San Francisco has to be one of America’s most photogenic cities, with its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, world-famous hills and Victorian tram lines, beautiful bay and pretty beaches. Here we let you in on some of the prime photography spots in the city, so you can enjoy the views and take pictures that show the “City by the Bay” at its very best.
For the best photos of Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge is the single most recognised landmark in San Francisco. It’s also an excellent subject for photographers. On some days, the bridge rises from San Francisco’s characteristic fog, making for hugely atmospheric pictures. On other days, the bright orange bridge forms the perfect contrast against clear skies and the deep blue of the San Francisco Bay.
To get the best shots of the bridge, head for one of two locations – Fort Point, which is just to the east of the bridge, or Baker Beach to the west. Baker Beach is perfect at sunset. You’ll get a fabulous shot that includes a stretch of unspoilt beach and a view across the waves, to the entire structure of the bridge, with the colour-splashed sky in the background.
The top of Twin Peaks is the best place to go for a panoramic view across the whole of San Francisco and out across the bay. It’s an especially good location for taking night-time pictures of the city. You’ll be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, as well as getting a good view of downtown San Francisco and landmarks like the City Hall, the Sutro Tower and the Transamerica Building.
The Ferry Building
The Ferry Building is one of San Francisco’s most impressive buildings, with graceful arches and a 75-metre clock tower. To add to its appeal for photographers, it’s located just in front of the ocean – with the Golden Gate Bridge visible to one side – and its ground floor is host to a colourful Farmer’s Market. For the best photographs, climb to the second floor and find the interior pedestrian bridge, which provides excellent views of the building and the market below.
The Mandarin Hotel catwalk
San Francisco’s Mandarin Hotel is the tallest in the city, occupying the top 11 floors of a 48-story building. A unique feature of the hotel is its catwalk, which connects the top floors of its two towers. From here, you can get excellent pictures of downtown San Francisco, with the best possible view of the Transamerica Building and North Beach in the background. The best time to take photos from this spot is at dusk.
Chinatowns always make for great photos, but few are better than San Francisco’s Chinatown, which is the oldest in North America and the largest outside of Asia. Some of the best places for taking colourful, interesting photographs of Chinatown’s buildings, stalls and street activity are Powell, Stockton and Grant Streets.
Alcatraz Island and the notorious, now-abandoned prison, for which it’s famous, both make fascinating subjects for photo shoots. Also, don’t forget to turn around and face towards the city. You’ll be rewarded with some excellent pictures of the San Francisco skyline.
For the best street art
For photographs of beautiful street murals and interesting graffiti, you won’t do better than some of the streets in the Mission District, which is one of the city’s oldest and most culturally interesting. In particular, try out 24th Street and surrounding alleyways.
Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf
For colourful harbour pictures, Pier 39 on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is the best choice. The pier has an added attraction – it’s home to a population of sea lions, which you’re sure to find sunning themselves in the area. After getting your shots, you can enjoy a good meal on the Wharf or board a ferry for Alcatraz.
San Francisco’s City Hall
San Francisco’s City Hall is one of the most beautiful old buildings in the city. It features the fifth largest dome in the world, along with an impressive facade in the Beaux-Arts style. As well as photographing the building from outside, climb a few floors and get some shots of its interior.
Running along the eastern shoreline, the Embarcadero is a particularly lively, picturesque stretch of road that includes many of the city’s famous landmarks – including the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf. From here, there’s always something interesting to photograph, from local markets to interesting sculptures, attractive old buildings and sailboats plying the waters of the bay.