Location Ideas for Instagram Photos in North County San Diego

As someone who has spent much of her time at Disneyland taking pictures for my Instagram page, I was left scrambling for a solution when Disneyland closed its gates over a year ago. My biggest fear was that I just wouldn’t be able to make content because now I didn’t have a location to take pictures. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the biggest blessing in disguise! My content has become much more inspired now that I have left my comfort zone.

Now I want to help you do the same! Whether you are also a content creator in San Diego or you are planning a visit and want to know some hidden gems for pictures, you have come to the right place! What I can promise from this blog is that these spots will NOT be on any lists for “Top 10 Spots to Take Pictures in San Diego”. Definitely not. I’m not a tourist and there are many more places to take pictures – you just have to be a little more open minded about the locations and what you can create there!

Rosemary-Duff Florist // 101 W 2nd Ave, Escondido CA 92025

Just a regular florist shop? WRONG! This florist shop loves being the center of attention when a new holiday comes around! They paint a beautiful mural for most major holidays and it makes for an amazing back drop for some cute, themed pictures!

Old Poway Park // 14134 Midland Rd, Poway CA 92064

This place offers a number of photo spots. Styled like an old town, this offers beautiful architecture, train tracks, old rusted train cars, and a beautiful park that looks amazing during golden hour.

American Flag Wall // 2224 S Escondido Blvd, Escondido CA 92025

Who wants a little ‘Merica? This is a great location to celebrate your own patriotism or the big moments in American history – the Fourth of July, a new election, or just a cute American styled outfit!

Red and Pink Brick Wall // 135 E Felicita Ave, Escondido CA 92025

**Please note that the address displayed is a residential house. This is the closest mapped spot.** The wall is outside of this residential house but it is right up against a public sidewalk with a fence that separates the wall from the residency.

Hill Overlooking Poway // 14117 Tierra Bonita Rd, Poway CA 92064

**Please note that the address displayed is a residential house. This is the closest mapped spot.** The view overlooking Poway is on the opposite side of the road. This is a great spot if you need pictures with mountains in the background or if you want a lot of blue sky in the background.

Palomar McClellan Airport // 2198 Palomar Airport Rd, Carlsbad CA 92008

This small airport provides a great opportunity to have an airport photoshoot in a location that is not that crowded and is very well maintained!

Dried Riverbed // 14326 Tierra Bonita Rd, Poway CA 92064

**Please note that the address displayed is to the Poway Rodeo grounds. This is the closest mapped spot.** The riverbed borders the rodeo grounds and depending on the season can be a great spot for spring pictures or summer pictures! During the winter though, it’s mostly dirt and dead plants.

Keep on exploring because San Diego is full of opportunity and creativity can be found everywhere! And if you don’t live in San Diego, use this blog as inspiration for finding hidden gems where you live too!

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the biggest no-no's if you are trying to gain more followers

The Biggest No-No’s of Trying to Gain Followers

You’re trying to draw more eyes to your page and nothing seems to be working. People just don’t seem to be viewing your content and the people who do see it don’t seem to be engaging – how frustrating! You’ve heard inklings about “Instagram pods” and Facebook groups of like-minded Instagrammers who are just trying to get more engagement to their pictures too. You even think that joining a Group Board on Pinterest would only help your audience grow! Not to mention, EVERYONE is doing those big loop giveaways and they seem to be gaining a big following from it.

I am here to tell you – DO NOT DO THAT!!!!

This entire blog is speaking from personal experience. I know the idea of these little games to increase engagement seem harmless and could really only benefit your overall like or comment count. But I promise you that doing this will have long-term damage to your page.

Here is my experience with each one individually:

Instagram Pods

I was a part of a pod when this idea first started out a few years ago. Now at the time, the algorithm was a lot different, but the concept was the same – to bring more engagement to your recent post. But here’s why they don’t work. People are not that responsible. I was always one of those people that would like and comment right away to other people’s posts, but there were a few people in our group that would literally post and run – they would never do the same for the other people in the group. But I explain more of why Pods don’t work in the next section below since the idea of Pods have grown to MASSIVE sizes (far bigger than Instagram can handle in a group DM) and must be moderated via a Facebook Group.

Facebook Engagement Groups

When I first joined this idea, I thought probably what everyone else thought – “this will only be an addition to the engagement that I am already getting, so it’s obviously a win.” But I was very wrong. I will also put a disclaimer here that I don’t know HOW the algorithm knows this cheap trick, but it does. Let’s just agree that the algorithm knows when you’re cheating and acts accordingly.

If you aren’t familiar with these Engagement Groups, it’s essentially a large Instagram Pod. The one I joined on Facebook had over 5,000 active members, had strict rules for participation, and had many different opportunities per day to join games to increase likes, comments, Story Views, Tik Tok views, and more. I felt confident that I would be able to gain more traction on Instagram because there were so many opportunities and the group rules kept people in check to complete the games. The games were things like “Drop your Instagram URL and ‘like’ every URL in the thread”. Since there were many members, there would be probably 50-300 participants depending on the type of game (some of them had caps on the amount of participants).

I looked at the active members and thought that even 50 extra likes on my content would be a win! But having all those people flood a direct URL link to my page hurt my organic reach and engagement. My followers weren’t the ones liking my posts and no one was commenting. After a few weeks in the group, I found that I had to play two or even three of these ‘like’ games to get my ‘like’ count back up to what I was getting organically before I was playing the games! I had to make the hard decision to cut the cord, and boy did I pay the price to leave.

My first week of posting without the help of the Engagement Group sucked. Reach was low and it reflected in the likes. I had to work so much harder to get my like count back to where it was prior to playing those group games because now I was trying to get my posts back on to the feeds of my REAL followers. All I’m saying is that the algorithm knows. It will always be smarter than us. And having those people ‘like’ my content that were not my followers, that were not my target audience, and did not spend more than a split second on my post made the algorithm all read that as “FAKE”.

Pinterest Group Boards

Group Boards are a way for many Pinterest users to Pin their content on to one Board. Usually when you use Pinterest, you are pinning your content on your boards where only you have access to the ability to pin. And you should keep it that way!

Again, I thought joining a Group Board would just be a way to put more of my content in front of more eyes – especially considering these Group Boards had a few thousand followers! At the time, I was averaging 300,000 monthly viewers (and counting!) so I thought by taking this “next” step would skyrocket my content even further. But I had to learn a hard truth.

Being a part of a Group Board is THE WORST. When you post a Pin on to one of your Boards, and your followers react with it or you get organic growth from it being on a Search or Explore page, that’s progress. Every Pin plays a part in your overall average engagement. Now enter Group Boards. You join. You save a Pin to that Group board. And…… nothing.

What happened? Well what happened was that you posted a Pin on a Board that has HEAVY traffic. You posted a Pin and then a few hours later, it was shuffled to a position farther down on the Board that is past people’s short attention spans of scrolling to get to. So inevitably that post shows a few views and 0 engagement. And you know what else? That affects your overall average!!! You posted and that Pin failed.

So if you had posted 5 times that day on your own boards and gotten 1,000 views per Pin, that’s awesome! Now say you posted 5 times – 4 times on your own boards and 1 time on a group board, received 1,000 views on those 4 that you posted on your board and only 3 views on that one Pin that you posted on the Group board, well now your average views per Pin is around 800 views per Pin instead of 1,000. That’s not bad, right? But Pinterest’s own algorithm reads that as a major decrease in your engagement and will adjust accordingly. Keep this trend up, and you’re only going to lose your monthly viewership.

Not to mention that the people who post on Group Boards are trying to do the same thing you are trying to doboost their own engagement. Which means that they post and run! The majority of the people looking at Group Boards are not there to find new content to repin – they are there to post their content in the hopes of someone seeing it and boosting their engagement.

Loop Giveaways

You see them EVERYWHERE! And honestly, many influencers say this is the only way they can gain followers now. I even used to do them! But what I found at the end of the road was a ton of followers but no better engagement. Why? Because they people I gained in followership were not there for me – they were there for the next free thing. They never engaged with my posts and they never supported me or what I did. So more often than not it was embarrassing having 30k+ in followers but having a “like” count that did not reflect that. Not to mention, it’s almost insulting to your ACTUAL, supportive followers that the odds are stacked against them for getting this awesome giveaway package! They are there nonstop for you and some person swoops in and takes the grand prize and they’ve been following you for, what, five minutes?

Ditch the loop giveaways, ditch the fake following, ditch the lack of engagement from that following! Don’t do loop giveaways.

Now I know all these things will continue to entice you with a good time and the prospect of growing your audience. And trust me, I know everyone’s experience is different when it comes to each one of these things. This blog is written from my own personal experience! I am hoping that by giving my insight, you can come to a more educated decision of how you want to take your page. So take what I say with a grain of salt just because what works for me (and more importantly, what doesn’t work for me), might not be the same experience you have!

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I am standing in front of a green paneled and red brick wall. I am wearing my Mardi Gras outfit that featured my deep green Tiana windbreaker, a purple stiped Princess and the Frog shirt, and white pants. I also have colorful Mardi Gras beads as a necklace and bracelet.

Why Am I Still Losing Followers Even Though My Content Is Getting Better?

Day in and day out, I lose probably around 5-10 followers a day. I am just not growing, nor have I in the last couple of years. It seems like the only people that are growing are people either going viral or doing the large loop giveaways. And I absolutely refuse to do those large loop giveaways. I used to do them, and I am still recovering from the fake results that I got. If you are also losing followers consistently but are actually putting out better content that is receiving more engagement – listen up.

A mural in Downtown Disney Anaheim of Chadwick Boseman and a male child wearing a Black Panther mask. Both posing with the "Wakanda" arm crossing. I am standing in front of the mural in all black doing the same arm crossing.
This post got me 2,295 likes! But I also lost 50 followers in the process.

The reason you are losing followers is because you are getting closer to your true client market and getting rid of the people that are only holding your page back. I actually lose the most amount of followers on a day where my post does the best! No joke. The day I broke a record on my page for most likes in that year at around 2,300, I lost about 50 followers.

“Well that doesn’t make sense – you put out good content that people really like, shouldn’t you be gaining followers?”

That’s what I would think and would like to happen! But unfortunately it’s not. The reason I am losing more followers is because my posts are FINALLY getting pushed to more of my over 18,000 followers. Those people that are unfollowing me probably haven’t organically come across one of my posts in a really long time so either they 1) don’t recognize me or 2) are just no longer fans of my content! Either way you slice it, they aren’t about my page anymore.

Another big reason you could also be losing followers is that now more than ever, Instagram is getting very good at shutting down bot and spam accounts. So the followers that you lost could literally be Instagram helping you to do some housekeeping! Trust me, you don’t want more followers if those followers are ghost or spam accounts. They won’t interact with your content and that will hurt your page so much more than having a lower following count.

I am dressed in a red two piece set from SHEIN. The top is cropped and the pants are high waisted over my belly button. They are also flared and flowy. This outfit was to Disney Bound as slave Jasmine from Aladdin.
My Slave Jasmine Disney Bound started off with slow engagement but the more my followers got involved, the more overall engagement I got!

Because what happens when you post, Instagram only shows your post to a small percentage of your total following. If that group of people starts engaging with your post, then your post will go to the next tier group of your followers – and so on and so forth. So the better the post does, the more it goes to your followers. But if you have all these fake accounts or giveaway, spam, or bot accounts on your page and heaven forbid your post gets pushed to their feed, guess what? Your post won’t do as well because they won’t engage with your content and then your post won’t get pushed to the next tier level of followers. So circling back on that post that did really well for me but I lost 50 followers, my post probably got pushed farther then it has in a really long time to some of my followers who hadn’t seen me in a while, thus resulting in a massive flux to my page of people to unfollow me. But hey, no skin off my nose because they did me a favor my leaving!

What I am getting at here is that you do want to lose followers if it will help you get closer to your target audience. For me, I did a rebranding about a year and a half ago and changed my Instagram handle as well as the content I provided. I can’t expect that all of my followers got the news alerts when I was talking about it before I made the change. So it can then be expected that by the time my content actually turns up on their page, they might want to unfollow because the content I provide now is not what the originally signed up for anymore and that’s ok!

Close up of me in front of a colorful and floral "Happy Valentine's Day" mural in Escondido, San Diego County.
My followers have loved seeing how I am finding new spots around me to create engaging content.

I used to do those huge loop giveaways and granted I gained a lot of followers but it severely hurt my engagement because what I found was that my content was then being pushed to those dead-weight followers who were literally only following me out of obligation to get something for free. Those are not the type of people you want on your page – you want fans, not fakes! So I made the very tough decision to actually delete about 10,000 followers from my page as a way to help get my content back onto the feeds of people who actually wanted to follow me. Since then, it has been a steady decrease of about 0.3% in followers per week. That’s about 5 a day, which is much better than the 60 followers I was losing a day when I first made my brand switch!

But since that hard decision, my content has THRIVED! My content is being pushed back on to the page’s of people who actually want to see my content, and let me tell you, they are loving it. So don’t be afraid to drop the dead-weight in followers, and don’t be scared that you are losing followers even when you are putting good content out. It is all for the better that you get closer to your target audience and that you cater to their needs and not to the needs of people who don’t like your content and wouldn’t have engaged with your page anyway. They did you a favor by unfollowing – trust me!

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Instagram Posts: Doing More With Less

Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram post and thought to yourself “I wonder how much money they spent to make this post?” I find myself thinking this a lot lately as I see so many people have new merchandise, insane decorations, brand new shopping bags, or go to these crazy beautiful locations on a vacation. I follow a number of people who always seem to have that newest thing or that best location on their page and I wonder what they are working on outside of Instagram to make it happen.

Then there’s lil ol’ me.

I don’t really have the newest things, I tend to be an outfit repeater, I don’t go on many vacations, and I feel as if I might be doing my page a disservice because I can’t offer those cool experiences and things to my followers. It just so happens that I can’t pay for all of that to bring my posts to the next level! I have so many things in my life that I want to do like buy a house and have a nice wedding, so if that means I can’t spend $40 to make one single photoshoot look really cool for that one day, then it’s because my priorities lie elsewhere!

I was able to edit a picture I took at a hotel in the summer to look like the Disneyland Paris castle is outside my window. I also edited in a Christmas tree, Santa Mickey Mouse Plush, a red bow on a light above me, and Christmas presents on the bed
Christmas at Disneyland Paris
– edited with Lightroom, Photoshop, and PicsArt

For example, during the Christmas season, I would have loved to buy all the cute seasonal merch and get a nice tree to decorate, but damn, trees cost a grip! Seasonal merch costs a grip! And I am just not the type of person to want to spend that money on things that won’t be relevant anymore after a month has gone by. Which is why I am finding that it is so much cheaper for me to just edit my posts to look like I had all of those really nice things! Take my Disneyland Paris inspired post for example. This was a picture I took back in summer at a hotel in San Diego where there was literally nothing else to the picture except me looking out a window with my book. But I was inspired by someone else’s post to turn into a Christmas wonderland. This edit got me more eyes to my page than any of my other Christmas posts that year!

There is no doubt in my mind that there is an attractive element to “new”, and I can’t blame my followers for seeking that out in other creator’s content. So I wanted to get savvy with how I offer that with my posts. How can I make it seem like I have these things without actually have them?

Well the biggest tool in my belt – a subscription to Adobe.

Um… didn’t you JUST say that you can’t pay for things to make a nice post??

Yes. I can’t pay for things for ONE single post. That’s literally the biggest waste of money for any content creating that I do. Can you imagine the bill behind spending $20-40 for every possible post to put props, merchandise, or decorations in it? Even some awesome and trending Disney merch can get to be upwards of $75 per item! (I’m looking at you, Spirit Jerseys…) Instead I pay for one subscription to Adobe to get ALL of their apps for a total of $53 a month to give my posts that extra razzle dazzle that my followers and I crave! I use Lightroom to edit the photos to the lighting and color that I want; I use Photoshop to add in cool things to my photos that I either don’t own or just to give my photos a fun edit; I use Illustrator to make any graphics that I want to put on to my pictures; and lastly I use Premiere Pro to make amazing videos that my followers love! I’m sure this goes without saying that I can’t just edit myself a new Spirit Jersey, but these apps do me enough good for background décor or general aesthetic that I can still get the same effect of “new” that I know people love to see online.

My birthday post is a safari theme! I am dressed in a giraffe onesie with blue balloons scattered around my feet. I was then able to edit in yellow and black birthday balloons and two large leopard print balloons to display my age - 27! I also edited in green vines behind me to cover my garage door.
27th Birthday post
– edited with Lightroom and PicsArt

For me posting around 15 posts a month, even if I just use one of those apps on every picture (which is guaranteed to happen because every picture I take goes through Lightroom at least), that means each post really only costs me around $3.50. But obviously if I use multiple apps for one picture, like I did for any one of my Tron Disney Bounds where I use both Lightroom and Photoshop, then that costs goes down.

This is not to say that I put “edited” things in my pictures every single time, but for a post like my birthday post where I want a lot of decorations, then yea it calls for some editing magic! And I sure as heck am not about to spend $30 on décor and balloons for a one-time picture.

To celebrate the premiere of Onward, I took my Jeep to the top of a hill, used a large stick to act as my wand, and mimicked the Onward movie poster. I edited a unicorn on to the side of my car, two crescent moons in the sky that is filled with beautiful stars, and a magical light at the end of my "wand".
Onward Disney Bound
– edited with Lightroom, Illustrator, and PicsArt

Now if you are just starting out then let me give you an even bigger tip – you don’t even need a subscription to get started on adding some flare to your photos! You might even be shocked to learn that my birthday picture was edited in Lightroom for the lighting and color, but then after that I used a free app called PicsArt to add everything else in. No subscription required! And one of the first pictures I ever tried to edit into something insanely fun was my Onward Disney Bound where I used Lightroom, Illustrator to add the moons and unicorn, and lastly PicsArt to add the sky effect and the glow on the end of my wizard’s wand!

Since I have started making fun edits, even if it’s just to add a small accent of sparkle to my posts, I have seen an increase in my engagement and post-likes! I even love showing my followers a behind the scenes look for my before-and-afters of my work because it allows them to see just how crazy some of the things I create are! It also allows them to see just how easy it is for anyone to expand their imaginative powers and use these creative tools to make a post go from “Oh cool post” to “Oh wow did you see what Donna posted today?! INSANE!”

If you want to take your post game to the next level, I definitely suggest making sure that you have the proper tools to edit your photos. Instagram’s algorithm rewards hard work by showcasing your posts to more people, and further more, the more time your followers spend on your posts specifically, the more engagement you will see!

A Cars Land and Radiator Springs inspired edit. I am sitting on newly paved asphalt and in the distance down the road is Radiator Springs as pictured in the Disney PIxar movie, Cars, in golden hour light.
Radiator Springs
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
A simple Disney Bound and edit where me and my boyfriend, Cody, are holding a Wall-E Christmas stocking. I am wearing mostly white, and he is wearing a yellow shirt so that we look like Eve and Wall-E. I edited the green leaf from the movie onto my shirt and edited "Wall-E" onto his shirt.
Wall-E Joll-E Christmas
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
My favorite Tron Legacy edit! I am wearing a form fitted black two-piece workout set that has white contrast stitching all over it. Behind me I edited in a background from Tron Legacy.
Tron Legacy
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
Using the trees around my house to my advantage, I took a picture standing next to one of my trees while wearing a Fall/Halloween inspired outfit. Jack Skellington's face is on my long sleeve. On the tree, I edited the pumpkin door that leads to Halloween Town from the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. Creeping around the tree is Zero the Ghost Dog.
Nightmare Before Christmas
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop

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