Epic Engagement Photo Locations in Southern California
Are you the type of couple that seeks adventure? The type of people that don’t mind going for a hike, getting a little dirty, and maybe a bit wet to get some awesome and epic photos?
Awesome! You’re in the right place!
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of photographing couples is some absolutely epic locations that are right here in Southern California that most people don’t know of or thought too difficult to reach. And that’s why I’m writing this article, to help you guys out so you can find a location for your engagement session or elopement that isn’t your typical spot that everyone else uses.
So without further ado, here’s a list of some of my favorite epic engagement session locations in Southern California!
Imperial Sand Dunes
You don’t have to go halfway across the world to be able to have your engagement session in a desert with what seems like endless sand dunes and amazing sunsets. You really feel like you’re in a foreign land but the reality is Imperial Sand Dunes is only about a 3 hour drive away from LA and Orange County. One of the things to think about when planning a shoot here though is the weather. Since it is the desert, temperatures can soar during the summer months, so plan on capturing your session here early or late in the year. You really don’t want to be out there when it’s over 100 degrees. Also be very conscious of the wind here. If the forecast shows that it’s going to be 15mph+, avoid it at all costs. Sand flying at and hitting you that fast isn’t much fun.
Vasquez Rocks is a very unique location. So much so that it was made famous by Star Trek when they filmed a scene there with Captain Kirk back in the day (way before my time lol). This location features huge rock formations that you can easily climb as well as cool hiking paths. The scenery options are endless and while I’ve photographed countless couples here, every session has been very different. You can’t go wrong here.
If there was only one location on this list that I could shoot on forever, it would probably be Joshua Tree. If you’ve never been, you’re in for a treat! Obviously there’s endless Joshua Trees but there’s so much more. This place is HUGE! There are endless rock formations, hiking paths, and some of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see in your life! Also, as an added bonus, if you stay after one of those epic sunsets, you’ll be treated to some of the pretty starry skies because of the lack of light pollution in the area. Also, just like Imperial Sand Dunes, keep your eye on the forecast. It can get extremely hot and windy here. Early and late months of the year are your best bet.
Big Bear Lake
While Big Bear Lake is a great winter location for your engagement photos, it’s just as cool throughout the year when it isn’t covered in snow. If you are there during the winter, plan accordingly. Take chains with you and be prepared to get a little wet and dirty but it’s totally worth it to capture a winter wonderland session. If you’re there when the snow is gone, still plan to get a little dirty because you’re most likely going to be hiking through meadows and forests.
Blacks Beach - San Diego
This location definitely isn’t for everyone (more on that later) but it is absolutely one of my favorites! It’s essentially two locations because you could have your engagement session at the top of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which features awesome hiking paths and amazing cliff side views of the coast. The other location here is Blacks Beach down below. It’s a very long beach where you capture some more standard beach photos but also use the cliff sides as a backdrop as well. One of the things that makes this beach very very different is the fact that it’s a nude beach! Personally, I think it adds some levity to the shoot but I get that that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Malibu Creek State Park
This state park is right outside of Los Angeles and while it was damaged during the fires a year ago, it has bounced back beautifully. It features golden rolling hills, tree canopies, and endless hiking trails. There are so many epic scenes here, just be prepared to go for a bit of a hike to truly take advantage of this spot.
If you’re looking for a beach that isn’t your standard so cal beach, Dana Point is your spot! This small and kind of hidden beach in Dana Point Harbor has some real character. There’s a small sandy area which is great but what really separates this beach from others are all the rocks which make for some rad photos! In addition to the rocks and cliff side backdrops, there’s also a jetty there where if the tide is low enough, we can hike out and get some really epic shots at sunset.
Thomas Riley Wilderness Park
If you’re in Orange County and are looking for a similar vibe as Malibu Creek State Park in LA, this is your best bet! It has a bunch of golden hills, tall grass, large oak trees, and tree canopies. There are a bunch of hiking paths and if you’re in for a little bit of a hike, you can get on top of some of hills with epic views!