How to Plan A Desert Wedding Photoshoot

The desert is a special place to either have a wedding or to do your memorable bridal portrait photo shoot at. If you are looking to get photos done before your actual ceremony day, then I would definitely consider having a photoshoot in a desert location if the scenery is your vibe. People actually do travel from all over the world just to get a taste of the Arizona desert and you cannot go wrong with these views.

Not only are the views just grandeur around you in the desert, but the weather is perfect. The heat is dry so you don’t have to worry about the humidity and the sun shines 300 days of the year. Arizona also has the most beautiful sunsets ever and this is coming from a girl who has traveled half the country already, so as subjective as this is, I know this.

Blogger Gabrielle Sales as a bride in White Tank Mountain Regional Park

These gorgeous pictures were captured by my friend Kaitlyn of Belle Botanical and Creations, a local Arizonan florist who I also worked with on the spooky styled photoshoot, as I modeled her embroidered bridal veils at the White Tank Mountains.

Although I am not getting married anytime soon (I’m single as a mothertrucker!), I just love helping out my readers (mainly the 25-34-year-olds as the biggest age group) who are looking to get more information on exploring the desert and those considering it for their own planned weddings to come. Check out my post about Wedding Bouquet Ideas and Elopement Ideas too!

Pros of doing bridal portraits before the actual wedding ceremony

Why should you choose to do a bridal photo shoot before your actual wedding day? Think of it like the dry-run for the big day. It reduces stress because for those who have already been through photoshoots, it can be tedious to keep posing and it can be time-consuming. You may also want to see how your wedding dress looks before too and how you plan to be styled the day of. 

You may also want to start developing some photos to start printing for yourself if your intention of having photos done is to display them in your house or in an album. You may also decide that your wedding ceremony won’t have the views you’d want to display in your photos. Many opt to go for nature sceneries for their photoshoot locations only and then have their venue somewhere else that looks more formal.

I have provided some tips on how to prepare and plan for your own desert wedding photoshoot! It’s an exciting choice to choose a desert backdrop for those bridal portraits.

1. Look around for a professional photographer to hire.

There are so many photographers around the country, and I know there were even more when I came to Arizona! Lots of people are striving to be people portrait photographers (including myself as a side gig!) and it can almost be overwhelming to see which one to choose.

I personally would look up “Arizona photographer” on Instagram and see who pops up then look at their work and then I would note them down as an option if you end up loving their style of work, as many photographers have different styles of photos from their angles to how they edit. I would then narrow down your options when you figure out the logistics of how much they’ll cost and what comes with the package of working with them.

2. Pick out your dress ahead and your props.

You want to make sure you’ve already said “yes to the dress” so that you know exactly what to wear for your bridal photoshoot. It would be kind of crazy to choose a dress that you will not end up wearing for your big day. You could also choose your props of a floral bouquet and a bridal veil (like the one I’m modeling here) and then use these for your photoshoot.

3. Plan to do hair and makeup trials along with your bridal photoshoot. Have your seamstress there too.

Blogger Gabrielle Sales as a bride in White Tank Mountain Regional Park

So alongside finding a professional photographer, you can also choose to look for a makeup artist that especially specializes in bridal makeup and a hairstylist too. If you’re confident in how you want your makeup/hair done by yourself, then that’s great too!

Having your makeup artist and hairstylist there on the day of your bridal shoot would be smart to help them practice what kind of look you’ll want to have before your wedding. You can then decide if you want to add more to your makeup or change your hair when they do their trials or after your photoshoot.

Another person you could also have there is your seamstress if you want to make sure your dress is well fitted or if there are any adjustments you’d want to be done before your wedding. So yes, it’s basically having a whole team with you on the day of and that really is one way to make your special day REALLY special.

4. Pick out less busy trails and see if there are any fees. Also, see about any photography permits needed ahead.

There are so many trails that will have that beautiful desert landscape but you should really choose a less busy one. It will make it stress-free without people having a chance to interrupt. I have listed out lots of Arizona trails from my previous blog posts to give you ideas and I would recommend choosing trails that aren’t so elevated to hike to — it will be so much easier if you can find less rocky and less elevated trails. In these photos, Kaitlyn and I went to the Black Rock Loop Trail (longer loop) at the White Tanks Mountains because it is flat and just a quick walk around. It also already has some towering mountains all around.

Some trails require admission fees to enter, so be aware of that ahead. You should also look more into seeing if any certain parks permit fees for photographers, sometimes there is and sometimes there are reservations you should make ahead. The more popular places for photographers usually do this.

5. Plan out the mood you want and the time of day to go.

Are you feeling more of a cloudy overcast day like my photos have here? Do you want a sunnier day with more bright natural light? Or do you want to hit golden hour where the sunset is setting perfectly? Or do you want it more towards nighttime? You want to plan ahead for the day with the best weather conditions for your ideal “mood” and see the best time to hit some of those sweet spots. For example, the sunset is a lot earlier during fall time and then on summer days, the sunset is during later times.

Also, see if your photographer could edit your photos with a certain filter if you want ahead by showing them inspirational photos (so they know how to edit them) as well as specific angles you’re looking to have done.

6. Plan to bring sneakers or hiking shoes and an extra pair of clothes. Also, hydrate!

If you’re going on a short hike to a trail out in the desert, you definitely need to wear outdoor sneakers or hiking shoes and NOT your heels (save it for when you stop for photos). You may also want to be more comfortable by wearing regular clothes while getting to the photography spot and then change into your dress when you’re there. Coordinate with your makeup artist if you’d like to get your makeup done once you arrive there or before you start walking over to the photography location — whichever is easier for you and them.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, not just for you but for the whole team! The desert heat can be very drying and dangerous (I would be smart too about the temperatures and avoid going out anywhere 88 degrees and above). Stay hydrated before your photoshoot, during, and after.

7. Use a posing app OR choose inspiration photos to help with poses.

A photographer may already assist you with some poses but if you really want to model your poses after some inspirational pictures, then save these pics ahead and then show them to your photographer. You could also use a phone app designated with poses to help you out too.

8. Use surrounding cacti as good subjects in the pics.

Honestly, the cacti are some of the best plants on Earth and Arizona’s Saguaro Cactus is only found in our state as it only grows in the Sonoran Desert. Taking photos around them gives it the ultimate desert shots (just not too close so you don’t get pricked!). Work with using the cacti as subjects or as the background.

9. Focus on trying different sections of the trail.

Move around to different parts of the trail instead of staying at one spot! You’ll get a variety of different shots and you may end up liking one spot over others.


Hope you found these tips helpful for your own future desert wedding photoshoot! I hope everything goes smoothly on your photoshoot day AND your wedding.


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