Known for its picturesque beaches and scenic coastal areas, Orange County is one of the most beautiful areas in California. So it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of amazing Orange County photography locations!
But Orange County offers much more than just its beaches (or even beyond Disneyland, for that matter).
I grew up in Southern California but spent most of my life thinking that Orange County was all about the beaches and Disneyland, and the rest of it was just kinda boring suburbs. And then I fell in love with a boy from OC and ended up moving here, and well, boy was I wrong.
I’ve spent the last few years discovering all the gems of the area, and along the way, I’ve discovered many epic photography locations in Orange County. There’s plenty that has kept me snapping away with my camera, from unique nature spots, historical landmarks, and vibrant art installations.
If you’re looking for the best places to take pictures in Orange County, then I’ve got you! I’ve come up with this list of 40 of my favorite spots that make some amazing backdrops for all your photos.
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Best Orange County Photography Locations
Iconic Orange County Photoshoot Locations
Disneyland may just be the OC’s most famous attraction – not only is it super fun for all ages, it’s super Insta-worthy as well.
There’s no shortage of photo ops at Disneyland, which makes it one of the best places to take pictures in Orange County. Of course, you’ve got the classics, such as the castle, It’s a Small World, and the Mickey ferris wheel at California Adventure, but there are tons more magical Instagram spots begging to be photographed, every which way you look!
Yes, it’s the happiest place on earth – and one of the most Instagrammable places on earth as well!
If you’re looking for where the best photo spots at Disneyland are, I’ve also got a whole guide for ya!
The picturesque Balboa Island is one of Orange County’s gems, as well as one of its most photogenic spots. Taking the ferry across the peninsula and spending an afternoon here is one of the must-do experiences in OC!
Even the ferry ride itself is Instagram-worthy, from the views of the water, and the famous “Auto Ferry” signs.
Once you arrive, there are plenty of photo ops, making Balboa Island one of the most Instagrammable places in Orange County. From the quaint streets, the charming beach cottages, and the waterfront views, you’ll find tons of little corners just begging to be photographed.
Be sure to get yourself a chocolate covered banana, preferably with rainbow sprinkles, which is one of the most iconic treats in the OC – and be sure to snap a photo with it!
Disneyland: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim CA 92802
Balboa Fun Zone
If you’re looking for a place to take some colorful, summery photos, then you can’t do much better than the Balboa Fun Zone. This beloved amusement park sits on the Balboa Peninsula, right next to the Balboa Island ferry, so you can combine two of the best places to take pictures in Orange County in one day for a fun photoshoot day.
You’ll find plenty of Instagram-worthy backdrops here, from arcade games, murals, rides, and my absolute favorite – the iconic ferris wheel!
This area does get busy, so I’d come in the morning right before the amusement park opens to get in some shots before the crowds arrive. This way you’ll get to get some photos with the Ferris wheel in relative peace. Then, you can head over to the rest of the park when it opens to get some other fun snaps!
Summer-y attire works best here – think colorful sundresses, and bright sunnies! Vintage inspired outfits would also work really well here for a fun, retro photoshoot.
Balboa Fun Zone: 600 E Bay Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92661
Mission San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano is one of the most charming towns in Orange County, and the Mission San Juan Capistrano is its jewel. One of the most fascinating historical sites in Orange County, the mission is also one of its most photogenic places.
The mission dates back to 1776 and was the seventh out of 21 that were built in California to convert the native population to Catholicism. In its heyday, the mission served as the religious, agricultural, and cultural center in the region. It’s got a complicated history, but there’s no denying that the mission is beautiful.
This is one of the most popular Orange County photoshoot locations – you’ll see plenty of wedding, engagement, and family photos taken here – and it’s easy to see why! The grounds here are stunning, with beautifully preserved colonial architecture and well-maintained gardens.
I find it especially gorgeous in the springtime, when all the flowers are at their peak, and colorful bougainvilleas are blooming against the historic buildings here.
Address: 26801 Old Mission Road, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Instagrammable Coastal Spots in Orange County
Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach
Nestled behind a cliff in Victoria Beach, the Pirate Tower is one of the most unique attractions in Orange County. With its mysterious, magical vibe, it looks like a scene straight out of a fairytale.
The tower wasn’t built for pirates, but rather for practical reasons, by a wealthy family who lived in a house on top of the cliff and wanted direct beach access. It became nicknamed the Pirate Tower after the house’s second owner, who was known to dress up as a pirate and hide coins and candy within the rocks of the tower for children to find.
Today, it’s one of the best Orange County photography locations, thanks to the fairytale vibes and the beautiful cliffs and beach surrounding it. This is the perfect place to take some photos in a princess dress to echo those fairytale vibes!
The Pirate Tower is at its most beautiful during sunrise and sunset. However, do note that there is usually high tide later in the day, which can make access to the tower dangerous or altogether impossible.
It can be a bit difficult to find the Pirate Tower if you aren’t sure where to go, so I’ve written a guide with step-by-step directions to help you find it!
Address: 505 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Heisler Park is hands-down one of my all-time favorite places in Orange County. This blufftop park next to the Main Beach in Laguna Beach has some of the best views in all of Southern California.
It’s one of the most beautiful photography locations in Orange County because it’s got some jaw-dropping scenery, with lush greenery and views of the crystal-clear blue waters.
Seriously, every corner of Heisler Park is stunning, with palm trees, tropical plants, and seaside views. It’s one of my favorite and most Instagrammable places in Orange County because every time I’m here, I swear I’ve transported myself to Hawaii.
Every inch of the park is photo-worthy (as is Laguna Beach itself), but my favorite place to take pictures is on the stairs that lead to Rockpile beach. There’s the perfect row of palm trees that frame the stairs and view of the beach – the leading lines here are absolute perfection.
Otherwise, there are insane views, as well as a pretty gazebo and tons of sculptures and public art pieces that make Heisler park one of the most beautiful places to take pictures in Orange County.
Address: 375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Crystal Cove State Park
Sitting on the border of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove State Park hugs 3.2 miles of coastline, boasting an extensive network of trails, coastal views, historic cottages, and much more.
It’s one of the most popular Orange County photoshoot locations amongst local photographers. The pristine beaches, protected coves, postcard-worthy views, and charming historic area make the perfect backdrops for photos.
My favorite area of the park is the Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you’ll find over 40 cottages right on the beach that were built in the 1930s and 40s, when Crystal Cove was still a little seaside colony. The cottages are quaint, colorful, and have a rustic vibe. You can stay in the cottages overnight, but even if you don’t, the area is fun to wander around and snap some photos of.
It’s also a fun area to explore during the holidays, as they put up a Christmas tree right on the sand, decorated with beachy ornaments and decorations.
If you’re looking for coastal views, you can’t go wrong with the Blufftop Trail. It’s a relatively flat, 3 mile trail that has sweeping views of the ocean, along with little pathways that lead you on to some pretty beaches.
The best time to shoot at Crystal Cove is golden hour (no surprise there) – the golden light kisses the waves and the cliffs in the most magical way, and you really can’t beat it!
Address: 8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Huntington Beach Pier
Orange County may have five piers, but Huntington Beach’s is perhaps its most recognizable. Stretching 1850 feet long, it is also one of the longest piers on the West Coast.
It’s one of the most photographed places in Huntington Beach, and one of the most famous landmarks in OC. This is one of the best photography locations in Orange County if you’re looking to capture those iconic beach vibes that it is best known for (you can pair those beach shots with one of these vacation captions)!
Sunrise and sunset are the best time to shoot here, and the golden light and orange sky truly adds a bit of magic to the pier. Shooting the pier itself from the beach makes an excellent backdrop, but I also recommend shooting from underneath the pier and right on it as well.
The bike paths that run along the beach also are some of the most Instagrammable places in Orange County as the palm trees and beach make the perfect backdrop!
Address: Main St. and Pacific Coast Highway; Huntington Beach, California
Laguna Beach Lifeguard Tower
This specific lifeguard tower standing at Laguna Beach’s Main Beach is one of the best Orange County photoshoot locations because it’s just so different from all the other ones you see in the area. It’s painted white and has a hexagonal shape, making it seem more like a medieval fortress than a lifeguard tower.
The tower has a unique story and history behind it – it’s stood at the Main Beach since the 1920s and even served as the main lifeguard headquarters until the 1980s. It almost got demolished in the 1970s, since it was getting too small to house the growing lifeguard force, and the city didn’t want to bother with the upkeep.
Luckily, residents petitioned against this and the tower was saved – thankfully, since it’s one of the most unique places to take pictures in Orange County!
I suggest coming earlier in the day to take photos here, as you will not only avoid harsh lighting, you’ll also avoid the awkwardness of having to shoot with an audience watching you, since there is a row of benches right in front of it.
Address: 105 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Beach has no shortage of incredible beaches, but Crescent Bay is one of the best and most photogenic.
The beach features a crescent-shaped cove (hence the name “Crescent Bay”) with golden sand and bordered with towering cliffs on either side. What makes Crescent Bay particularly scenic is the skinny palm trees perched on top of the cliffs, which make the perfect backdrop for photos.
As with many other beach locations, it is best to shoot here during golden hour. However, do note that Crescent Bay can get pretty crowded (and parking can be a challenge), so I suggest coming early in the morning as opposed to sunset to have the beach to yourself.
Address: 1259 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Top Photo Spots in Orange County: Parks + Gardens
Noguchi Garden (California Scenario)
Recognized as one of the most important sculpture gardens in the United States, the Noguchi Garden offers visitors a tranquil space in the middle of the bustling Costa Mesa.
Created by famed sculpture artist Isamu Noguchi, the garden features elements that are meant to represent the diverse landscapes of California and incorporate the use of native vegetation and materials. The garden is comprised of six elements – Forest Walk, Land Use, Desert Land, Water Source, Water Use and Energy Fountain.
The striking minimalistic design makes it one of the most unique Orange County photoshoot locations. There are so many ways you can shoot the features of the garden – you can really let your creativity run free here!
Address: 611 Anton Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is one of the coolest nature spots and photography locations in Orange County. Its scenery will make you swear that you’ve transported yourself to Utah or Arizona (it kinda almost looks like parts of Zion, or even Bryce Canyon), without leaving the OC!
Located in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, getting to Red Rock Canyon requires a 3 mile (round-trip). Take the Borrego Canyon trail, and then follow signs for the Red Rock Canyon trail. The trail has a gentle slope, but is fairly easy.
Do note that the park is sometimes closed due to mountain lion activity, or muddy trails. For up-to-date information, check out the park website.
Address: Red Rock Trail, Lake Forest, CA 92610
Quail Hill is another favorite of local photographers – come here on any given day, and chances are that you will see multiple photo shoots going on.
It’s also a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts, as it connects to a network of trails, going as far as Crystal Cove. It was actually named the best trail in Orange County by Vacation Idea magazine!
What makes Quail Hill special is the golden fields along with the expansive views. If you come shoot here during golden hour, it looks absolutely magical as the light kisses the tall strands of grass. I love the rustic vibe that this gives to photos!
I’d actually skip Quail Hill outside of golden hour because, well, the grass tends to look dead when the lighting is harsh.
Springtime is also a beautiful time to shoot at Quail Hill because the hills turn green, and wildflowers start blooming everywhere!
Address: 35 Shady Canyon Dr, Irvine, CA 92603
Northwest Open Space
Northwest Open Space in San Juan Capistrano is a bit of a hidden gem – one I didn’t discover until recently, even though I only live a few miles from it! It’s one of the most beautiful Orange County photo spots in the spring, as it turns into a sea of yellow as a magnificent sea of daisies blooms across the fields. There are also orange trees that go off in the springtime.
It also makes a lovely setting for photos throughout the rest of the year, as the fields have tall golden grass all over them, lending your photos a bit of a rustic vibe (similarly to Quail Hill). There’s also wooden fencing and some barn-like structures that add to this look.
There’s also some exhibits about the Acjachemen people, the original inhabitants of the area, which I found to be really interesting!
Northwest Open Space is pretty quiet throughout the day, but come at golden hour for the best lighting and photos.
Address: 30291 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Murals + Artsy Photoshoot Locations in Orange County
Third Street Stairs
Tucked into a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks away from the bustling downtown area of Laguna Beach, these vibrant steps are one of the most colorful Orange County Instagram spots!
The steps were painted as part of a public art project commissioned by local residents and painted by Beau Stanton, an alumnus of Laguna College of Art + Design. The mural is titled “Prismatic Play” and features geometric shapes in bright, happy colors.
This is one of my favorite photography locations in Orange County because I just LOVE the colors! There are so many possibilities to photograph it, which also makes it such a fun spot – you can really play around with angles and poses.
The steps are located on a quiet street (which is quite hilly), so you can shoot here at any time of the day (although lighting tends to be best in the mornings and late afternoons). You might have to wait for traffic to pass if you don’t want cars in the background. There’s some pretty greenery that surrounds it, as well as some palm trees which add a nice touch.
Address: 408 3rd St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Floral Love Mural
This mural is located at the parking garage close to the Rare by Goodwill store, and features bright colors and floral designs. It’s pretty large, so you can shoot it a variety of different ways, making it one of the best Orange County photo spots.
The word “Love” adorns the top of the center of the mural, which frames the entrance into the garage. It’s the perfect backdrop for Valentine’s or engagement photos!
Don’t ignore the rest of the murals though – I love the florals and the colors, which to me remind me of summer. I love that the mural has a slightly different look in different corners, which presents multiple photo ops!
Address: 411 W Broadway C-H, Anaheim, CA 92805
The Laguna Art-a-Fair is part of Laguna Beach’s vibrant Arts District, and one of the most colorful Orange County Instagram spots.
The Art-a-Fair hosts an annual summer arts festival, showcasing the works of over 100 award-winning artists and artisans in painting, jewelry making, sculpture, photography, fiber art, texture art, and much more. The festival has taken place for over 50 years, and it’s absolutely worth popping in if it’s taking place.
Even if the festival isn’t going on, it’s one of the best Orange County photography locations, thanks to the vibrant, rainbow-colored murals that adorn the entire building. There is so much to admire and photograph on the building, as it is full of color, and different designs – definitely a feast for the eyes!
The murals are the work of Okuda San Miguel, a well-known street artist from Spain. He has a distinct style, featuring bright colors and pop surrealist motifs. He’s also got another mural in the parking lot.
Address: 777 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Canvas Costa Mesa
Hunting for murals in an office park may sound strange, but as it is located in Costa Mesa, aka Orange County’s “City of the Arts,” it totally makes sense.
Inspired by the arts community of Costa Mesa, the Canvas office park has a selection of murals and art installations that make some of the best Orange County photoshoot locations!
Some murals to check out at Canvas:
- Geometric mural by Teddy Kelly
- City of the Arts mural on parking garage
- Calypso mural by Charmaine Olivia
- Floral glass panel + butter mural by Ali Sabet
Address: 3090 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Newport Beach Civic Center
The Civic Center is Newport Beach’s “civic green,” housing a number of city buildings, along with a green space, gardens, trails, and park featuring a collection of cool art installations.
You’ll find plenty of art pieces while walking along the trails here, but perhaps the most popular of them is the Bunnyhenge – an assemblage of white bunnies gathered around in a circle. They are adorable, and especially make a fun photo location for springtime and Easter photos!
Spend a bit of time walking through the Civic Center, as there is plenty more to photograph here. Not only are there plenty of other sculptures and art pieces, there’s also gardens featuring native plants. The buildings here also have a cool, modern architectural design, which make excellent photo ops as well.
Address: 100 Civic Center Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Costa Mesa Bloom
Costa Mesa has no shortage of amazing murals, but the Bloom piece is one of the most beautiful around town.
Located outside of the Triangle Square shopping center, the Bloom mural was commissioned by Travel Costa Mesa and painted by local artist Aaron Glasson and is inspired by the plants and trees of the city.
The pretty colors and florals of this one make it such a lovely backdrop for photos! There’s also a bench built right into the mural for plenty of posing options.
Address: Harbor Blvd @ W 19th St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Instagram Worthy Shopping Spots in Orange County
The LAB Anti-Mall
The LAB isn’t your average shopping center – sure, it’s got some unique boutiques and eateries, but it’s also chock-full of Instagram-worthy murals, art installations, and other fun backdrops. It’s one of my all-time favorite Orange County photography locations!
The LAB stands for “Little American Business,” and offers a unique retail experience that embraces a vibrant community of art, music, and fashion lovers. As such, you’ll find a collection of trendy boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars that will allow you to embrace your inner hipster.
The space once used to be a night vision goggle factory, but they’ve converted the space into something super fun and vibrant! You’ll find plenty of photo-worthy spots at the LAB – it’s truly one of the best places to take pictures in Orange County!
I especially love the rainbow colored paint cans, and the CD tunnel here. There’s also plenty of other murals, and art pieces to keep you snapping away!
Address: 2930 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Much like the LAB, The Camp (which is right across from it) offers a unique retail experience and has plenty of photo ops.
The Camp focuses on eco-friendly businesses, featuring a collection of retailers and eateries that focus on fostering an active, healthy lifestyle, mindful of the environment and with a strong connection to the local community.
Like the LAB, you’ll find plenty of unique, local businesses, some of which are housed in Airstream trailers. The green theme is echoed throughout the campus, and there’s plenty of plants and greenery to be found.
There’s also lots of Instagram-worthy corners at the Camp, which makes it one of the best Orange County photography locations!
Address: 27120 Cabot Rd suite b, Laguna Hills, CA 92653
There’s just something about a candy shop that makes it so Instagrammable (some favorites include Miette in San Francisco, and Big Top Candy Shop in Austin), but B. Candy takes it to a whole new level.
B. Candy has the cutest and most colorful storefront, complete with murals, clusters of bright flowers, giant candy and sweets, and more. The inside is just as adorable as the outside, with vibrant, whimsy decorations and more. It’s a candy lover’s dream and one of the best Orange County Instagram spots!
They also have some amazing seasonal displays as well, especially for Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.
Address: 3100 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
More than just an outdoor mall, the Irvine Spectrum is one of the top attractions in Irvine – it offers an impressive array of popular retailers, dining options, entertainment, and green spaces.
The Spectrum is also one of the most beautiful shopping centers in Southern California, with its architecture being inspired by that of Granada, Spain – you’ll find colorful patterned tiles and ornate archways everywhere you look.
Along with the architecture, you’ll find plenty of other photo spots here, which is why the Spectrum is considered to be one of the best Orange County photo spots. I especially love the Ferris wheel, and the abundance of palm trees here.
It’s especially Instagrammable during the holiday season, with a gorgeous Christmas tree and ice rink!
Address: 670 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, CA 92618
Lido Marina Village
This stylish retail center draws inspiration from the surrounding beach community and is one of the best Orange County Instagram spots.
There are plenty of photo ops here, from the “let your dreams set sail” mural, a seasonal photo spot in front of the Lido Marina Village mural, the always-Instagrammable LoveShackFancy storefront (their LA storefront is also one of my favorite Instagram spots in LA), the boats in the marina…the list goes on.
Here’s another one of my favorite Orange County photography locations that you may not think of – the top of the parking garage. The palm trees peek out perfectly over the wall here, and make for some iconic So-Cal photos.
Address: 3434 Via Lido, Newport Beach, CA 92663
I’ve always loved Morning Lavender for their pretty, feminine style and I love their retail storefront and cafe in Tustin, which carries over that same style in their physical space.
I love all the soft colors and the feminine details in the boutique and cafe, from chandeliers to pastel colored furnishings. They also have a purple floral wall, which is perfect as a photo backdrop!
The cafe also offers an afternoon tea service that is super Instagrammable as well.
Address: 330 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92780
Instagrammable Restaurants, Cafes, and Foodie Spots
Coffee Dose bills itself as “not your grandma’s coffee shop,” and serves coffee with an attitude. Everything is a vibe here, with the baristas being named “vibe dealers,” and each drink coming adorned with a sticker with a cheeky statement.
They have several locations now, and all of them are Instagram-worthy, however, the flagship location in Costa Mesa is on a different level. The space is decorated in hot pink and emerald green, with checkered tiles, neon lights, and chandeliers.
It might just be OC’s most Instagrammable coffee shop – for sure, it is one of the best Orange County photoshoot locations!
Coffee Dose is super popular and it can get super busy, so come early in the morning, or during the week if you want to take photos.
Address: 2675 Irvine Ave suite E, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
One of Orange County’s trendiest food halls, Rodeo 39 provides plenty of photo ops for foodies – from Instagrammable dishes, to a colorful mural right outside (a perfect background for your food shots!).
You must try the kimchi butter katsu and bruleed spam musubi from Shootz, an colorful boba drink from Bestea, a Vietnamese omelet (Banh Xeo) from Banh Xeo Boys, and an ice cream cone from Fika Fika Creamery. There’s also a Coffee Dose location here as well.
There’s also a selection of other non-food businesses here, like a flower shop, nail salon, clothing boutiques, and even a tattoo studio.
Address: 12885 Beach Blvd, Stanton, CA 90680
Anaheim Packing District
The Anaheim Packing District is the OG food hall in the OC, and is one of its most unique attractions as well. Housed in a former citrus packing facility (hence the name), the Packing House houses over 30 food vendors, bars, and boutiques.
The space is totally cool, which makes it one of the best Orange County photo spots, with succulents hanging from the ceiling. There’s also lots of cool sitting areas and well, the food itself is pretty Instagrammable – try the anti-gravity noodles from 206 BCE Noodles, and a gelato bar from Popbar.
Address: 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805
Orange County has seen plenty of rooftop bars pop up in recent years, but you really can’t go wrong with Rooftop Lounge thanks to the spectacular views of the Laguna Beach coastline.
I suggest coming for sunset to catch the best views – the scenery is magical when cast in a golden glow, and watching the sky turn from blue to orange.
It gets busy here, so make reservations!
Address: 1289 S Coast Hwy 4th floor, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Lion & Lamb Coffee
I love Lion & Lamb because not only is their coffee good (try their specialty drinks, especially the salted toffee latte), they are on a mission to give back – they donate their profits to fight poverty and support the environment.
Not only that, the space is super cute! There’s a bright pink paisley mural outside of the cafe, as well as a whimsy floral mural in pastel colors inside. The perfect backdrops for photographing your delicious coffee drink!
Address: 3186 Pullman St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
You can’t go wrong with a cafe that doubles as a bookstore, especially in a space that is as cool as Contra Coffee.
Contra has a modern, minimalistic space that also manages to seem homey. I love the combination of wooden bookshelves, brightly colored furniture, and green plants here. It’s all highly Instagram-worthy!
They are also unique in that they serve coffee and tea drinks on tap – in unique varieties such as coffee oolong milk tea, espresso with horchata, and an ube oat milk latte. You can also order a flight to try a few different ones (and for maximum Instagrammability!).
Address: 115 N Orange St, Orange, CA 92866
Unique Places to Take Pictures in Orange County
Huntington Beach Victorians
Everyone knows the Painted Ladies of San Francisco, but did you know that Huntington Beach had its own version?
The row of Victorians on 21st Street were built in the 1980s, a replica of the charming life-sized dollhouses built a century earlier. They are all painted in various shades of pastel colors, and feature a double balcony.
They are definitely a bit of a hidden gem and one of the most unique photography locations in Orange County.
Do remember that people actually live here, so please be respectful when shooting here!
Address: 21st St (Between Olive Ave and Orange Ave), Huntington Beach, CA 92648
The charming seaside village of San Clemente has plenty of picturesque spots, from some of the best beaches in Southern California to its Spanish architecture. But Casa Romantica is one of the most beautiful places to take pictures in Orange County.
Casa Romantica was once the residence of Ole Hansen, the founder of San Clemente. The grounds feature lush gardens and a gorgeous Spanish Revival house, with gorgeous archways and tiled details. There are also some insane views of the ocean, pier, and the city of San Clemente.
It’s especially pretty in the spring, when the flowers are in bloom. The bougainvilleas, which are the official flower of San Clemente, are especially lovely here!
Address: 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672
Los Rios Historic District
Wandering through the Los Rios Historic District is one of my favorite things to do in Orange County.With charming storefronts and historic homes, it has a quaint, small-town vibe, it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
With homes dating back to 1794, the Los Rios Historic District is considered to be the oldest neighborhood in California. About 40 homes still remain in the neighborhood, with three abode structures. Many of them are private homes, but some have been converted into shops, restaurants, and other businesses.
Spending an afternoon wandering around the neighborhood is a must, and your camera will thank you for it! It’s one of the best photography locations in Orange County, as the charming historic homes, quaint storefronts, and the cacti, florals, and plants present plenty of photo ops.
Address: Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Dana Point Arches
Sitting above a hill perched about the Dana Point Harbor, the Dana Point Arches are one of the most unique landmarks in Orange County.
The Arches are the remains of the Dana Point Inn, which was a project of S.H. Woodruff, a real estate developer who was also responsible for Hollywoodland (yes, like that famous sign in LA). It started construction in the 1930s, but it was called off after the Great Depression hit, and they never finished building it.
From the Arches, you get some stunning views of the harbor and the surrounding bluffs. These were originally supposed to be the frame for windows overlooking the view, which totally makes sense!
What makes the Dana Point Arches one of the best Orange County photo spots is that from certain angles, it perfectly frames the view for a postcard-worthy shot!
You can access the Arches from the Bluff Top Trail or the Dana Point Arches overlook entryway.
Address: 24606 Santa Clara Ave, Dana Point, CA
Seasonal Instagram Spots in Orange County
Going to the fair is one of my favorite things to do every summer, because it’s good times and it gives me a chance to embrace my inner kid. Besides, it’s always fun to see what kind of outrageous fried food items they come out with every year (Hot Cheetos tater tots anyone? What about deep-fried Snickers?).
Plus, there’s plenty of photo ops at the fair, from the fun carnival rides, the colorful game booths, to the aforementioned crazy food items.
The OC Fair usually takes place mid-July to mid-August every year, but the fairgrounds play host to a variety of different events throughout the year. Also consider checking out Winter Fest OC, which combines the best of the summer fair (carnival rides and games) with fun winter activities, such as tube sliding and ice skating.
Address: 88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Dana Point Harbor
While the Dana Point Harbor is pretty photogenic year-round with its waterfront views, it becomes one of the top Orange County photography locations during the holiday season, thanks to its annual Harbor Days festival.
Over 700,000 LED lights light up the harbor, with tons of festive decorations and installations. The most iconic of these is the “Merry Kiss Me” sign, a perfect backdrop for all your holiday photos.
Address: 34571 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629
Tanaka Farms is home to one of my favorite pumpkin patches in the area – simply because it’s an actual pumpkin farm. Pumpkins grow on the vine here and you can walk through the actual patch, which makes for some cute photos!
There’s also plenty of other fun to be had, from tractor rides, a pumpkin cannon, various photo backdrops, and more.
Outside of pumpkin season, Tanaka Farms plays host to a number of fun activities and events throughout the year. I love strawberry picking there in the spring, and they have other U-Pick opportunities in the summer.
They also host the Hikari festival during the holiday season, with tons of twinkling lights illuminating the farm. There’s a super Instagrammable light tunnel there, which makes for some beautiful photos!
They also have a separate sunflower field at Hana Field in the summer.
Address: 5380 3/4 University Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
Irvine Regional Park
The pumpkin patch at Irvine Regional park is another one of my favorites, because it’s got sort of a rustic feel. I love the fun photo spots and the cute little buildings here.
They also have a mini railroad running throughout the park, which also makes for some adorable photo ops!
Admission is free, although you do have to pay for parking. Do arrive early, as it tends to get packed as the day goes on.
They also have a Christmas event here as well, with plenty of festive decorations and lights.
Address: 1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, CA 92869
Orange County Photography Tips
- I often get asked what gear I use to shoot my photos – I love my Sony a6000 as it is compact, lightweight, produces high-quality images, and is ideal for travel. My go-to lens is the Tamron 17-70mm f2.8, which has a really nice range for both wide angle + a slight zoom, ideal for a variety of situations. I also shoot a good number of photos on my iPhone 13 Pro – the quality of phone cameras is INSANE these days!
- I love this tripod, which is sturdy and ideal for those sometimes breezy beach days. I also use this selfie stick tripod to help me take self-portraits on my phone!
Have you ever been to Orange County? What are some of your favorite photography locations in Orange County?
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Caroline is a Southern California based traveler, writer, and photographer. She travels all around California, the US, and the world in search of the most colorful places, the most delicious food, and bucket-list adventures. Her aim is to inspire other travelers discover how to add more adventure and joy to their lives. On Pictures & Words, you’ll find detailed guides + itineraries, along with vibrant photos to help you plan the the most epic trips. When she’s not traveling, Caroline also runs half marathons.