Oceanside, CA Photography Spotlight with Christa Paustenbaugh Photography

Location Guides

Hey milspouse photographer! If you’re headed to Camp Pendleton or Miramar, you’ll want to check out this location guide! Christa Paustenbaugh Photography ran her business in the San Diego area and is sharing her experience in this Oceanside, CA Photography Spotlight. If you appreciate her insight here, be sure to check out her Cheyenne, WY location guide as well!

What are your top three favorite locations for sessions? Briefly share about each.

Terramar Beach (Carlsbad)

In my opinion this is the best beach closest to the south side of Camp Pendleton. It’s small and somewhat hidden which means the tourists visiting the area don’t know it exists, however it can get quite crowded with local surfers and sunset gazers. I love shooting here because the cliffs are so beautiful and provides a stunning backdrop for any type of photo session. At a really low tide it also has some amazing tide pools that are a great spot for shooting as well.

Mother and child walking along Terramar Beach in Christa Paustenbaugh Photography's Oceanside, CA Photography Spotlight
Terramar Beach, Christa Paustenbaugh Photography

Lake Hodges (Escondido)

This location is nearly equidistant from Camp Pendleton and Miramar. When someone does not request the beach it’s my first suggestion for an inland spot with gorgeous views and a mountain backdrop. It’s a short walk from the parking area and a kid paradise with trails to run and rocks to climb!

Family standing on rocks at Lake Hodges in Christa Paustenbaugh Photography's Oceanside, CA Photography Spotlight
Lake Hodges, Christa Paustenbaugh Photography

Sunset Cliffs (San Diego)

This beach area is quintessential coastal California with it’s sweeping cliffs and stunning views. At a really low tide you can take the stairs down to the beach area to use the beach and tide pools for gorgeous photos and a cliff backdrop. At less than ideal tides staying at the top is just as beautiful. I caution families with little ones about this spot as there is no barrier between the cliffs and water/beach below.

Woman in a gorgeous blue dress standing at Sunset Cliffs in Christa Paustenbaugh Photography's Oceanside, CA Photography Spotlight
Sunset Cliffs, Christa Paustenbaugh Photography

Are there any particularly busy seasons for photographers in this area? Any events an incoming photographer should know about?

Summer and fall are by far the busiest seasons for photographers with tourists and warmest weather. However, Southern California is glorious to shoot in all year. May and June are a photographer’s least favorite as it’s the coolest and often has a fog layer most days. Summer traffic up and down the coast can get VERY busy and photographers should always plan accordingly.

What should an incoming photographer know about permits in this area?

No permits needed to open, public spaces, however a city business license is required to have a legally established business.

What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give to an incoming photographer?

This area is EXTREMELY SATURATED, but don’t let that intimidate you from establishing your business at this duty station. It is a huge area with opportunities for all photographers. Tourists also bring a large amount of photography business to the area. I found it to be a friendly photographer area and a great camaraderie among military and civilian photographers alike!

Any other local expertise you’d like to share?

If you have never shot at the beach on the west coast take some time to practice and learn the lighting there. It definitely takes time to grasp beach sessions! Along with learning to edit out ALL.THE.PEOPLE!!

Where can other milspouse photographers connect with you?


Are you a milspouse photographer interested in contributing? I’d love to have your insight! Please send me an email at and I’ll be in touch with the details!

If you enjoyed this Oceanside, CA photography spotlight, be sure to check out other featured location guides and tips for moving your business!


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more about me

I've been navigating military life with my family since 2008. In that time, I went from a full-time classroom teacher to an online course designer to a photographer. Actually, I still teach a little math on the side because I just love it too much!

Through it all, I've discovered how passionate I am about connecting with military families. Whether it's taking photos at a retirement ceremony, coaching a fellow milspouse photographer, or just grabbing coffee with a new squadron friend, I love this community. And as a teacher at heart, I'm excited to use this space to share what I've learned about business and life with you.


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