DTLA: Get the best Instagrammable shots of downtown Los Angeles
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
Place: Downtown Los Angeles is the artistic and commerce hub of L.A., far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive, home to the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, City Hall and funky neighborhoods like the Arts District, Pershing Square and Little Tokyo.
Where: DTLA, as it's called fondly, is east of the power centers, like Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Century City, home to the University of Southern California and the most popular legitimate theaters, with Disney and the theaters of the Music Center, including the Ahmanson Theater and Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.
DTLA Postcards: Disney Hall, Angel's Flight, Grand Central Market, Union Station.
Why photograph in DTLA? MARK'S quote
1. It all begins here, at Vista Hermosa Park, home of the iconic park bench with the killer view of the L.A. skyline. Address: 100 N Toluca St, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Selfie alert! This is the place!
Disney Hall and the Music Center are right around the corner, so this is a great place to start. Also, an added bonus: free parking.
2. After Vista Hermosa Park, head over to Walt Disney Concert Hall, and look for parking within the building, which has the best deal in town–$9 flat rate on weekends. Most lots charge $20, cash only, Disney accepts credit cards, and it’s a great central spot for walking to the Broad Museum, MOCA, the Central Library and the Grand Central Market on Broadway.
111 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Photo tips: capturing a good shot of Disney Hall can be challenging. You’ll get the whole building in from across the street, but it will be littered with street lamps, power lines and cars. I like standing directly in front, and out of the way of the said distractions, for the shot.
(221 S. Grand Avenue,)
A new addition to DTLA, is even more challenging to photograph, because it’s so large, an entire city block, and pretty much impossible to capture in one image. (Even with a wide angle lens.,)
Photo tip: Stand at the crosswalk. You’re not going to get the entire building, of course, but the entrance gives a sense of place to your photo.
The crosswalk that leads to the back exit of the Broad Museum in DTLA.
630 W. 5th Street
There are rows and rows of great old murals and sculptures at the library, which are cool to photography. Photo tip: I like to zoom in on some of the classic carvings outside.
633 N. 5th Street
That’s the view from 70 stories up, as seen from the deck of the Skyspace Tower, atop the US Bank building. It costs just over $20 to get up there, and if so inspired, you can also go down a slide from one story to the next.
Photo tip: You’ll be shooting outside windows, so watch our for glare. I like seeing the city at night, all lit up, so evening would be my choice as the time to get up there.
6. Broadway District, between 6th and 1st
Here you will find the historic old movie theaters from 100 years ago, sadly closed, jewelry stores, a bustling collection of shops aimed at local latinos, selling everything from Quinceanera dresses to low cost clothing, a shop that specializes in cutlery, the historic Bradbury Building and the big Grand Central Market.
304 S. Broadway
Over 100 years old, you may have seen the building in the original Blade Runner, or the Amazon TV series Bosch. As a tourist, you won’t get any further than the first deck, and your shot is a wide shot of the building. It won’t win you any awards, but it’s right across the street from the theaters and the market, so you’ve got to stop in and take a look.
317 S. Broadway
Also over 100 years old, the market is a melting pot of Los Angeles, with every type of food you can imagine. It’s more a eating establishment than a market, although you can certainly buy fruit. Photo tips: lighting is dark in here, both during the day and in the evening. Get a good wide shot of the crowds, zoom in on the neon signs and memorialize it with shots of tacos, pizza, cheese or whatever strikes your fancy.
10. Angel’s Flight
350 S. Grand
Finish up your trip to the market by parting with $1 and going back up the hill to your car on the Angel’s Flight railway, the shortest railroad you’ll ever see. (The alternative is walking up a flight of stairs that will take you all of five minutes.) Get a photo of the train itself, and then once inside, switch to video mode for a moving shot of the ride up.
11. City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
If you watched TV in the 1950s, you know City Hall as the place where Clark Kent worked at the Daily Planet and changed into his Superman costume, or where each episode of “Dragnet” opened with an image of City Hall and the narration, “This is the City.”
Photo tip: City Hall is one really tall building, and the best to capture it without distractions is to go to City Hall Park, directly across the street from rthe Main Entrance, and get a wide show from there.
12. Union Station
800 N. Alameda Street
Billed as the last of the great train stations, you can get inspired just walking in and experiencing the Art Deco masterpiece that is Union Station.
Photo tips: Interior shots are best here during the day, when you can take advantage of the massive amounts of lights seeping through the giant windows. (See this classic wedding portrait I did for a young couple a few years back.)
In the evening, light is minimal, but the exterior is adorned in cool purple light, so you’ll want to check that out.
216 S. Alameda (roughly)
This little haven of art galleries, trendy shops and craft breweries is just 1.2 miles away from tony Disney Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, yet with a more urban, gritty feel. And where else but the Arts District will you find some 100 murals over converted factories and storefronts?
Best photo tip: the Arts District makes one hell of a great backdrop for a portrait session.
14. Olvera Street
Pueblo Historical Monument and La Placita
Considered the oldest street in Los Angeles, Olvera Street is a recreation of the way things used to be. In reality, it’s a crowded slice of shops, restaurants, museums and things to buy. And the people there are tough on cameras. I was told I could photograph on my iPhone 8 Plus, but not on my Sony, or even the GoPro.
15. Staples Center
1111 S. Figueroa
The home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Kings and an occasional concert, Staples is a great place for a sports selfie.
16, L.A. Live
800 Olympic Blvd
Adjacent to Staples, L.A. Live is an entertainment complex, a collection of upscale restaurants, movie theaters and a theater that comes alive at night. As you can see from the picture above.