When it comes to narrowing down a location for your engagement session, Los Angeles has an unlimited amount of options. The LA area has an array of interesting landscapes, terrain, architecture, and beaches to satisfy any look or feel you are aiming for. It can get overwhelming and I am here to help. Are there more than 15 best engagement spots? Yes, you caught me. The goal here is to give you an idea of where to start. Maybe even some inspiration. I’ll provide some alternatives along the way too. I am going to feature some places that I’ve actually photographed but also give you a few other options that I haven’t but know about. I all about look and how things feel in photos so I’ve added bonus tags of what each of these locations feel like. Trying to be as helpful as I can along the way! Let’s jump right in, shall we?
- El Matador State Beach, Malibu
I’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way since it is likely the most popular and one you’ve probably considered. El Matador is one of the best places LA has to offer but with a price –the crowds.
Feel: Fun & free, Romantic, Beachy
Tips: Sunrise has less crowds, no permit needed, I would recommend a weekday but honestly everyday is crowded
Great Alternatives in Malibu: Zuma Beach, Point Mugu, Malibu Pier, Leo Carrillo [which is my go-to sunset spot for sessions], I have a secret one too!
2. Downtown Los Angeles
Shooting in Downtown Los Angeles is perfect for architectural and city lovers. For these sessions, I recommend picking a few ‘must shoot’ places and creating a walking route so we can explore everything else along the way.
Feel: different ones here based on where you go Noir, Industrial, Urban, perhaps a little gritty
Tips: Sunrise is easy to park and the safest time to be almost anywhere downtown. I would pair this with a stop for coffee or tea somewhere in the adventure. Some locations have become increasingly more difficult to photograph, I know secrets to shoot but it’s always good to have backups.
Wonderful Spots to consider: 1st Street bridge [sunrise or sunset], 4th street bridge [sunrise or sunset], Angel’s Flight, the Broad, the Arts District, Grand Park, Chinatown or Little Tokyo, Spring Arcade [this one always reminds me of Paris!]
3. Glamis Imperial Sand Dunes
This is an incredible place for unique engagement photos. It does require a bit of walking and tolerating the desert heat. The dune buggies run the place so sometimes the biggest challenge is just finding clear sand. If you want your photos to be showstopping, this may be the place.
Feel: Romantic, Adventurous, Luxury
Tips: Sunset, no permit fee is required from when I’ve been
Close-by alternatives: Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, Palm Springs
*extra travel fee required for this one
4. Griffith Park Observatory
This is one of my favorite spots in LA. The light can be a little finicky and the haze can be unpredictable but the architecture is a dream to photograph with couples. I shot a sunrise wedding here once that was unreal.
Feel: Old Hollywood, Iconic, regal
Tips: No permit here for the grounds but I recommend sunrise for the best skies, light and lack of crowds.
Other spots nearby: Bronson Caves, the Old Zoo, the Hollywood sign, Bird Sanctuary (beautiful trees), Travel town railroad (free permit must be obtained)
5. Venice Beach and Boardwalk
Venice is a terrific spot and very much a cool Los Angeles vibe. I always recommend sunrise to cover more ground and avoid the city traffic and influencer photo-shoots on the mural-ed walls. The beach is right there and pairs great with the city spots.
Feel: Eclectic, Cool, Romantic, trendy and fun
Tips: Start at the beach and drive to another location. Parking is easy in the morning.
Great spots in the area: Abbott Kinney, Venice Canals, the Pier, Popular Venice sign, Marina Del Rey
6. Vasquez Rocks
This location has been used for filming for decades and is a wonderful spot for engagement photos. It’s usually pretty quite here on weekdays and has many unique spots to shoot. Dogs are allowed!
Feel: Outer-Space like, mysterious, desert romantic
Other spots: Magic Mountain, Santa Clarita, Placerita Canyon Nature Center and trail
7. The Gardens
Botanical gardens and arboretums are obvious choices for their ranging variety and year round blooms. All require a permit fee and most have to shoot during business hours.
Huntington Library: One of the best gardens in all of the West Coast, does require a permit fee
Descanso Gardens: $300 to shoot any day between 9am-2pm. Check here for more information
Los Angeles Arboretum $75 fee booked in advance, golf cart option. Big downside is there are no clothing changes allowed. More updated information here
Feel: Nature-like, romantic, luxurious, maybe even a little wild
Tips: early morning or later afternoon hours of operation. Anytime during non-public hours is nice but not necessary.
8. Hollywood Reservoir
Dan took me on a surprise walk here on a rainy day and I couldn’t believe I had never been. I think it’s one of the most underrated spots in the city. I recommend the Reservoir itself paired with some of the trails or a coffee shop location nearby or the Hollywood Bowl lookout.
Feel: Outdoorsy, Historical
Also nearby: Wisdom tree, Universal City Walk, Mulholland Drive, Los Feliz
If you want some pretty buildings, look no further than downtown Pasadena. City Hall may be overdone but it is overdone for good reason as this spot is wildly romantic. Walking around always feels like I’m in an Alfred Hitchcock film. The angles and and shadows are beautiful. Pasadena has some charming alleyways and murals. The Colorado Bridge doesn’t photograph quite like it did before the gates but is still an option.
Feel: Upscale Urban, Historical, Luxury
Tips: Street or lot parking is aplenty, no permit at City Hall, recommend a weekday as it’s pretty busy around this area [for good reason!]
10. Santa Monica Pier
This may be touristy but there’s no denying this is a beautiful spot to take engagement photos. One of the few on the list I actually recommend at sunset. 3rd street Promenade, the Proper hotel, Palisades Park, Will Rogers and Santa Monica shoreline are all great.
Feel: California, Ocean, fun and romantic with the ferris wheel lights at night
Tips: Finding parking in a lot and then walking around is a good option. Weekdays are usually the best sunrise or sunset.
11. Greystone Mansion
About as luxe as it gets in Los Angeles! These gardens and grounds are exquisite and provide many picture perfect spots. Fees are $290 per hour, unless you are a resident of Beverly Hills. No access to the inside.
Feel: European Luxury, Romantic, really lovely
Tips: $329/per hour for non-Beverly Hills guests. More Information here
12. Angeles National Forest
Woods in Los Angeles! Well, sort of. This one is a little bit of a drive but there are some nice woodsy forest spots and campgrounds up in the hills as well as sweeping views of the city.
Feel: Nature, Peaceful, Adventurous
Tips: Best on weekdays, sunrise requires an early rise to make it up the hill for the best views. It is worth it.
13. Heritage Square Museum
This is a treasured spot filled with historic homes and a popular filming location for movies and television. They do allow portrait and engagement photoshoots for a nominal fee. They do weddings here too!
Feel: Historic, Americana, Old time romance
Tips: Parking is easy and rarely crowded since the property only does guided tours. Could pair well with a lookout spot or coffee shop.
14. Long Beach
This little coastal spot has surprising amount of variety and a number of unique engagement spots. There are marina views, murals and brick alleyways in downtown, the Korean Friendship Bell and Point Fermin Park Lighthouse and, of course, the beach!
Feel: Seaside, urban and trendy, romantic
Tip: The Queen Mary is a special place to do photos but requires a fee. Check their website for updated information.
15. Catalina Island
Something special to round out my list. Ferry or helicopter over and explore the island. I particularly like the Casino Ballroom, Step beach, and Buena Vista Overlook. Lots of tours and beautiful places for amazing photos.
Feel: Luxe Travel, Seaside, Marina romance
Tips: the ferry makes it easy or chartering a boat for some great photo ops on the way over.
*requires charter fees and additional hours
Honorable Mentions and other worthy additions: Rose Bowl Flea Market, Disney Hall, Union Station, Amoeba Music or similar record store, picnic at the Hollywood Bowl, Farmer’s Market, Echo Park + Victorian Houses, Roosevelt Hotel & rooftop views, Melrose, LACMA, Holiday Zoo lights, Channel Islands, Beverly Hills, UCLA, Brentwood, Tree People and Fryman Canyon, Victoria Beach & Newport, La Jolla Cove and Seaside, Wine tasting in Malibu, Topanga Canyon, Malibu Creek State Park.
Hopefully, this gives you a good start in your search for the perfect engagement session location. I always encourage my couple to pick either somewhere that is meaningful to them or somewhere they’ve always wanted to see or explore. The sky is the limit here and no experience is too wild. See my Engagement Styleguide for more tips on what to wear and additional things to consider. If you are still looking for a photographer I would love to connect and possibly work together.