A joyous family moment with a laughing couple and their baby girl in front of a textured garden wall, surrounded by desert plants at the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona

Your Guide to Having a Desert Botanical Garden Photoshoot in Arizona

March 8, 2024

A Desert Botanical Garden photoshoot is really unlike any other here in this area of Arizona. If you’re interested in having one of your own, this is your guide!

As a photographer here in Arizona, I have a few favorite spots tucked away in my bucket, but this botanical garden is undoubtedly at the top of the list. Whether you’re a local or visiting from out-of-town, the Desert Botanical Garden offers a stunning backdrop for many types of photo sessions… but more on that later!

Keep reading to learn all about having a Desert Botanical Garden photoshoot.

About the Desert Botanical Garden

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden is a beautiful oasis covering 140 acres. It was established back in 1939 and is truly one of those beautiful outdoor getaways in this area of Arizona. Even though it’s one of the more popular places to visit in Phoenix, it’s usually easy to find a space just to ourselves for a photoshoot.

Throughout the entire Desert Botanical Garden, there are more than 50,000 different plants through a variety of exhibits, making for some truly one-of-a-kind backgrounds for photo sessions.

There is a small fee per person to enter the garden, and because that price may change, your best way of knowing the current rate is to check their website. As a member, I can get one person in with my admission.

The garden has clean bathrooms so that you’re able to show up and change outfits throughout a session here if needed. Most sessions here include quite a bit of walking and take anywhere from one to one and a half hours. I really take my time with photo sessions here and move around to different spots.

Who a Desert Botanical Garden Photoshoot is a Great Fit For

As mentioned earlier, the Desert Botanical Garden is really one of my favorite places to photograph sessions, but especially for out-of-towners. Kids also love this location in particular (making it great for families!) because there are a lot of different plants and cacti to look at. Plus, it’s always fun walking around!

This location is great for senior sessions, couples sessions, and small family sessions. I’ve also done a few extended family photo sessions here from out of town.

Tips for a Photoshoot at the Desert Botanical Garden

Plan ahead

A family of three, with a man in a gray shirt, a woman in a black tank top, and a baby in a yellow dress, smiling in front of a cactus garden wall at the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona.

I know, I know, you’ve probably heard this tip before, but that’s because it’s a big one! Take the time to plan ahead. This beautiful location can get quite busy, especially during peak hours and seasons, making it essential that you plan your visit ahead of time.

Take the time to plan out who will be in attendance for the session and what your outfits will be (more on that later), and learn more about the garden’s layout if needed. Of course, hiring a photographer who knows the gardens well (like me) can also be a great option to make your session even easier.

Incorporate the scenery

To truly encapsulate the beauty of the Arizona desert here, incorporate the scenery into your session. This garden is home to a variety of different plants unique to the desert, which provides a backdrop that is both visually striking and representative of Arizona’s landscapes.

There are a few spots throughout the gardens that I love to go to regularly for backdrops, too, so of course, you’ll have a guide with you along the way.

Dress appropriately (it is the desert, after all!)

A family portrait with a man in a gray shirt, a woman in a black top, and their baby in the center, all smiling in front of a cactus backdrop at the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona

Wearing comfortable shoes and clothing that are suitable for the climate in the desert is a must. The garden spans 140 acres, and you will be spending a considerable amount of time on your feet exploring different parts of the gardens for your session. Comfortable shoes can make exploring a lot easier. Plus, if you’re uncomfortable, it does come through in photos!

Similarly, dressing appropriately for the desert is crucial. Arizona’s weather can be pretty hot during the day and cool rapidly in the evening, depending on the time of year. Wearing breathable, lightweight clothing can help keep you cooler in the heat while bringing layers can be the way to go if you’re photographing in the evenings as temperatures drop.

Plus, remember that you don’t want to blend in with your background. This can mean avoiding shades of green or brown when near the plants. Warm pops of color like pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows can be an easy way to not blend in with the views here.

Stay hydrated

This is another tip that may seem simple, but stay hydrated. It’s hot in the desert, and you might think you’re drinking enough water… but you’re probably not. The desert climate, especially during the summer months, can actually lead to quicker dehydration due to how dry it is here.

Having a water bottle at hand and taking regular sips of water throughout the day (and the days leading up to your Desert Botanical Garden photoshoot) can help you maintain your energy levels and avoid headaches. 

Respect the environment

No matter where your photoshoot is, you should respect the environment, especially in a landscape like the one here in the garden. Avoid touching or disturbing any of the plants, and remember that they’re not props.

Stay on the designated paths and follow the rules and guidelines that the location has. Not only does this help to protect the beauty of the garden, but also ensures that anyone who visits here in the future can also enjoy the same scenery.

Be candid

The best photos stem from moments when you are truly being yourself. Throughout your session, do your best to be comfortable in front of the camera (your photographer will help you with this!). Those unplanned and candid moments create some of the most engaging, unforgettable photographs.

Some easy ways to be candid include:

  • Doing an activity (like walking as a family, holding hands as a couple, etc.)
  • Laughing and telling jokes amongst each other
  • Interacting with your surroundings

The more candid you can be in your images, the better! Of course, your photographer will also help by giving you things to do during your session so you don’t feel as awkward.

Find pockets of quietness

A family of three walking hand-in-hand through the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona, with a toddler in a yellow dress leading the way amid a cactus-lined path.

Despite being heavily visited, you can normally find a bit of a more tranquil area away from crowding when having a Desert Botanical Garden photoshoot. In the quieter corners, you can get some beautiful photos without having a bunch of other people around you taking in the beauty of the plants.

Choose the time of day wisely

The time of day is a huge factor in having a successful session here. The desert environment has extreme temperature changes from day to night. To avoid the midday sun, consider having your session earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. These times of day not only offer more comfortable conditions but also provide softer, less harsh lighting.

The golden hour—just after sunrise or before sunset—is particularly beautiful because of the lighting. If you’re unsure of when the best time for your session is, just chat with your photographer!

Explore the garden!

Lastly, take the time to explore the garden here! This garden has so much to explore, and honestly, just walking around the area makes for great photos. It’s a good way to feel “distracted” in your photos, too, to remove the discomfort of being in front of a camera.

Are you ready for your own Desert Botanical Garden photo session?

Offering a multitude of unique plants, a Desert Botanical Garden photoshoot is such a great option whether you’re local or from out of town. Whether you’re planning a personal photoshoot or a professional one, the tips shared in this post will help you make the most of your session at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Are you still looking for a photographer? I would be delighted to bring my experience and passion to your specific session at the Desert Botanical Garden. Click here to get in touch.

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