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A Photographer’s Ultimate Guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea & Monterey, CA

Have you ever wanted to know a local photographer’s favorite spots to photograph in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey area? Today I am sharing my top five favorite spots and what makes me love each one!

Carmel: Ribera Road (Carmel Meadows)

Beach maternity photos in Carmel-by-the-Sea with woman in bright pink dress
Monterey maternity session at Carmel Meadows

One of my favorite spots as a local Carmel photographer is more hidden. Ribera Road is nestled in a residential area along the coast. A lot of people do not know about it, which makes it more special! (Sometimes the trickiest part to photographing are navigating crowds, right?). There is a beautiful pathway and trail that is above sea level and overlooks the water. You can photograph against the trees or with the ocean in the background. There are overgrown ice plants and California coastline vegetation. It’s stunning!

Carmel Valley: Garland Ranch

Forest portrait session in Carmel Valley
Carmel Valley engagement session at Garland Ranch

Garland Ranch is perfect for the couple that doesn’t prefer a beach location. It is a hiking area with relatively easy trails with various amounts of coverage. Sometimes the light hits all the perfect spots as it peeks through the woods! There’s even a eucalyptus area and other greenery options for the nature-inspired couple! I love the feeling of this place as a local Carmel photographer.

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea couple kissing by AGS Photo Art
Sweet sunrise engagement session in Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea with lush gardens

Carmel is a charming old artist town with beautiful alleys, nooks, and crannies. The best time to photograph in Downtown Carmel is one and a half hours before sunset or my favorite time – sunrise. Originally being from the city, Carmel-by-the-Sea is the closest thing I get to a city vibe. Carmel-by-the-Sea has historic architecture and darling gardens that distinguish it from other cities. The best part is that Carmel Beach is within ten minutes walking distance at the end of Downtown, so it’s a great second location!

Downtown Monterey

Couple poses for engagement photos on stairs of historic building in Monterey, CA
Cute couple poses for engagement photos in downtown Monterey, CA garden

Downtown Monterey has a couple of notable sites to photograph at with the historic houses and City Hall. There are local coffee shops that have gardens, cute backdrops, and white walls. Downtown Monterey is not as touristy, so it’s easy to photograph any time of the day since it’s not as crowded.

Pebble Beach: 17 Mile Drive

Ocean views on 17 mile drive in Pebble Beach, California
Man proposes to his girlfriend with red roses petals on the ocean at Pebble Beach
Couple snuggles up for photos after a surprise proposal on the coast at Pebble Beach

17 Mile Drive is seventeen miles that follow the coast and feature breathtaking views. What a name, huh? Each mile marked offers a different view, and there are certain places I go to depending on what time of year it is. For beaches with fewer people, a rocky coastline, and various beach views–this is the perfect spot! Who doesn’t like Pebble Beach views?

Those are my top picks in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, CA! Locals, are there some others you’d recommend as well? Stay tuned for my upcoming shop, where I’ll have a downloadable Locals Guide for Destination Photographers!

Want to do a session in one of my favorite spots? Contact me here!

  1. Victor says:

    Love your work! I was wondering if you could answer a question? Do you know if you need a permit to shoot at any of these locations? I am a student and came across your website when googling “monterey public beaches to take professional photos”. A permit is needed to take photos even for students in the state parks. I am just trying to take photos without having to spend so much extra $$.

    • Hi Victor! Thanks for commenting. State beaches technically need a permit if you’re getting paid for a shoot. If you’re not getting paid then you’re allowed to photograph. When my family is in town I photograph them at the beach, and I’m a professional so I do not get permits. If you’re doing a big production then yes absolutely. Federal parks are different. If you need more info we have a facebook group that has more info to help! Monterey Bay Photographers, come join!

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