It’s been a dream of mine to shoot in the desert for years, and I’ve finally gotten a few (epic) photo shoots under my belt! My boyfriend Alex lives on a ranch in Arizona. Each time I go out to visit I schedule a photo shoot, and this time Alex’s childhood friend Wyatt and his girlfriend Sophia hopped in front of my lens. We had a blast exploring Usery Mountain Regional Park near Mesa, Arizona. It was my first time shooting Arizona couple photos, and I picked up some (very) helpful desert tips!
Keep reading to find out how to plan your own badass desert photos – and also why you should never just sit down randomly in the desert!
This was Wyatt + Sophia’s first time getting photos taken together – and to say they killed it is an understatement! Their energy is infectious and they’re so super sweet together. We had a blast running around the desert despite the high temps! (We worked up so much of an appetite that we went to a fancy restaurant for a double date afterward!).
Although I’m now a HUGE fan of the desert, it’s no joke traipsing around cacti and desert wildlife! I backed into a few prickly plants (and also got cactus needles in my boots somehow). Having your bearings and being aware of your surroundings at all times is muy importante. Because I learned so much about the desert over the past few months, I wanted to give y’all some tips and tricks.
Usery Mountain Regional Park is gorgeous and has some of the most amazing desert hikes.
But check out my desert survival tips before you go exploring (and possibly bumping into some prickly plants)!
How to Have the Best Desert Experience
1) Avoid the hottest time of day
Aim for either an hour before sunrise, or an hour and a half before sunset. If you wander into the desert midday, it’s going to be incredibly hot, with little to no shade.
2) Drink a ton of water – and pack extra
I always bring extra water bottles when I go on shoots, but it’s important to drink plenty of water before as well. Make sure you hydrate super well the day before your shoot, and bring a large reusable water bottle with you!
3) Check the weather
Duh, it’s a desert – it’s hot. But depending on the area you’re in, you can get caught in crazy torrential rain or lightning storms if it’s during monsoon season. Always, always check the weather first to make sure heat is the only thing you’ll have to deal with.
4) Layer up your clothing and bring an extra outfit – or two
Layers in the desert are best. You can keep it minimal when it’s hot, and then slowly layer up if it starts getting cold as the sun goes down. Bring an extra outfit or two for your shoot in case you get dusty, sweaty, or dirty.
5) Let someone know where you’ll be
Yes, you’ll be with your boo and your photographer (me!). But that doesn’t help any of us if there’s an emergency and none of us have cell service. There are tons of dead zones depending what area you’re in, so let someone know:
- where you’re going to be
- what time they should expect you back
6) Bring a homemade Desert Supply Kit
If you’re well prepared, the desert is a total blast! Here are a few things to bring in a backpack on your next desert excursion:
- Sunscreen (the higher the SPF, the better!)
- Lip balm with SPF
- Extra water bottles
- Cliff Bars or Energy gels
- Sunglasses + Hat
- Tweezers (just in case you bump into a stray cacti or two!)
- First Aid Kit
7) Don’t sit down randomly in the desert
This may be the most important tip of all. I wish I could say that I hadn’t learned from experience, but… *sigh*. DO NOT sit down anywhere in the desert. Even if you can’t see them, there are cacti and spurs all over the place. As tempting as it may be to just pop a squat if you’re feeling tired, take your time to find a smooth, rocky surface to sit down on. You’re welcome. (Also, see above about packing tweezers in your supply kit).
If you’re thinking of planning your own desert couple photos, Arizona is a great place to explore!
I’m in the process of fixing up my new trailer, and will be booking more Arizona + California sessions and elopements as I road trip across the country!
If you want to go exploring and get some epic photos in the process, then CONTACT ME so we can make some magic together!