The Ultimate San Francisco Photography Guide

As a native San Franciscan, my knowledge of San Francisco is…let’s just say there’s not much that gets past me in my 7×7 city. If you’re craving a cornbread muffin, I can tell you where to get them hot! Want to see the new MOMA SF, I got you covered! And for all of you morning risers, I can show you where to take the best sunrise spots. When it comes to taking pictures, my San Francisco photography guide has got you covered.

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Photographing San Francisco’s Most Iconic Views

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Ultimate San Francisco Photography Guide

For the sake of this article and The PlanetD, let’s focus this adventure on photography in SF. I’ll be giving 5 of my favorite spots along with when is the best time to shoot and I’ll even be giving you local San Francisco hashtags and Instagram hubs so you can have a chance of a feature for all of you Instagrammers out there! Without wasting too much time, let’s get a move on to the Ultimate Photography Guide to San Francisco!

Hawk Hill – Two Icons in One Shoot

Photography Guide San Francisco Hawk Hill view

View from Hawk Hill

It took me a while to find where the Transamerica Pyramid aligns with the Golden Gate Bridge, but I finally did! It is kind of tricky to get here, but I’m going to make it as simple as possible.

How To Get To Hawk Hill – Two Icons

Go to Google Maps and type in “Conzelman Rd, Mill Valley, CA.”

You should see a turning circle. This is where you’d want to set your navigation to. Once there, you should see a dirt parking lot with a bathroom next to it. Park there.

Need new Camera Gear Suggestions? Enjoy browsing our Complete Photography Gear List 

Walk across the turning circle to get to a dirt path (WARNING: don’t walk too far out as there is a cliff!). I’d recommend going when there is light out to scope the place out, then coming back at night or early morning to get the shoot. Also, this area can be a little creepy late a night so bring a flashlight. Also watch out for raccoons!

Walk up the dirt place for about 5-10 minutes (be careful as some parts are narrow) until you see the two align.

Best Time to Shoot: Night

What Gear/Lens is Best:

  • Tripod
  • Telescope Lens

Treasure Island – San Francisco’s Skyline

San Francisco Photography Guide Treasure Island

View from Treasure Island

Treasure Island has one of the best views of San Francisco’s beautiful skyline. Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak is up there too) Just across the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island is the easiest to get to. The most difficult part might be finding parking, but hey, that’s San Francisco for y’all!

How To Get to Treasure Island:

Hop on the freeway and take I-80 E to Treasure Island. Stay on the far left lane when entering the Bay Bridge as the exit is a sharp left turn in the middle of the bridge.

Continue to follow the road. You’ll soon see the city skyline on the left. I’d park somewhere near the Hot Dog stand if a tour bus isn’t hogging the area.

Read: How to Improve your Photography with Filters

Best Time to Shoot: Sunset, Night

What Gear/Lens is Best:

  • Telescope (you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from here too)
  • Wide Angle
  • ND Filter (if you like a silky smooth water)
  • Tripod

Sutro Baths – San Francisco’s Heart

San Francisco photograpy guide the oroginal Heart

San Francisco Heart

Sutro Baths has to be one of my favorite spots in San Francisco. Being by the water, enjoying the breezy, finding San Francisco’s Heart is just a calming experience. The parking lot can get filled up quickly and the stairs down to the baths can be a workout, but don’t let this detour you from this enchanting place.

Make sure to explore this place thoroughly as there is a cave, a rock-shaped heart (can be seen next to the cave), structural ruins, trail hikes, and much more.

Traveling to San Francisco? Make sure to Pick up your Lonely Planet Travel Guide

How To Get To Sutro Baths:

It is pretty straight forward to get to Sutro Baths. Just enter “Sutro Baths” in your GPS. Once again the most difficult part is finding parking and the many stairs down..and up to the Baths.

Best Time to Shoot: Sunset

What Gear/Lens is Best:

  • Wide Angle
  • ND Filter
  • Tripod

Kirby Cove – Wake Up, SF

san francisco photography guide header

San Francisco Bridge: Sunrise at Kirby Cove

Kirby Cove is a gem. Off of a hiking trail in Hawk Hill, Kirby Cove is a secluded beach equipped with a man-made swing so you can enjoy the waves crashing by under the Golden Gate Bridge.

How To Get To Kirby Cove:

Type in “Kirby Cove” in Google Maps and navigate there. Park along the left side. Make sure to not leave any valuables in the car or anything that looks worth stealing. There are many car thieves that break into cars here!

After parking, walk up towards a gated path. It should say “Kirby Cove.” The walk down the path is easy and is about a mile long taking around 20-25 mins. You may see deer roaming around so keep your camera ready to snap.

More great California photography tips: Photography Guide to Big Sur

Best Time to Shoot: Sunrise

What Photography Gear/Lens is Best:

  • Wide Angle
  • Tripod

Twin Peaks – The City Glow

San Francisco Photography Guide Twin Peaks View

San Francisco View from Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks has one of the best views of the city. You can see all of downtown, the Bay Bridge, and even the Golden Gate Bridge.

How To Get To Twin Peaks:

Once again, just enter “Twin Peaks” in Google Maps. It’ll take you to the top of the peak where you’ll find a parking lot. This requires minimal effort as the view is just right there. Not a lot of walking!

If there’s no parking, I usually just go around the hill and park on the side. This area can be a little dangerous if you are not familiar with the area. Some roads turn from a one-way to a two-way traffic! BE CAREFUL especially at night or when it is very foggy! Always drive slow, keep your headlights on and READ THE SIGNS!

Need Inspiration? Enjoy these photography tips by the Best Travel Photographers in the World

Best Time to Shoot: Night

What Photography Gear/Lens is Best:

  • Wide Angle
  • Mid-Range
  • Telescope
  • Tripod

San Francisco Social Media Hashtags:#alwayssf #bestofbayarea #nowrongwaysf #streetsofsf #ilovesanfrancisco #sfnative #mysanfrancisco #wildbayarea #thesanfrancisco #sfguide #sfdreaming

Love Instagram? Enjoy these iPhone Photography Apps to Create Kick Ass Shots. 

Note: San Francisco Hubs are the same handle as their hashtags!

San Francisco Photography Guide: Author Bio:

Photography Guide to San Francisco

San Francisco Photographer Eric Bravo

Eric Bravo runs a travel photography blog called Let’s Go Bravo providing travel guides to popular destinations geared towards travel photographers.

Follow His Social Media Accounts:
Instagram: @letsgobravo
Facebook: Let’s Go Bravo
Twitter: @ericbravo
YouTube: Let’s Go Bravo

Eric’s hope is to give readers an informative overview of their next destination, to ease the stress of researching the nitty gritty of travel to find that happy balance of getting the shot and immersing in new culture. These travel guides include suggested accommodation, transportation, food & drink, things to do & see, and most importantly, the best photography spots in the area.

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