the most amazing views of downtown San Diego and the Cabrillo National Monument atop Point Loma in the distance. It is home to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado that was once the largest resort hotel in the world. The island has miles of pristine beach, magnificent Spanish Colonial architecture, and incredible views of the San Diego skyline and the bay from Centennial Park. Sunset is the best time for having your engagement sessions, and there’s plenty of free parking available at the resort.
Balboa Park is an urban cultural park located near downtown San Diego popular with San Diego engagement photographers because of the variety of backdrops it offers. Balboa features 1,200 acres of lovely gardens, beautiful Spanish architecture, museums, nature trails, and the San Diego Zoo. There’s so much diversity for engagement photos at the park, from the iconic Botanical building with its reflective pool to the diverse collection of wildlife in the zoo and the outstanding landscaped botanical gardens.
Downtown San Diego
Downtown San Diego is a great location for urban engagement pictures, especially if you want to dress formally. Plus, there are many spots from graffiti walls and fancy bars to skyscrapers and hotels to choose from for variety. The Gaslamp District is an eclectic spot with several outdoor restaurants and dive bars, Victorian-style historical buildings, and the iconic gaslamp street lights. Some hotels and the San Diego convention center will allow you to use their rooftop for photos with the proper permit.
The East Village neighborhood is right next to the Gaslamp District, and it features an urban mix of historical buildings and modern highrises. It is home to the Petco Park used by the San Diego Padres, where you can take photos when there’s no game playing. Little Italy is a vibrant neighborhood in the northwest part of downtown with frequent festivals and their famous weekly Mercato. It has plenty of quaint cafes, outdoor Italian restaurants, craft brew bars, and historical buildings to make wonderful engagement photos.
The Santa Fe Depot may not be a popular location for an engagement shoot, but we think it’s a nice romantic spot with an Old World feel to it. The historic station is a short distance from Little Italy, and the Spanish Revival style of the buildings will be an excellent addition to your downtown San Diego engagement photos.
Belmont Park is a historic amusement park located in the Mission Bay area of San Diego. The park makes for playful and nerdy engagement sessions with the carousel rides and carnival games while enjoying sweeping views of the oceans. Take a walk on the Mission Beach boardwalk for some beach photoshoots with ocean vistas and the carousel rides in the background. Admission and parking are free.
La Jolla Beaches
The La Jolla Beaches are San Diego’s crown jewel with long stretches of rugged coastline with sandstone cliffs that offer breathtaking ocean views and scenic hiking trails that will make the perfect beach engagement photo backdrops. The Shores Beach is the most popular of the La Jolla beaches and offers stunning views of the sunset over the ocean and the perfect beach engagement photos.
Scripps Pier is a short distance to the north of the beach, and you can have fun photos taken underneath the pier. You can access the La Jolla Caves Beach from Shores Beach at low tide. It is a rocky beach with spectacular sea caves that are only accessible at low tide. La Jolla Cove Beach has bluffs protecting it that make picturesque backdrops. The walking trails on the cliffs above offer better ocean views.
Windansea is another one of the several engagement photo locations in La Jolla with beautiful sunset ocean views and the iconic Surf Shack. Windansea is usually less crowded because its rocky beach is not suitable for swimming. The sandstone rocks on the beach provide a dramatic focal point for your engagement photos, and you can stand on them as the waves crash on the beach.
Liberty Station in Point Loma is a mixed development community made up of several distinct districts, and it is a great location for engagement sessions and wedding photos. The South Promenade features an expansive lawn, a grand fountain at the far end, and old NTC buildings in the Spanish Revival style of architecture with iconic archways. The North Promenade equally features a grand lawn surrounded with Spanish Revival architecture and an 88-foot pine tree focal point.
Carlsbad is a coastal city and home to Legoland California. It is also a great location for a Spring photoshoot on the Flower Fields garden at the Carlsbad Ranch. The 50-acre garden is open from March through May when the flowers are in full bloom, and the fields are a dazzling rainbow of colors. It gets busy during the weekends, so it’s best to plan for a weekday photoshoot here. They have an admission fee, but parking is free.
Ocotillo Sand Dunes
Ocotillo SVRA is a magnificent location with desert sand dunes in every direction. It is a unique location for engagement photos with lots of different sand dune formations to use as backdrops. It is a couple of hour’s drive from San Diego, but if you’re looking for a unique engagement photo setting from the beaches, this is the perfect location.
How Much will a San Diego Engagement Session Cost?
Many of the San Diego engagement locations are mostly within the city, with a few being several minutes drive out of downtown San Diego. With this advantage, the cost of a typical 2-hour engagement photo shoot would cost you between $250 – $800. Most of the locations in our list are public spaces with free admission and parking, which is a factor in the overall cost. Your budget is also a factor to consider for which we would recommend a wedding package that includes engagement sessions.
There are several advantages to having your engagement photographer also carrying out the duties of the wedding photographer. Apart from spending less on your engagement session, you will also have the opportunity to know your photographer, who will also get to know your style and personality as a couple. Check out our San Diego wedding photography packages here and let us discuss which one best suits your budget and needs.