13 Great San Francisco Photo Locations

Some consider San Francisco as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and photographs will not disappoint with scenes of iconic bridges, hilly terrain, and an abundance of waterfront locations. Whether you’re wanting to shoot the city from a bird’s eye view, or looking to stand right amid it all, here are a few great photo locations in San Francisco, California.

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco’s most famous landmark and an icon of the city is The Golden Gate Bridge. In 1937 the bridge became open to the public and is now one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and the United States. It’s also the most photographed location in this Northern California city. While fog never fails to set the mood, you may find an occasional clear day to capture the bridge standing tall in the hazy blue and crisp skies of San Francisco.

Rex Boggs – Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise
Rex Boggs - Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise

gags9999 – Golden Gate Bridge
gags9999 - Golden Gate Bridge

Adam Asar – Golden Gate Bridge Suspension San Francisco
Adam Asar - Golden Gate Bridge Suspension San Francisco

Mark Gunn – Somedays, I don’t have the foggiest what to shoot…
Mark Gunn - Somedays, I don't have the foggiest what to shoot...

Chinatown

If you want to find some colorful street photography in the city, head to San Francisco’s Chinatown. Rich with culture, Chinatown hosts one of the largest Chinese communities outside of Asia. It’s home of the original dragon decorations, red lanterns, and pagoda-style buildings that people associate stereotypical Chinatowns with. This mini city within San Francisco is a great spot to capture a vibrant community.

KatVitulano Photos – Chinatown, San Francisco
KatVitulano Photos - Chinatown, San Francisco

Dale Cruse – Chinatown
Dale Cruse - Chinatown

Mark Gunn – New Year’s Parade in Chinatown, San Francisco
Mark Gunn - New Year's Parade in Chinatown, San Francisco

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is located in San Francisco Bay and is the site of the 1939 World Fair. With magnificent views of the city’s skyline, the Bay Bridge, and the well-known ferry building, you’ll be sure to get a few iconic shots from this location. And if you visit after the sun goes down, you’ll get to see the buildings illuminated in all its splendor, creating a great nighttime cityscape shot.

Travis Wise – Bay Bridge and Treasure Island
Travis Wise - Bay Bridge and Treasure Island

Andrew – City by the Bay
Andrew - City by the Bay

Rex Boggs – San Francisco Skyline
Rex Boggs - San Francisco Skyline

Twin Peaks

Although this is a bit of a trek from the main part of downtown San Francisco, you’ll be rewarded with vast views at this popular vantage point. Twin Peaks gives you a panoramic view of the entire city. With ideal weather and clear days, you’ll even be able to see across the bay to Berkeley and Oakland, but it’s best to be prepared for the common bay area fog that blankets the skyline.

Nicolas Raymond – San Francisco Sunrise
Nicolas Raymond - San Francisco Sunrise

Yogendra Joshi – San Francisco!
Yogendra Joshi - San Francisco!

Daniel Dionne – Market street
Daniel Dionne - Market street

Coit Tower

Named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a patroness of San Francisco’s volunteer firefighters, Coit Tower will give you a 360 degree look at the city. It’s one of the highest points in San Francisco and a great photography location. Keep in mind that there is an $8 admission fee to go to the top of the tower.

russellstreet – Downtown San Francisco from Coit Tower
russellstreet - Downtown San Francisco from Coit Tower

ekaterina vladinova – San Francisco from Coit
ekaterina vladinova - San Francisco from Coit

russellstreet – San Francisco Bay from Coit Tower
russellstreet - San Francisco Bay from Coit Tower

Hamon Observation Tower

Hamon Observation Tower is a remarkable glass-walled space that provides you with a 360-degree view of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, the Bay, and the Marin Headlands. You can even get a nice look at the unique, grass-covered roof of the California Academy of Sciences. This a great spot to get a perspective of the city that you can’t see anywhere else. While the observatory is admission free, it’s attached to deYoung Museum that has an entrance fee.

Andy Blackledge - View from Hamon Tower at de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park

Point Bonita Lighthouse

A real gem of the bay area is Point Bonita Lighthouse. Built in 1855, it’s the third lighthouse to be built on the West Coast and was used to help ships navigate their way through the treacherous Golden Gate straights. Today, the lighthouse is still being used and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. If you visit this location, you’ll discover the wild, and untouched landscape that surrounds the lighthouse, giving it a very different atmosphere from the rest of San Francisco.

NOAA – A magnificent view of the Point Bonita Lighthouse with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Golden Gate, San Francisco, California.
Point Bonita Lighthouse

Meg Chang – Point Bonita Lighthouse
Meg Chang - Point Bonita Lighthouse

Don DeBold – Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco as seen from Point Bonita
Don DeBold - Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco as seen from Point Bonita

Fisherman’s Wharf

Surrounding the northern waterfront area of San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf and the famous Pier 39. You’ll be busy pointing your lens at lots of waterfront marketplaces, sea lions basking in the sun, crab cauldrons, and historic ships. This is a perfect area of San Francisco to capture a few iconic and stereotypical photos of the city’s lifestyle.

Vincent Lock – sun setting at the fisherman’s wharf
Vincent Lock - sun setting at the fisherman's wharf

Kai Lehmann – Pier 39 San Francisco
Kai Lehmann - Pier 39 San Francisco

DieselDemon – On Holiday
DieselDemon - On Holiday

Transamerica Pyramid

The Financial District is home to the Transamerica Pyramid which is the second-tallest skyscraper ON the San Francisco skyline. The Pyramid’s construction was based off on an interesting idea that, like sunlight, financial security should be available to everyone. Therefore, the building was designed to allow more natural light on the street below it, rather than its neighboring box-like buildings that surround it. This beautiful, white quartz tower makes for a terrific San Francisco photograph.

Martin Holst Friborg Pedersen – San Francisco Financial
Martin Holst Friborg Pedersen - San Francisco Financial

Sonny Abesamis – The Pyramid
Sonny Abesamis - The Pyramid

Phil Roeder – Foggy
Phil Roeder - Foggy

Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Today, the site belongs to the city of San Francisco and is a popular photography location. With classical Roman rotunda featuring curved colonnades and a beautiful lake that’s swarming with white swans, this is the spot to bring your camera and capture some of the history of the city.

Prayitno – Palace of Fine Arts
Prayitno - Palace of Fine Arts

David Ohmer – San Francisco Skyline & Palace of Fine Arts
David Ohmer - San Francisco Skyline & Palace of Fine Arts

Baker Beach

Baker Beach is a public beach on the peninsula of San Francisco. It begins just south of Golden Gate Point, where The Golden Gate Bridge connects with the peninsula. The beach is about a half mile long and it lies right below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline. Here, you’ll find breathtaking views of the bridge and the Marin Headlands. And if you venture just north of the main parking lot, you’ll discover Battery Chamberlin, which is a historic military gun installation that was built in 1904.

Jim Trodel – Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, San Francisco, California
Jim Trodel - Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, San Francisco, California

3dpete – Golden Gate Bridge From Baker Beach
3dpete - Golden Gate Bridge From Baker Beach

mmonk – Baker Beach
mmonk - Baker Beach

Lombard Street

Famous for its steep, one-block section of eight hairpins turns, is Lombard Street. This stretch of the U.S. Route 101 is known to be “the most crooked street in the world” and makes for a great, typical, San Francisco photograph. The street is made with red bricks and lined with vibrant flowers, making it one of the city’s most scenic streets. You can stand at the bottom of the hill to get a view of the curviest portion, or make your way to the top where you’ll have views of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Coit Tower.

Allie_Caulfield – Lombard Street
Allie_Caulfield - Lombard Street

Sean Davis – Lombard Street
Sean Davis - Lombard Street

Davide D'Amico – Lombard St
Davide D'Amico - Lombard St

Powell Street

Powell Street is a great place to get a photos of cable cars and the city life of San Francisco.

Prayitno – Street of San Francisco
Prayitno - Street of San Francisco

torbakhopper – down on powell street in the summer : cable cars, san francisco
torbakhopper - down on powell street in the summer : cable cars, san francisco