When I first moved to Arizona, it was really hard finding photography locations for engagement sessions and bridal shoots. I felt like I was drowning in desert. I’ve spent so much time driving to almost every corner of this state, and I’m learning to not only find beauty in the desert, but also that there is so much more than dusty terrain and cacti in Arizona! It’s taken work, sweat, and getting lost quite a few times to put this list together, and I can’t wait to keep adding to it! I haven’t shot in all of these locations yet, so I would love to check some of them off the list!
Take a quick look at my work and you’ll probably be able to tell that I really love an epic backdrop. That being said, I’m a firm believer in the beauty of being able to drive right up to a viewpoint or exploring a short, very walkable trail. I’m not the type of person that ventures very far into nature, and I won’t be the photographer to take you on a 6 mile hike to a mountain top. So a lot of these options are fairly centrally located, and some of these options may require a short road trip or a minimal amount of physical activity, but I promise you’ll get an incredible view.
East Valley Photography Locations
Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, San Tan
Usery Mountain - Mesa
When my couples ask for that classic desert look, this is my go to. This is one of the few places I’ve found in the whole valley that has those large saguaros that are actually abundant and accessible in a natural setting. That mountain backdrop isn’t bad either!
This location is amazing for sunrise sessions. It’s easy to get to, and the sun coming up behind the mountain creates golden magic.
Coon Bluff and Phon D Sutton - Mesa
I have yet to shoot around the Coon Bluff campgrounds, but it is a rare piece of greenery in the desert. We’ll have a backdrop of trees and the Salt River here!
Saguaro Lake / Salt River - Mesa
The perfect location if you want a mountain backdrop and a water feature! This is also perfect for a summertime session as we can get in the water and cool down while getting some unique shots!
Downtown Gilbert (all one block of it) has the perfect small town vibe. There’s lots of variety of architecture and colorful walls. If you live in Gilbert, it’s a great way to incorporate the best part of your town in your shoot!
Riparian Preserve - Gilbert
This will give you a ton of variety in just one park. There is a patch of towering saguaros, a lake, and lots of tree lined paths and greenery. It is super easy to access, which also makes it pretty popular. See full session at this location here.
Tumbleweed Ranch Park - Chandler
If you want a real rustic look and love Chip and Joanna Gaines, this might be the location for you. This park has some lovely groves of trees and simple country-style barns and homes – complete with white picket fences.
San Tan Mountains
A golden desert-scape surrounded by the San Tan Mountains. This option is a little further south but is still an easy to access photography location for Arizona’s East Valley.
Phoenix, Arizona Photography Locations
Papago Park is right on the edge of Phoenix and Tempe, so it is still really centrally located and easy to access from Phoenix or the East Valley. Home to the “Hole in the Rock”, a desert landscape, and a gorgeous red rock backdrop, it is very popular, but it is also an enormous area so there is plenty of room to work around other people.
South Mountain is really the best and most accessible option for a desert landscape within Phoenix. There are a couple different photography locations to choose from in the South Mountain area, but you can expect a golden Arizona desert landscape with the surrounding mountains as a backdrop.
South Mountain is also home to some modern ruins, which are perfect for a more edgy session or moody style shoot.
The Saguaro in Old Town Scottsdale
The Saguaro hotel is an iconic and colorful building that can bring some unique pops of color into your shoot! It would be the perfect location for a session with a 1970’s-vintage-California vibe, or also if you want a fun, modern, sleek feel for your session.
Quick Road Trips
Less than 2 hours from Phoenix, travel fee may apply to some locations below this point
White Tank Mountains
This one is at the top of my list for anyone willing to take the 45 minute drive out of Phoenix for this location! This very walkable and short trail has sweeping desert mountain views. If we go after it rains, there is also a waterfall that may potentially be running over these dramatic rocks!
A gorgeous desert-scape right up against the towering red-rock Superstition Mountains. If you’re in the East Valley, this will be a very short road trip for you.
The name pretty much says it all – a golden Sonoran desert landscape in a canyon, surrounded by mountains with wide views of the Tonto National Forest. If you’re up for the 1.5 mile moderately difficult hike each way, Gold Canyon is also home to the “wave cave“.
Tonto National Forest
The Tonto National Forest is a nature-lover’s paradise on it’s own, but it also has possibly the largest natural travertine bridge in the whole world. It’s definitely worth exploring!
Payson is perfect if you’re looking for less desert and more green. We’ll be able to get woodland fairytale shots in the forest AND the epic clifftop view at the Mogollon Rim. Bonus – you can drive right up to it, very little to no walking is required for this epic view. See more of this session here.
If you love blues and greens and interesting rock formations, we will probably be best friends. We should also go to Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona for your photo session. Take a look at it here.
North Arizona Photography Locations
Sedona, Flagstaff, Page, and more
Flat travel fee of $200.00
Sedona almost made it into the quick road trip section. It’s not a long drive and it honestly needs no explanation.
Petrified Forest National Park
Also known as the “Painted Desert”, these pastel badlands are vast and would make a completely unique backdrop for a photo session.
Canyon de Chelly
This remote landmark isn’t very well known but it is full of geological wonders. You’ll get towering cliffs and red rock formations as your backdrop.
Flagstaff is a fun day trip on its own. The drive there is gorgeous and it has the best small town feel. For a photography location, you can expect a pine tree forest and snowy mountain backgrounds for most of the year.
Literally within minutes of each other, Page has lots of locations that are worthy of exploration and full sessions on their own. We can also do a “sampler session” that includes short stops at different viewpoints for all these locations.
To really experience Lake Powell in its full beauty, I recommend that we rent a boat and make an afternoon of it. The most beautiful sections are hidden around corners and within the many channels. For just a quick stop, we’ll do the viewpoint option.
This insta-famous location is CROWDED but breathtaking. Once you walk down to the viewpoint, you can easily walk farther to the side of the crowds for this non-tourist-filled backdrop.
Another easy to access viewpoint is the dam overlook, and this entire recreation area has tons of landscape, trails, and overlooks to explore.
Let’s talk a little bit about Antelope Canyon. I would LOVE love love to shoot here one day, but the couple who picks this location has to be committed and invested. Instagram has made these slot canyons famous, and for a reason – they’re stunning and like nothing else out there. But because of this, they are insanely crowded and the rules using it as a photography location have gotten a lot stricter.
Because the canyons are entirely on reservation land, you are required to have a Navajo certified guide to even access these canyons. Most tour companies will also have rules about using the tour for commercial photography, like an engagement or elopement photoshoot. Many of them require that you book a completely private tour to use it for this purpose. Here are a couple of tour companies so that you can get an idea of their pricing and rules: https://horseshoebendtours.com/slot-canyon-tour or https://www.antelopecanyon-x.com/tour-info.html
North or South rim, you choose. I’ll find the perfect viewpoint of this national treasure and world famous monument. You can’t go wrong with this.
Tucson Photography Locations
South Arizona Photography Locations
Flat travel fee of $150.00
Saguaro National Park
The total opposite of a Sonoran desert backdrop, Mount Lemmon is a ski valley with sweeping views of green mountains. This will require some real hiking, but will be so worth the climb.