exploring mesa for family photo locations
When I first moved to Mesa I felt like location options for family pictures were so limited. I moved from a town in northern Utah nestled in a beautiful valley with what seemed like endless options for photographic beauty. The Phoenix area on the other end, feels like endless flat miles of buildings and homes. I was able to find a few popular locations for family photos to start out. I still use all of them in my work, but always try to capture locations differently than what has been done in the past. And of course I've also found some great new locations that I love to recommend to clients.
Over the past five years of photographing families in the Mesa area and exploring every chance I get, I've created a collection of both popular and less well known locations in the area. Below is a list of 5 go to locations for family photos near Mesa Arizona.
Location: Gilbert, near greenfield and warner
Features: grassy areas, trees, wate, amazing light
This is one of my go to locations for families in Gilbert for family photos for two reasons. One, it's beautiful during every season and perfect for pictures. There's a grassy little knoll surrounded by trees and a quaint little pond. The backlighting is gorgeous when the sun sets and reflects off the water, and it creates a lovely little setting that I get excited about every time a take a family there for pictures.
The second reason this location is perfect is because it's never crowded! Somehow the photography community hasn't discovered it yet... until my post goes viral. It's just a great place to bring the family any night of the week and hang out together while we play some games and capture some great pictures.
dessert arroyo park
LOCATION: northeast mesa near ellsworth and mckellips
FEATURES: dessert landscape, cacti, walking paths, playground
Dessert Arroyo Park is a 58 acre parcel of protected natural desert land in northeast Mesa. I did fall family mini sessions here a couple years ago because it provided the dessert look without the travel. Instead of driving the extra 20 minutes to a find a place in the dessert, this location neighboring Zarahis Elementary School is perfect because it's closer and far less crowded than the Riparian Preserve, where many families go for photos by the cacti.
The sunset at Dessert Arroyo brings out all the golden hues of the dessert and it's beautiful. I also love this location because it's fun for families to explore and there's a unique playground for kids.
phon d sutton
LOCATION: Bush Highway near the salt river
FEATURES: rocky areas, mountainous backgrounds, water, greenery, wild horses
Phon D Sutton is a recreational site at the lower salt rive just off Bush Highway. The variety at this location is what sets it apart! Facing east or west, depending on the time, you can capture the Four Peaks in the background over the water or the iconic red mountain to the west. There are so many cool rock structures, lots of beautiful foliage, and of course the water of the salt river winding through. I've also utilized the desert scape and cacti further up the road. It's a fun place to explore and families have a lot of fun shooting here, especially the kids!
mesa arts center
LOCATION: downtown mesa off center and main
FEATURES: some greenery, variety of interesting backgrounds, concrete, stairs, fun for kids to explore
Sometimes this location gets a bit of a bad rap because it was such a popular family photo spot for so many years. It seemed everyone had a family photo sitting on the stairs with the yellow blocks! But I love this location for it's variety and opportunity for creativity, and I definitley avoid that shot on the stairs with the yellow blocks.
Instead I love using the pathway with green trees, the concrete backgrounds, and capturing the amazing light and shadows that the buildings and structures create both in the evening and the morning. When approached creatively, the Mesa Arts Center is such a fun place for family photos.
LOCATION: apache junction, first water road
FEATURES: desert landscape for miles, cacti, mountains
If you want your family pictures to be in the desert, this is a perfect location. It's accessible, natural, and not too crowded. The area is full of cacti, and the superstition mountains create a beautiful and dramatic backdrop. This area is also very nice for sunrise shoots. The sun rises from the east over the mountains and creates amazing backlight, which just means the sun lights up the back of the subjects, which creates a natural and pleasing look instead of harsh shadows.
The same is true here around sunset. I love the golden and oranges tones that the sun creates in the desert, and the Superstition Mountain range is an amazing place to capture it.
gilbert heritage district
LOCATION: DOWNTOWN gilbert near gilbert rd and elliott
FEATURES: wall murals, structural variety, urban look, lots of variety
Gilbert city takes a lot of pride in their water tower and this downtown area of their city, and for good reason. It is a lot of fun! I love taking families here because of the variety and photo ops. There are several bright and fun wall murals scattered throughout the district, with stairs, foliage, brickwork, and all sorts of cool backdrops and little nooks in between.
Weekends and evenings are super crowded though, so I typically shoot here in the morning or early evening on weekdays to avoid the crowds. This is a great spot for business headshots, senior portraits, and small families.