• Elizabeth Nelson

Wedding Planning 101: Let's Talk Engagement Photo Locations

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

"When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew" -William Shakespeare


After they pop the question and you say yes, comes the planning of your wedding. One key part of said planning, is taking engagement photos! These are important for a couple of reasons like save the dates, the announcement of your engagement. But the most important one is simply to document this amazing step in your relationship as a couple. Not very many of us have an excuse to have our photos professionally taken, and when you get engaged is an excellent time to do so. It lends you the chance to document your happiness in those moments before you become husband and wife and provides you with photos that you can look back on and reminisce. Here is Arizona, there are dozens of locations to have your engagement photos take. A couple of my favorite are rich in desert flora and fauna, like Papago Park.


Papago Park


The beauty of this park is in it's ability to be diverse. If you are going for a desert feel, this park checks all the boxes. There are a lot of areas boasting rich, golden red, colorful rocks to hike in and around, such as Hole in the Rock. During peak seasons, however, Hole in the Rock will get very crowded around sunrise and sunset because of the stunning views it provides. If you are looking to remain a little more private during your session, all around there are dusty, rocky trails to walk hand in hand with your love as the sun sets over the picturesque Tempe skyline.


If you are wanting a little less desert and more vibrant fauna, within the park sits a large lake with tall palm trees and calm waters. During the late winter, early spring, around the lake lush green plants start to bloom adding a pop of greenery to your engagement photos.



The Gilbert Riparian Preserve


This preserve is wonderful for your engagement session because it provides an array of possibilities with it's lush fauna, (catching onto a theme here? 😜), seven quiet and quaint ponds, and stunning lighting when it comes to golden hour, especially when the AZ sky puts on a show!


Because it is a public park, you will run into others who are enjoying everything that the preserve has to offer, but there are plenty of more private areas. One of my favorite spots is small desert trail that winds away from the concrete path, and up into those wonderful native to Arizona, desert plants. If my couples are up to it, I always ask if they wouldn't mind standing in the bushes because I just can't get over how the light hits them as they embrace each other. More often than not, they are always game!


There are a couple hidden gems throughout the preserve such as a large gazebo that is perfect for playing around in! There is a large tree that sits next to a small stream that is. seriously so romantic and quietly perfect for those dreamy, intimate engagement shots. If you talk a walk around towards the back of the preserve, there is a marsh area that not very many people venture into. It is very private and can lend an interesting waterside backdrop.



The Salt River, Butcher Jones Recreation Site


What can I say about the Salt River?! Probably, hands down, one of my favorite places to shoot. The reason being? Do I really have to answer that?! That's what you came here for, so yes, the salt river is all around stunning and has so many different areas to it. Butcher Jones is a crowd favorite because of the orchard vibe. In the middle of the parking lot, there is a large, over grown in the most perfect, picturesque way, grassy area with these low to the ground trees. In the winter the grass is just starting to make its comeback and the trees can be a little bare, but still, I'll take it! Couples can run, frolic, dance and sway in the patch of grass and as a photographer your job is made ten times easier because you can just snap, snap, snap away.


Off to the side and away from the parking lot is the amazing salt river in all of it's glory. A small sandy beach welcomes you to the edges of it's water and most stunning views of the Arizona mountains. When the sun starts to drop down below the edges, it will cast a warm glow on the water and create a stunning reflection. Beware, it tends to take your breath away. Don't say I didn't warn you!


South Mountain Preserve


This is one of those hidden gems that is tucked away right next to an overly popular area for photography called Scorpion Gulch. If you are wanting those beautiful Arizona mountains, South Mountain is truly a magical place and if you go to the right spots, can be very private. My tip of the day, search Scorpion Gulch on maps, go there, but park across the street. In the spring, wonderfully bright yellow wildflowers will bloom all over making for the most dreamy set up for engagement photos. You can spend a little time there but then drive over to the visitor center of the preserve.


Going out and exploring the lesser known places is probably one of my favorite things to do with my couples. We get to go out and away from the hustle and bustle and just chat, get to know each other, and have fun. When we came across the visitor center, we found that it was a lot quieter, more peaceful and the perfect place to enjoy the sun going down. Also, we found a picturesque bridge that was screaming "take a photo of me!"


Also, to those who may not be native to Arizona, there are two sides to South Mountain. Call me clueless, in 27 years of living here, I just recently explored the second side. However, down in Ahwatukee, right off of Pecos, there are some wonderful little desert gems that are ripe with engagement photography opportunity. All it takes is a little creativity, a willing couple, and a gorgeous sunset.



Up North


Who says you need to stay in the Phoenix area for your engagement shoot? Especially if you are wanting to have your photos taken during the summer, a perfect place to escape to is either Sedona, or Flagstaff. Both are totally beauties.


The fun part about getting out of the city, is that you can take a mini vacation or day trip up to the wonderful, and cool, areas up north. In Sedona, if you are up to a little hike, there are what seem like endless possibilities for your engagement photos. Oak creek canyon boasts lush greenery and babbling brooks to cozy up next to. If you are after those deep red rocks, any hike along the 89A will welcome you and if you are really up for it, take a drive towards the airport at sunset to gaze over the Sedona skyline and bask in the warmth of the setting sun.


In Flagstaff you can find yourself surrounded by Aspen trees, pine trees, yellow sunflowers that pop up in the spring or falling orange leaves in the fall. During the summer watch out for the daily rainfall, or open up to the idea of frolicking in a field with you and your love while gentle raindrops fall around you. When winter comes, cozy up in a blanket and take a stroll hand in hand through untouched snowdrifts. The possibilities are seriously endless.



So that is my two cents regarding engagement locations in Arizona! And just like wedding venues, I'll be spending parts of my days and weekends trying to figure out how to take my own engagement photos! Nah, but in all seriousness, any photogs out there who want to give me their two cents on having their own engagement photos taken? Hello, it's me, nervous wreck. Kay, thanks!

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Phoenix, Arizona  elizabeth@nelsoncinematic.com  480-268-5795

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