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San Diego Engagement Photographer

Hey there, I’m Kaci Lou, a San Diego Engagement photographer! Here is everything you need to know to take beautiful engagement photos in Southern California. 

Why you need engagement photos

There are so many reasons to have your engagement photos taken, but my top reason is so that you can get comfortable in front of the camera and work with your wedding photographer. It is a great trial run to see what it is like to have your photos taken. Your engagement photo session will make you feel so much more comfortable on your wedding day since you will know how your photographer works already. 

Being engaged is a milestone worth being celebrated! Your future self will thank you for capturing this special time in your life. The engagement photo session will feel like a date and get you even more excited for your wedding day!

You can use your engagement photos for so many things:

• Announcing you’re engaged

• Save the dates

• Include them in your invites

• Your wedding guest book

• Customized wedding favors, gifts, and/or thank you cards

• Wedding website

• Photos to decorate your reception

• Photos to decorate your home

• The possibilities are endless!

How to choose your San Diego Engagement Photographer

My best tip for choosing your San Diego engagement photographer is to go by the 3 Ps (in this order):

Portfolio – Anyone can take a photo, but can you envision yourself in their photos? Does your jaw drop looking at their portfolio? Does their style match your vibe – do you want someone that takes dramatic, sultry, moody photos or someone that takes bright, happy, laughing photos or someone that is in between?

Personality & Promptness – Are you comfortable with them? Are they transparent and prompt when communicating? Do your personalities “click”? If you hire them for your wedding day, they will be with you even more than your partner!

Price – Most photographers are up for traveling, it might be worth it to you to pay a little extra to have the photographer of your dreams travel to you rather than what is available in your city. A lot of photographers also include engagement photos for free with their wedding photographer collections, be sure to ask! 

There are lots of San Diego Engagement Photographers, but you are unique and your photographer should be the best fit for you

What to wear to your engagement photo session

Now is the time to dress up! This is a special time in your life so why not look and feel extra special?! I send all of my couples a full 20+ engagement photo style guide with tons of tips on preparing for your engagement photo session. 

I recommend light colors since they reflect light back on your skin without adding color. Avoid neon, as well as small and busy prints (I’m looking at you plaid, it causes a weird effect called Moire). You can bring two outfits – something for a casual date night and another for a gala, evening wear. I love long, flowing dresses that create movement in the photos and tuxes. Most importantly, when you look good, you feel good! Make sure whatever you wear makes you feel like a million bucks. 

Tips for rocking your engagement photos

Most hair and makeup artists will include a free trial when you book them for your wedding day. You can use your free trial on your engagement photo session day!

Plan on a little date after…it’s like a reward!

Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and chin out. I’ll direct you through the rest so you don’t have to worry about a thing. I’m gonna make sure you look amazing and have fun at the same time!

Picking the Perfect Spot for Your Engagement Photos

Engagement photographers will typically have lots of ideas for you (mine are below for Southern California engagement photo locations). You can pick somewhere that is special to you both, maybe where you met or had your first date or even in your home. Maybe you know someone with a beautiful private estate or that has access to an amazing spot for photos on private property. 

Think about the vibe of your engagement photos and what you will be using them for after they are taken. Are they just for you two or will all your guests see them? Do you want to match the vibe of your venue? Do you want to have multiple engagement photo sessions across several destinations? Are you envisioning water, desert, beach, mountains, lake, canyons, or an urban environment?

When choosing your engagement photo spot, also be aware of how crowded it will be and what the weather is like. Higher elevation has cooler temperatures. Beaches and sand dunes have more wind. When taking photos at the beach, check the low tide and high tide times – just trust me on this one lol.

Some of my favorite tools for location scouting:
Hidden San Diego
All Trails
Trip Advisor
Google Earth
Good old fashion exploring on foot 😉

The Best Time For Engagement Photos in SoCal

The best natural light is typically 1-2 hours before sunset. Southern California tends to be overcast a lot so you might want to be flexible on the day of your engagement photos if you want golden sun flare photos. Sunrise is a great option to avoid crowds. Even if it is overcast, cloudy skies are great for photos because the lighting is even on your face.

The best time of year for your engagement photos is typically in the Spring, March-June. I’d say after Daylight Savings time ends so your day feels longer! The weather starts warming up and in May and June there is more sunshine but it isn’t as touristy as July and August are.

Engagement Photo Locations in Southern California

I’m a North County San Diego Engagement photographer – based out of Carlsbad and stoked to travel! Southern California is one of the coolest places for your engagement photos because it literally has it all and then some. There are so many unique landscapes and beautiful architecture. I’ve listed some of my favorites below! 

Check out all these spots on my southern California engagement photo locations map:


Carlsbad, California Engagement Photo Locations

I’m based in Carlsbad so let’s start here! 


Carlsbad Flower Fields


Type: Colorful Flowers
People: Crowded
Parking: Plenty of free parking in their own parking lot
Best time to go: When the flowers bloom March-May
Photoshoots take place from 8AM-10AM or 4PM-6PM
Photo Permit: $500 for 2 hours booked 10+ days in advance (More info)
Website: https://www.theflowerfields.com/private-events/
Address: 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008


Carlsbad Tidepools – Carlsbad Cliffs

Type: Beach & Cliffs
People: Low-Medium Foot Traffic
Parking: Plenty of free parking along the side of the road as well as a dirt parking lot
Best time to go: December – July (avoid smelly seaweed)
Photo Permit: Not Required for Engagement Photos (More info)
Website: https://foursquare.com/v/carlsbad-tide-pools/4ee3fe549911944900aa3aa1
Address: 5399-5413 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008


Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park

Type: Landscaped and Old Buildings
Bonus: Peacocks, they have an albino one! This place also available as a wedding venue!
People: Low Foot Traffic
Parking: Plenty of free parking
Best time to go: Anytime of year, 9am-5pm
Photo Permit: Must check in at the Visitor Center
Website: https://leocarrilloranchweddings.com/
Address: 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92009


San Diego Botanic Garden

Type: Plants
Bonus: Greenery, desert, variety of botanicals
People: Medium Foot Traffic
Parking: Plenty of free parking
Best time to go: Anytime of year, 9am-5pm
Photo Permit: $300 for 3 hours (More Info)
Website: https://sdbgarden.org/
Address: Quail Gardens Drive and, Ecke Ranch Rd, Encinitas, CA 92024


Buena Vista Park Engagement Photos

Type: Park
Bonus: Little pond
People: Light Foot Traffic
Parking: Plenty of free parking
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Not required as far as I know
Website: https://www.cityofvista.com/departments/recreation-comm-services/hiking-trails/buena-vista-park-trails
Address: 1601 Shadowridge Dr, Vista, CA 92081


San Diego Engagement Photo Locations

Balboa Park

Type: Old World architecture and beautiful landscaping
Bonus: Lots to explore and right next to the San Diego Zoo
People: Heavy Foot Traffic
Parking: Plenty of free parking
Best time to go: Anytime, Note there are special events often
Photo Permit: Not required for engagement photos (More info)
Website: https://www.balboapark.org/
Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101

La Jolla Cove

Type: Beach and Grass, Trees
Bonus: Sea Lions and you can get married at the Wedding Bowl
People: Crowded
Parking: Free street parking but usually taken, park at the La Jolla Rec Center
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Not required for engagement photos (More info)
Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Jolla_Cove
Address: 615 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037

Torrey Pines

Type: Pines and Beach Cliffs
Bonus: Great spot to elope as well! The area is huge.
People: Light Foot Traffic
Parking: To be determined, Entrance fee per vehicle
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Not required for engagement photos (More info)
Note that drones and dogs are not allowed
Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=657
Address: Meet at Sunset Seat, 130-210 S Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014

Sunset Cliffs

Type: Beach Cliffs
Bonus: Great spot to elope as well on the rocks!
People: Medium Foot Traffic
Parking: Free parking along the road, usually crowded. There is a free dirt parking lot at the end.
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Not required for engagement photos (More info)
Website: https://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/regional/shoreline/sunset
Address: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, 701 Cornish Drive, San Diego, CA 92107

Scripps Pier

Type: Sandy Beach Pier
Bonus: Stop by the Birch Aquarium or Caroline’s Seaside Cafe After
Check out the live cam: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/piercam
People: Medium Foot Traffic
Parking: Street Parking
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Maybe? Not sure with Covid https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/filming-guidelines
Website: https://scripps.ucsd.edu/about/scripps-pier
Address: 8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Presidio Park, Old Town San Diego

Type: Historical Buildings
People: Medium Foot Traffic
Parking: Free Parking Lots
Best time to go: Anytime
Photo Permit: Maybe? https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663
Website: https://www.oldtownmarketsandiego.com/san-diego-blog/presidio-park
Address: 4010 Twiggs St, San Diego, CA 92110

Ramona Grasslands

Type: Grass, Open
People: Light Foot Traffic
Parking: Free Parking Lots
Best time to go: 8AM- Sunset
Photo Permit: Maybe? https://www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/buttons/WeddingsButton.html
Website: https://www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/park-pages/RamonaGrasslands.html
Address: Highland Valley Rd, Ramona, CA 92065


Orange County Engagement Photo Locations

Laguna Beach

Victoria Beach 

Treasure Island

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Crystal Cove State Park

Walker Canyon Poppy Fields


Los Angeles Engagement Photo Locations

Pasadena City Hall

LA Arboretum

Mormon Rocks 

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Vasquez Rocks

Mount Baldy


Malibu engagement photo locations

El Matador
Point Dume


Destination Engagement Photo Locations in Southern California

Catalina Island

Anza borrego State Park

Palm Springs

Glamis – Imperial Sand Dunes

Lake Cuyamaca

Big Bear Lake

Mount Laguna

Pismo Beach

Death Valley National Park

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San Diego Engagement Photographer

There you have it, all the best tips to rock your engagement photos from your San Diego Engagement Photographer! If you still need an engagement photographer, I’d love to be yours! You can reach me at https://kacilou.com/contact

If you know of any other cool spots for engagement photos, let me know in the comments!

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San Diego Engagement Photographer