📸 25 Best Yosemite Photography Spots + Expert Tips (2023)

Yosemite Photography guide cover photo featuring the granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park.

Every landscape photographer dreams of photographing Yosemite National Park. The granite cliffs, paradisiacal waterfalls, and lush valley have inspired some of the greatest artists of all time, and continue to do so to this day.

In this guide, you will discover all of the the best places for photographing Yosemite, as well as the best times to visit them.

Each featured photo spot will include professional tips for composing your shots, adjusting your settings, timing your visit, and general considerations.

I hope you find inspiration in our Yosemite photos as well as some useful guidance for your next photoshoot! If, however, any of the concepts you discover are too advanced for your current skill level, you may want to check out the Learn Photography section of this website.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section at the end!

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

🏞 Top 25 Best Places for Yosemite Photography

  • Tunnel View Sunrise Yosemite Photography
    1. Tunnel View

Though the entirety of the park is picturesque, these are the best 25 photo spots in Yosemite National Park to capture that iconic Sierra beauty:

  1. Tunnel View: The most famous photography spot in Yosemite NP.
  2. Glacier Point: Incredible vistas from the highest elevation in the park.
  3. Valley View: Beautiful view at the base of the Merced River.
  4. Tioga Pass: A scenic drive with lush meadows, giant sequoias, and idyllic nature.
  5. Taft Point: The best westerly view in Yosemite, featuring dramatic cliffs and enough elevation for photographing sunset.
  6. Upper Yosemite Falls: Both Upper & Lower are beautiful must-see waterfalls, but the upper tier is the best.
  7. Panorama Trail: The best hike in Yosemite featuring 8-miles of unbeatable views.
  8. Four Mile Trail: A steep climb for incredible westerly views of the valley floor.
  9. Vista Point: Beautiful sunrise view of the distant Merced River and Yosemite Valley.
  10. Tuolumne Meadows: A subalpine meadow accented by the Tuolumne River and surrounded by the Sierra Nevada range.
  11. Bridalveil Fall: Another iconic waterfall that will appear in many Yosemite photos.
  12. Big Oak Flat Road: A winding, hair-raising drive with incredible easterly views.
  13. Vernal Falls: An easy hike to one of the prettiest falls in the park.
  14. Sentinel Bridge: Connects the south and north drive with a perfect view of Half Dome.
  15. Olmsted Point: An overlook with picturesque views of distant lakes and southerly views of Yosemite.
  16. Nevada Falls: Visible from Glacier Point, but most impressive when hiked to.
  17. Swinging Bridge: Walk to the river’s edge in the heart of the Yosemite Valley.
  18. Cathedral Beach: Great view of El Capitan in front of the Merced River.
  19. Lower Yosemite Falls: A short hike to an impressive waterfall.
  20. Southside Drive Boardwalk: This meandering boardwalk provides a stroll through the Yosemite valley meadow with views of waterfalls and, often, wildlife.
  21. Illilouette Falls: A large hidden waterfall on the Panorama Trail.
  22. Hetch Hetchy: Open seasonally, this sister-region of Yosemite is often missed but highly photogenic.
  23. Washburn Point: An incredible overlook at the top of Glacier Point Road.
  24. Tuolumne Grove: Moderate hike to an incredible giant sequoia grove.
  25. Tenaya Lake: Unspoiled alpine lake along the Tioga Pass.

Throughout the remainder of this Yosemite photography guide, you will learn everything you need to know about each of these spots.

You will also discover the best locations to photograph sunrise, sunset, night sky, and wildlife in Yosemite.

⚠️ *Important Information for Visiting Yosemite in 2023*

The sun rising behind Half Dome during sunrise at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Reservations for 2023

Reservations were required in February due to the Yosemite Firefall nature event that occurs each year. However, reservations will not be required for entry into Yosemite National Park. until February 2024.

Note that you still need to pay the entrance fee or show your America the Beautiful Annual Pass at the gate.

Glacier Point Road Closure 2023

Construction began on Glacier Point Road in 2022 and some of this will continue into 2023. Due to this, thirty-minute delays are possible from spring through fall of 2023.

From approximately mid-December through March, the first five miles of this road are open to the Badger Pass Ski Area. It is not possible to drive to Glacier Point when Glacier Point Road is closed.

Check the NPS website for current road closures.

When the road is closed, the only access to Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, Taft Point, and other Glacier Point Road destinations is via a long, strenuous hike.

Glacier Point: To reach Glacier Point you would need to hike the Four Mile Trail which is a 9-mile round trip with a 3,200ft elevation gain.

Sentinel Dome: From Glacier Point it is possible to hike a further 3-mile round trip with a 1,000ft elevation gain to reach Sentinel Dome.

Taft Point: Getting to Taft Point requires a further 2-mile round trip hike from Sentinel Dome and another 1,000ft of elevation gain.

If you were to hike to all three, it would be a total of around 14 miles with around 5,000ft elevation gain. For this reason, we do not recommend Glacier Point this year.

🎞 What to Photograph in Yosemite: Landmarks

Moonlight photography at Yosemite Valley View.
Moonlight photography at Yosemite showcasing numerous iconic features.

Whenever I explore the national parks, my goal is to capture the “essence” of the place in a frame.

The question, then, is what makes the place so uniquely beautiful? How does it feel to be there?

Yosemite Valley is one of the most famous landmarks in California and this section showcases the iconic subjects and features you will want to photograph within the valley.

Discover 65+ Perfect Gifts for National Park Lovers

El Capitan

Astrophotography featuring El Capitan under the Big Dipper on a moonlit night.
Astrophotography featuring El Capitan under the Big Dipper on a moonlit night.

The large, stark granite rock face that will appear in most of your frames is known as El Capitan.

Whether you actually intend to include “El Cap” or not, is such a prominent feature that you will often find it looming in the background.

The night photo above features El Capitan bathing in moonlight. As will be discussed more throughout this guide, I enjoyed photographing the Yosemite Valley more at night than any other time.

Half Dome

Gold-tinted clouds frame Half Dome at sunrise.
Gold-tinted clouds frame Half Dome at sunrise.

Another iconic rock formation that will surely find its way into your images is Half Dome.

The unique shape of Half Dome makes it a favorite subject for any landscape photographer visiting Yosemite.

Whether you actively choose to feature it or leave it as background interest, there is something captivating about its shape and the light it collects.

Merced River

The Merced River adds a feeling of tranquility.
The Merced River can add a feeling of tranquility to your Yosemite photography.

The Yosemite Valley loop road is divided down the middle by the Merced River, which runs throughout most of the park. It is rarely going to be the actual subject of your photos, but it can serve as a beautiful feature to create foreground interest for your shots.

Imagine the photo above without the Merced River… pretty boring, right? But the hooked tree, light snow, and soft water all create a stronger visual journey for the viewer.

This is what landscape photography is all about!


Moody photography featuring Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite National park.
Clouds line the rocks at Bridalveil Falls on a moody morning.

I genuinely have no idea how many waterfalls exist in Yosemite National Park, but there are a few extremely prominent ones.

Most of the major waterfalls are easily accessed via short trails if you want to photograph them from the base. However, my favorite Yosemite photographs tend to include the waterfalls within the context of the granite cliffs and valley.

There are exceptions, but I find most waterfalls start to feel the same from close up.

Further down in this guide, we will discuss each waterfall individually.

Granite Cliffs

The granite cliffs shine golden in the morning sunlight.
The granite cliffs of Yosemite shine golden in the morning sunlight.

What makes Yosemite a landscape photographer’s paradise is the granite mountains of the Sierras. There is something indescribably magical about their shapes and textures and the way they collect light. It is something only a photo can convey!

When it comes to capturing the essence of Yosemite through your photography, you will want to key in on the unique beauty that these granite monuments create.


Yosemite wildlife photography featuring a coyote in the snow.
A coyote kindly poses to have his photo taken.

When it comes to Yosemite photography, few things excite visitors as much as the opportunities to encounter wildlife!

The valley is usually teeming with wildlife. Of course, some animals are more exciting for visitors than other. If you are lucky, you may encounter bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, or black bears… and you will almost definitely see deer!

The coyote photo above was captured from the open meadow near the Swinging Bridge parking area in the early morning. This is the best time to snap a shot of them as they are likely to be out hunting mice.

This guy cooperated with a fantastic leap-attack on his breakfast, but unfortunately I did not have my camera ready in time.

The Yosemite Valley

Moody winter sunrise photography from Yosemite's Tunnel View.
A moody winter sunrise from Tunnel View.

As mentioned, this Yosemite photography guide is primarily focused on the valley. In addition to keying in on some of the many features that make the park so beautiful, you will also want to try and take some wide-angle shots that capture its essence with context.

There are a few viewpoints that are particularly well-suited for this purpose. Tunnel View (featured above) is easily the most iconic. And for very good reason, I might add!

🌅 Yosemite Sunrise Photography

We have also written an extensive guide to the best locations for sunrise at Yosemite including photography tips. However, you will find my three favorite destinations below.

Please keep in mind that as a valley is, by definition, nestled amongst mountains. You are unlikely to actually see the sun cross the horizon from most places, and seasonality plays a very large role in this.

Still, you don’t need direct views of the sun for your camera to record something for the trophy wall! Instead, focus on photographing the morning fog and atmosphere, and hope for some sky interest!

Tunnel View Sunrise

Tunnel View is an unbeatable vista for Yosemite sunrise photography.
Tunnel View is an unbeatable vista for Yosemite sunrise photography.

We touched on Tunnel View already. This is the most iconic view of Yosemite National Park. Not only is it a naturally perfect composition that includes Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the Yosemite Valley all in one frame, but it requires no hike or effort at all.

While I usually prefer at least some hike to thin out crowds, I will make an exception for sunrises as it means you can get a little extra sleep.

During the late spring, the sun will actually rise directly in line with the rest of this frame. Most of the year, however, the light will be coming in angularly. Still, you get plenty of interesting side lighting and sky drama, and it’s tough to beat this scene.

The one thing to note about photographing sunrise here is that the parking lot becomes an absolute zoo very quickly. Many photographers will actually set their tripods up hours early, then hide in their car and catch a few extra winks. Whether you feel comfortable with that or not, be sure to get there at least 45 minutes before sunrise to ensure you get a good spot.

Valley View Sunrise

Yosemite sunrise photography from Valley View.
When conditions align, it is tough to beat Yosemite Valley View.

The bad thing about photographing sunrise at Yosemite Valley View is that the sun will be completely blocked for hours. The good thing is pretty much everything else!

The scene doesn’t need the actual sunrise light to be stunning. What you will mostly be looking for in a sunrise shoot is the low fog that is prevalent much of the year, and hopefully a bit of sky interest with some high clouds to catch the color.

This is the second-most popular spot in Yosemite to photograph sunrise, so you will want to arrive early here as well. Parking is extremely limited!

Glacier Point

Photographing Yosemite National Park at sunrise from Glacier Point.

When the road is open, Glacier Point provides a view of sunrise behind Half Dome that is hard to beat. Of course, getting all the way to the viewpoint so early for photographing a Yosemite National Park sunrise requires dedication. For those photographers who make the trip, the reward is well worth it.

Hwy 120: Vista Point Overlook

Sunrise photography from Hwy 120 in Yosemite National Park.
The sun begins to crest over granite cliffs as the Merced River snakes through.

If you want to get that first light as it kisses the mountains, you will need to get out of the valley. The fastest way up is via Hwy 120.

Just a short drive up Hwy 120 are two tunnels. In between them are some small pull-outs that provide a perfect view of the Merced River snaking between granite walls.

This composition does not include as many of the iconic monuments and features, but I feel it still strongly captures the essence of Yosemite National Park.

In particular, I love that first light beam highlighting the mountainside. I also love the leading line that the Merced River provides to the distant Bridalveil Fall.

🌄 Yosemite Sunset Photography

There are very few vantage point where the sunset will be visible in Yosemite.

While the same obstacles of being in a valley must be considered at sunset as well, there are a few lookouts that go from beautiful in the daytime to spectacular at sunset.

Taft Point

The elevated view from Taft Point makes it the best place for photographing Yosemite at sunset.
The elevated view from Taft Point makes it the best place for photographing Yosemite at sunset.

The best place for photographing a Yosemite sunset is Taft Point. From here, impressive cliffs overlook the valley floor below and it is one of the few places where you can almost see the sun cross below the horizon… almost.

Taft Point is located along the Glacier Point Road so it is only open seasonally. In addition, it requires about a one-mile hike.

Yosemite Valley View Sunset

Spring rain clouds catch fire at sunset from Valley View.
Spring rain clouds catch fire at sunset from Valley View.

Look familiar? As popular as it is for sunrise, Valley View is even more heralded for sunset. The light on El Capitan and the color you can get in the sky and water further enhance an already spectacular scene.

Once again, be sure to get a spot early as parking is very limited. I also recommend bringing a polarizing filter and/or an ND to drag the shutter a bit and get that nice soft water and reflection.

While the long exposure look can be a bit overdone, I strongly feel that it provides a much more emotive dynamic in this particular scene.

I recommend reading our guide to long exposure photography if you want to know more about this photography technique.

Four Mile Trail at Sunset

The panoramic views from Four Mile Trail are the best place to watch sunset in Yosemite.
The panoramic views from Four Mile Trail are the best place to watch sunset in Yosemite.

Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to hike all four miles of the Four Mile trail to enjoy a spectacular sunset view!

Somewhere within the first mile, you will already discover at least one clear view similar to the one photographed above. However, I hiked in total about 1.5 miles to capture this scene. In the winter, the trail closes just beyond this point due to very dangerous conditions, but it is open during the warmer months.

This is easily my favorite location for Yosemite sunset photography. Not only do you get a full panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley, but the sun will set perfectly in line with the scene. The lighting it creates while descending can be absolutely brilliant.

Make sure you bring a flashlight of some kind as you will likely be descending in the dark following your shoot!

Sentinel Bridge

A moonlight photography of Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge.
A moonlight look at Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge.

Depending on the cloud action, I personally find the view of Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge worth considering for your sunset shoot. The open face of Half Dome can get some amazing light and if there are clouds to collect it as well, the scene can really pop.

As you may notice from the photos in this section, I had very clear nights without enough sky interest to bother shooting the scene. On clear evenings like these, I recommend shooting sunset in one of the other favored locations, then going straight to the Sentinel Bridge for blue hour and maybe even some astrophotography.

The photo below shows the fading light that Half Dome collects and gives some idea of why it can be special for sunset as well, if conditions align.

Blue hour photography featuring Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.
Half Dome reflects the final, fading light of the day.

🎆 Yosemite Night Photography

Astrophotographers, particularly those based in California, will rejoice at how dark the night skies of Yosemite are!

The crowds, noise and bustle of the day can certainly detract from the natural experience, but all that goes away at night. This is why I found moonlit nights to be the best time for Yosemite photography.

You have undoubtedly noticed many night images throughout this guide already; this is because I would stay up after the crowds had left each night and drive around the Yosemite Valley under moonlight, collecting photos that I felt better-captured the magic of the park.

🌙 Yosemite Moonlight Photography

Night photography in Yosemite National Park featuring El Capitan under the stars.
The granite face of El Capitan shines in the moonlit.

Astrophotography is typically done when the moon is not present. However, I found the best nights to photograph Yosemite were those with a 20-50% moon. If it gets much brighter than this, you will lose the stars and your foregrounds will look like daytime. If there is no moon at all, it is difficult to get the bright exposures for your scene.

What you will discover on your first night exploring Yosemite by moonlight is that every natural feature just looks more magical under the stars. El Capitan, Half Dome, Tunnel View, waterfalls, they all just sparkle a bit extra.

If you are interested in doing some lunar light photography during your next visit to Yosemite, you will find a handful of compositions to consider in this guide. None of those covered required hiking or detours from the main Yosemite Valley loop road.

If you happen to visit during a full moon, be sure to hike to Upper Yosemite Falls to witness a “moonbow”!

INTERESTED IN NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY? Check out our Night Photography Guides

🌌 Yosemite Milky Way Photography

Yosemite Milky Way photography over the Sierra Mountains.
A February Milky Way stretches across the sky above the Sierra Mountains.

I have to open by saying my visits to Yosemite thus far have either been on ticking clocks or in the winter, so I have not had the chance to explore many of the views that require significant hiking.

Obviously, being in the so low in elevation will mean that the Milky Way core is blocked from anywhere on the Yosemite Valley floor. If you want to include the galactic center in your photos, you will have to find somewhere higher up.

In the winter months when most of those options are closed, the only area I found to capture Milky Way photography in Yosemite was from the “Half Dome View” pullout.

The composition is limited and not the most spectacular I have found, but it is certainly strong enough. You do get a beautiful view of the entire Milky Way stretching across the sky. If you look closely, you can even see Half Dome very small on the horizon!

💦 Yosemite Waterfall Photography

Waterfalls will appear in the backdrop and scenery of most of your photos already. However, all of the major ones are easily accessible if you want to throw on an ND filter (and maybe a poncho) and get a closer look.

If you are just getting into photography or don’t live in a place where you see many waterfalls, these may be the most exciting features of all to you.

I suggest reading our guide to waterfall photography if you are still learning the craft and want to know more about capturing long exposure waterfall images.

Firefall aka Horsetail Fall

Waterfall photography featuring the famous Yosemite Firefall.
Waterfall photography bucket list winner: Yosemite Firefall

It felt incomplete to write a Yosemite photography guide that didn’t include the legendary natural event known as Firefall. However, this occurs only during a small window in February, so you will have to plan carefully if you wish to capture it.

Fortunately, I was recently able to finally cross it off my photography bucket list. After spending a week in 2021 photographing and researching the event, I created this comprehensive first-time visitor guide to Yosemite Firefall.

If you are not able to get to the park during this time, you will likely not even see Horsetail Falls. It tends to be such a light flow that it is almost invisible or completely dry most of the year, though spring visitors may get lucky.

Ultimate Guide to Yosemite Firefall

Bridalveil Falls

Nighttime Yosemite photography featuring Bridalveil Falls under the stars.
Nighttime Yosemite photography featuring Bridalveil Falls under the stars.

The first waterfall you will see regardless of how you arrive in the Yosemite Valley is Bridalveil Falls. It is a standout feature in many of the compositions we have discussed already, such as Tunnel View, Valley View, and the entire North River Road.

You can quickly and easily hike to Bridalveil Falls as it is only a half mile roundtrip. When the wind is strong and the water level is low, you may discover it doesn’t even touch the ground!

Vernal Falls & Nevada Falls

A man is crouched in front of Vernal Falls, showing the scale of these mighty falls in Yosemite.
A rare selfie (for scale) in front of Vernal Falls.

The Nevada Falls hike begins at the Happy Isles parking areas and is about 5 miles roundtrip, but it is a very steep climb. If you are someone who is passionate about waterfall photography, by all means, plan some time for this thunderous cascade.

If your interest is more passive, at least consider a trip to Vernal Falls on the same trail. It is only a 1.4 mile hike roundtrip!

What I enjoy photographically about Vernal Falls is the striped rock wall that it spills over. The naturally-occurring pattern is something to behold.

Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls

Yosemite astrophotography featuring Upper Yosemite Falls in moonlight under the stars.
The light of a 20% moon blankets Upper Yosemite Falls.

You will see Upper Yosemite Falls from much of the loop road. Like Bridalveil, most of my photos featured the waterfall itself from a distance. I liked how it looked as part of a frame, rather than filling it.

With that said, the hike to Lower Yosemite Falls is so short that you may as well go for a visit. I made a moonlight visit and preferred it at night… no surprise there!

Night photography featuring Lower Yosemite Falls.
Lower Yosemite Falls, later on that same night.

Upper Yosemite Falls is a bit more of an effort, but can be very special on a bright moon. This is one of the few places where you can photograph a “moonbow,” where the spray picks up the lunar light and forms a rainbow at night!

Illilouette Falls

The secret Illilouette waterfall is located along the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point.
This secret waterfall is located along the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point.

One of the most beautiful and least-known waterfalls is Illilouette Falls. You can only reach this waterfall in the warmer months after Glacier Point Road has reopened.

To find this photogenic cascade, you will need to walk about 2 miles down the Panorama Trail which begins near Glacier Point. You can hike to the falls, but the view is better looking across the ravine with Half Dome in the background.

❄️ Yosemite Seasonal Factors

There are many seasonal factors to consider if planning a visit to Yosemite with photography in mind. For starters, most of the park is closed for half the year!

Each season brings about unique opportunities and challenges for photographers. I personally favor the months of February, May, and October for reasons I will explain, but your camera will be firing constantly any time of year!

Winter Photography in Yosemite

A long exposure photograph of El Capitan in the winter.
The atmospheric mornings in the winter have a special magic.

I love photographing Yosemite in the winter, particularly in February. While most of the park is closed, the roads and trails in the Yosemite Valley are usually fine. Most photographers find that the fresh snow adds an exciting visual element to the scenery.

I like February in particular because this is when the incredible Yosemite Firefall phenomenon occurs, and also when the park limits the number of daily visitors! That is a huge bonus for most nature lovers!

Opportunities: Fresh snow dustings, atmospheric low fog in the morning, flowing waterfalls, vibrant sky color, and Firefalls.

Challenges: Most of the park is closed, some trail closures as well, road can get treacherous following storms.

🌈 Spring Photography in Yosemite

A rainbow accents Vernal Falls in this spring photo from Yosemite.
Spring is the best time for photography in Yosemite if you are a waterfall chaser.

Many consider spring to be the best season to visit Yosemite. The wildflowers are in bloom, wildlife is active, the waterfalls are gushing, and the roads and trails begin to open.

No doubt, the opportunities for photography increase, but with them, so do the crowds!

The reason I mentioned May as one of my favorite months is that the Tioga Pass road tends to open around this time, as do numerous trails. This is a stunning road to drive!

Opportunities: Wildflowers to add foreground interest, roaring waterfalls, vibrant sunsets, increased wildlife sightings and baby animals, and rainbows likely.

Challenges: Large crowds, roads will not be open until later spring.

☀️ Summer Photography in Yosemite

Sophie Clapton watching sunrise on a summer morning in Yosemite

To be honest, summer is generally my least favorite to photograph most places, unless I am there for Milky Way photography. However, since everything will be open by the summer months in Yosemite, at least the crowds are better dispersed!

The good thing about a summer visit is that Glacier Point Road and the Tioga Pass will be open, which are two of the prettiest regions of Yosemite to photograph.

The other good thing about photographing Yosemite in summer is that you have nice long days which can be used to take on some lengthy hikes that provide unique views of the park.

Opportunities: Best possible access, Milky Way opportunities open up, long days for exploration.

Challenges: Crowds, heat, long days means less sleep if photographing sunrise and sunset.

A summer visit to Yosemite National Park allows photography from Tioga Pass.
A summer visit to Yosemite National Park allows photography from Tioga Pass.

🍂 Fall Photography in Yosemite

Is there any place that doesn’t look better in the colors of autumn? Yosemite is no exception.

While much of the park will remain in shades of green, there are enough deciduous trees to pick up some vibrant hues and autumn feels. You will find most of them in the central meadow. Use these to provide that extra pop of color to your photos!

October was listed as one of my favorite months to visit as this is when you get the best color and school is back in, meaning the crowds thin out (slightly).

Opportunities: Everything is open, temperatures cool, colorful trees.

Challenges: Waterfalls are drying up.

📷 Camera Gear for Photographing Yosemite National Park

Photographer Adam Marland equips a polarizing filter CPL to his Sony Camera.

While it is possible to capture some great photos nowadays with smartphones, for the best possible photos of Yosemite you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:

  • Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and love it! However, for beginners may wish to consider an entry level DSLR.
  • Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you are shooting in low light, at night or for any other long exposure photography. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when we require something more stable, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on reflective surfaces, helping to bring out the colors. The best CPL and ND filters we have found are the quartz line from Polar Pro.

Check out our post on travel photography camera gear to see everything I used to take the photos in this post. If you are looking to invest in a camera, then you may also be interested in this blog post about the best cameras for blogging and this one about the best travel lenses for the Sony a7iii and other Sony alpha cameras.

Don’t forget to pack your annual America the Beautiful Pass to avoid paying the individual park fee for Yosemite!

🚌 Yosemite Photography Tours & Lessons

We recommend driving to get to Yosemite early enough to photograph sunrise and to allow you to explore at your own pace and wait for the best light for photos. However, we appreciate that this isn’t the best option for everyone. If you prefer to have a guide or would like to take a photography lesson in Yosemite, below are some options worth considering.

For capturing sunrise in Yosemite, you will likely want to book a private tour or a backpacking trip to ensure you are within the park early enough.

While not all of these tours have an emphasis on photography in Yosemite, by having a guide, particularly on a private tour, you are going to have someone to take you to some of the best and most beautiful locations. Therefore, you will be in a prime position to capture some incredible photos.

Each of the tours is of different lengths and has different inclusions, such as transport, accommodation, and food. Therefore, please read the details of each one carefully to choose the one that is right for you.

🙋‍♀️ FAQs About Photography in Yosemite

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions for photographers planning on photographing Yosemite National Park:


  • Tunnel View Sunrise Yosemite Photography
    1. Tunnel View

The top 25 locations for photographing Yosemite National Park are:

  1. Tunnel View
  2. Glacier Point
  3. Valley View
  4. Tioga Pass
  5. Taft Point
  6. Upper Yosemite Falls
  7. Panorama Trail
  8. Four Mile Trail
  9. Vista Point
  10. Tuolumne Meadows
  11. Bridalveil Fall
  12. Big Oak Flat Road
  13. Vernal Falls
  14. Sentinel Bridge
  15. Olmsted Point
  16. Nevada Falls
  17. Swinging Bridge
  18. Cathedral Beach
  19. Lower Yosemite Falls
  20. Southside Drive Boardwalk
  21. Illilouette Falls
  22. Hetch Hetchy
  23. Washburn Point
  24. Tuolumne Grove
  25. Tenaya Lake
🏞 Can you take pictures in Yosemite? Do you need a permit?

You can and should take pictures in Yosemite. No permits are required for non-commercial photoshoots.

The National Park Service requires a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) only under the following terms:

“A CUA is required if you provide any goods, activities, services, agreements, or other function for park visitors that:

  1. Your photoshoot takes place at least in part on lands managed by the NPS,
  2. use park resources, and
  3. result in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit to you.
📷 Who was the famous Yosemite photographer?

Ansel Adams, often referred to as “the father of landscape photography”, became famous for his Yosemite photography. You can even visit the Ansel Adams Gallery in the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

🌤 What is the best month to visit Yosemite for photography?

May is the best month to visit Yosemite for photographers and casual visitors alike. The waterfalls are typically at peak flow from snow melt, Glacier Point Road opens for the first time, wildflowers are in bloom, and there are fewer visitors than in the summer months.

🌅 What is the best time for photographing Yosemite?

Sunrise is the best time for photographing Yosemite National Park. There are far more viewpoints and vistas with easterly views for sunrise available than those facing west for sunset. Some of the best sunrise views include Tunnel View, Glacier Point, and Valley View.

📖 More Yosemite & California Travel Guides

Continue your journey to Mammoth Lakes (just outside Yosemite) to discover more incredible photography opportunities of the Eastern Sierras.
Continue your journey to Mammoth Lakes (just outside Yosemite) to discover more incredible photography opportunities of the Eastern Sierras.

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂

Where to next?! We have numerous guides to Yosemite National Park as well as nearby destinations that may be of interest depending on your itinerary…

Other Yosemite Guides

Mammoth Lakes and Nearby Destinations Guides

Northern California Guides

💬 Final Thoughts on Yosemite Photography

A moody photo of Half Dome framed by dissipating storm clouds at sunrise.
A moody shot of Half Dome framed by dissipating storm clouds at sunrise.

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂

It is not difficult to see why Ansel Adams devoted so much of his time to photographing Yosemite National Park. The natural beauty of the Eastern Sierras is incredible, but this region is particularly exquisite.

I hope you have found this guide inspiring and helpful in planning your own visit. If you are interested in prints or licensing any of the images you have seen, please send us an email!

You are more than welcome to share this guide with everyone you like, but please do not share any photos on social media or use them on any personal websites.

And, as always, leave me a comment if you have any questions or concerns that I can help you with! I cannot teach photography in the comments section, but I will do my best to provide clarity anywhere that it is needed.

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