Unless you’ve driven through Big Sur on PCH or spent the day at Disney’s California Adventure before the selfie-stick moratorium took effect, you’d be hard-pressed to find as many fervent selfie-takers as you can on the streets of L.A. If you drive past California Donuts in Koreatown, right as the smell of fried sugar seeps into your car, you can see tourists holding Lucky Charm–covered doughnuts exactly seven inches from their waists in order to frame the treat perfectly over their polished toenails.
While I have to admit that I’ve likely selfied at each of these L.A. hot spots, I started to appreciate them more when I turned my phone camera around and started snapping pictures of the hoards of people outside Paul Smith on Melrose. So next time you visit one of these places, instead of holding up an iced latte and snapping a pic where the aspirational beverage is in focus and the palm trees provide a subtle background haze, put your phone away and absorb some of the most hilarious free culture L.A. has to offer: the Instagrammer.
1. Urban Light at LACMA
The flood of people who center themselves in the middle of the 202 vintage street lamps that make up Urban Light, tilting their heads back at an uncomfortable 90-degree angle to get that coveted snap, should really consider saving themselves the neck ache. While the installation is stunning and is always worth a visit, Instagram has filtered that same picture enough times at this point. I’ve been told by visiting friends that they didn’t even realize LACMA was a museum and instead thought the light installation was part of a movie set, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
2. Alfred Coffee
Alfred is probably best known for its “But First, Coffee” slogan, which appears on Instagram several thousand times during peak Monday morning social media hours. While Alfred recently opened up a new shop in Silver Lake, the WeHo home base is where you’ll catch the crowds of snap-happy ’grammers. You can sit on the patio, sip cold brew and watch as the the inhabitant of the table next to you instructs his friend on how to capture the best angles while still getting the adorable coffee sleeve in the picture.
3. The Beverly Hills Hotel sign
In my heart of hearts, I desperately want to believe that people gravitate to this landmark not because Brad and Angelina could walk out of the hotel at any given moment but because of their affinity for the movie Troop Beverly Hills. While the photographing mob around the Beverly Hills sign on North Santa Monica Boulevard is organized chaos, the six-way stop around the iconic Beverly Hills hotel is pretty much an orgy of traffic, angry drivers, tourists and selfie sticks. Witnessing a cluster of people posing with the sign (which isn't remotely shielded from the treacherous Sunset Boulevard traffic) is a true L.A. spectacle.
4. The Paul Smith wall
If you search #pinkwall, Instagram instantly pulls up 14,652 pictures, about 14,650 of which are of the Paul Smith wall, and two posted by people who are painting their first child’s nursery. The trend of taking pictures in front of walls is honestly a cool way to celebrate free art on the streets of L.A., but we need to stop limiting our wall search to the ones attached to high-priced clothing stores and broaden our horizons to any mural from Echo Park to Venice Beach.
5. The view underneath Manhattan Beach Pier
The last time I was under the Manhattan Beach Pier, there was a legitimate photo shoot going on. And I don’t mean an Instagram photo shoot, I mean a child’s portrait photo shoot; the original Instagram, if you will. A mother was directing the photographer who, I hope, was being compensated handsomely by the hour. The true gem of this scene was the 6-year-old boy whose outfit included a nautical shirt and a matching sailor hat. As it turns out, this spot was played out before Instagram even hit the photo-sharing scene. Nonetheless, alongside the mom were about 15 people artistically framing pictures of the waves crashing into the wooden posts holding up the partially submerged structure.
6. Bottega Louie
The true L.A. heroes are the servers at this downtown eatery, because I will never understand how they flawlessly navigate through the 100 people photographing the macaron displays. Most boxes of Bottega Louie macarons, much like anything from Ladurée in Paris, wind up in a whimsical Tuesday Instagram post with the classic “Treat Yo’Self” caption. In most of these miraculously brightly lit pictures, the only visible finger is a polished thumb, which leads me to believe that the more cost-effective solution would be to simply paint your thumb rather than spending $15 on a manicure.
7. The airport In-N-Out Burger
The perfect In-N-Out Instagram includes five crucial components: an untampered-with black-and-white shake, an animal-style Double-Double, animal fries, extra packets of spread and an In-N-Out tray. The amount of people food-styling the hell out of their food at the In-N-Out next to LAX is obscene. If you’re craving In-N-Out that far west, skip the branch by the airport and go to the one in Marina del Rey on Washington Boulevard off Lincoln Boulevard.
8. The Made in L.A. wall on Melrose
The Made in L.A. wall is attached to Cisco Home, a furniture store on Melrose Avenue. The wall showed up on the Instagram scene in 2013 and has been a sought-after destination ever since. This Instagram shot is more labor-intensive than you might think, because a nearby pole casts a shadow often tainting the “L” and “A” block letters. As you walk by Cisco Home, it’s impossible not to notice several Instagrammers crouching at various angles to try to capture the wall sans shadow.
9. The view of the Hollywood sign from Beachwood Drive
To pedestrians on the strip of road by Beachwood Cafe, the idea that a car might choose to use the road for its intended purpose, rather than as an outdoor photography studio, is ludicrous. The way Instagrammers react to a car driving down Beachwood is roughly the same as the way a colony of ants responds when they see a size-12 shoe bearing down on them.
10. Echo Park Lake
When did Echo Park Lake become the only aesthetically pleasing body of water in L.A.? The #fitspo paparazzi have taken over Echo Park Lake, as has anyone trying to take an #LAlifestyle shot or collect images for their new L.A.-centric modeling portfolio. If you search the hashtag on Instagram, you are guaranteed to find several retouched images of people doing yoga poses next to the lake with palm trees, cute houses or downtown views dusting the background — depending on which angle the picture was taken from.