Best Places to Take Senior Photos Outside in Arizona

As a high school and college senior portrait photographer for 12+ years, I know all of the best spots for photos! Below are some of my favorite places! 

It’s your senior year! I’m sure you are excited for your senior photos and want unique photos documenting who you are, how you’ve grown and what you’ve accomplished!

When do you take senior photos in arizona?

If your high school allows you to submit your own photos for the yearbook instead of contracting with a particular portrait studio where everyone has the same backdrop, most schools have deadlines for yearbook photos in September, meaning you’ll need to schedule your senior photos in spring or summer before the deadline!

If your school contracts with a specific portrait studio for yearbooks, but you’re wanting outdoor senior photos, I recommend taking your senior photos in fall of your senior year to get ahead of the spring rush. Spring is a crazy busy time for not only senior photos, but also weddings, so if you wait until spring, you might have trouble booking a session on a weekend. If you wait until March or April to book your high school senior photo session, you definitely will have less dates available and might not get photos back in time to order graduation announcements and any printed things like albums. A lot of seniors are afraid they will look different in fall vs spring, which I totally understand. If this is the case with you, I recommend booking in January or February when people are still in their holiday daze for more availability on dates.

high school senior with yellow palo verde flowers around her in Phoenix Arizona

Best Senior Photo Locations in Phoenix

As a high school and college senior portrait photographer for 9+ years, I know all of the best spots for photos! Below are some of my favorite places!

Desert & Mountain Locations


Salt River

The Salt River is the most popular, and in my opinion, best place for senior photos. It has a little bit of everything- the river, the mountains, desert, and some trees & greenery! It changes a little bit seasonally. The river level is controlled by a nearby dam, where the utility company SRP gets hydroelectric power. In the summer, the water level is higher, and in the winter, the water level drops, exposing the rocks and oftentimes some moss and water weeds.


South Mountain

Though this is a popular and crowded spot, if you want desert mountain views, this is a fantastic place! Some areas might require a little bit of hiking, but you can see views of downtown Phoenix in the distance. There are several places that you can drive to the top if you want an epic mountaintop view without the hike, but expect it to be crowded especially on weekends! There is also famous ruins called Scorpion Gulch which provide interesting backgrounds that contrast with the desert surrounding it.


Papago Park

If you want red rocks & desert landscapes without the drive to Sedona, Papago Park near the Phoenix Zoo is a great option! The red sandstone mountains look so interesting and sunset is a beautiful time to have your session there.


Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens, near the Phoenix Zoo and Papago Park, is a great place to go if you want a huge variety of types of scenery for your senior session. It does cost money to get in- around $20-$25/each person, unless your photographer has a membership pass (I do!). There are frequently art installations, of course lots of cacti and desert plants, wildflowers in the spring, and a veggie & herb garden for some pops of green.

Urban Areas

Downtown Mesa

Downtown Mesa is a great place for lots of color! It features some great murals, lots of modern architecture and concrete at the Mesa Arts Center, as well as a number of cute store fronts along Main Street and some old brick walls.


Downtown Gilbert

Downtown Gilbert is a super fun and rapidly growing downtown area with lots of options. It has some great murals, some green spaces, lots of industrial textures and walls, and a popular white alleyway with string lights and a vintage Coca Cola mural on a brick wall. There are great storefronts including the Hale Theater and areas along Gilbert Rd to shoot along with a old Main St vibe. It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat after your session!

Gilbert Riparian Preserve

The Riparian Preserve, right behind the Gilbert library, is a fantastic place with small manmade lakes, birds, green trees as well as a small area with cacti. It’s very family friendly (and popular with families!) so expect crowds, but there is plenty of space to head back into the back for your own areas.


Yes! If you want super unique photos, underwater sessions are the MOST unique “location”. I have been photographing seniors underwater for 9+ years and am one of the only photographers to my knowledge in Arizona to offer this. This is a great option if you want to wear a prom dress underwater, are a swimmer or dancer, or want to feature your hobbies like sports or music in a crazy different environment. Your friends will DEFINITELY talk about your underwater session!

In Your Home

I LOVE in home photos! Your house doesn’t have to be fancy, or a mansion to have your senior photos done there. We can take photos outside, inside, in your room, with your cats or dogs- there’s so much freedom in your home! It’s a fantastic place to capture the “normal life” stuff you love to do- painting, cooking, feature your book collection! And it won’t look like anyone else’s photos and will document your childhood home when you move away.

Contact me for arizona senior photos!

Looking for a senior photographer? Shoot me an email, I’d love to photograph your high school senior or college senior photos!
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Alyssa Campbell Arizona wedding photographer

Welcome! I’m an Arizona-based wedding & portrait photographer specializing in natural and documentary photos. My blog is where you can see my latest work as well as check out tips & the latest news. Following me on social media is another way to check out my recent work!