Where Should You Take Senior Pictures in Arizona? | Best Locations in East Valley and Metro Phoenix

Where Should You Take Senior Pictures in Arizona? | Best Locations in East Valley and Metro Phoenix

From Average to Awesome: Surprising East Valley Locations That Will Make Your Senior Pictures Shine

If 2021 (or even 2022!) is your graduation year, it’s time to talk photos. How do you want to capture the memories of your high school years? What things and places spark special memories? When you’re planning outfits, make-up, and the setting for your senior portraits, every detail is important—because everything that goes into your photo shoot is a reflection of the person you’ve become and the places you’re going.

The Importance of Location

There are lots of reasons to talk about location. It’s a pretty big deal. After all, aside from you (the star of the show), the locations you choose for your photos will garner a good amount of attention from anyone who sees your pics. But when I talk about location, I’m not talking about national landmarks or vacation hotspots. Instead, I’m talking about photography hotspots!

What’re those? Those are the secret treasure troves, the hidden gems, and the out-of-the-way locales photographers discover and add to their library of shooting locations. Oh yes, serious recon work goes into building the ever-changing knowledge base of perfectly-photographic places that are recommended to clients.

Here’s why my clients don’t need to stress. I’ve had years of experience in the East Valley, and I’ve tromped through ditches, hiked trails, and scoured city streets in search of the very best places for photographs. In fact, I look for new places to shoot every day! I’m not saying I’m Frodo, but I could lead you on quite an adventure around the city—and suggest any number of picture locations that you’re sure to love.

Fantastic Locations Are All Around Us

The great news is that we don’t have to travel far to get awesome senior pics in a location you love. Just step outside and look around! We are lucky enough to be surrounded by mountains, trails, trees, cacti, and trendy urban centers if you’re looking to highlight your city-loving style. We even have lakes and waterfalls nearby! Whatever your personality, however you want to showcase your fashion, interests, and hobbies, we’ll find the perfect setting to accentuate the things that make you YOU.

Ditches, Diners, Streams & Streetlights

With a bit of creativity, just about any location can look beautiful. In fact, one of my favorite local destinations for photo shoots is in a ditch. Yep, a ditch. When I first tell my clients this, I get anything from dubious looks to nervous laughs—but when I pull out images of some of my previous clients in “the ditch,” new clients are convinced. That’s because in the art of photography, in focusing in on the beauty in the details and in leaning into the personalities of my clients, I am able to capture unique moments that can’t be replicated with anyone else.

This is no ordinary ditch. Savannah poses among wildflowers and desert landscaping, drawing on her natural beauty—which shines inside and out! This location works great for senior portraits as well as graduation photos.

Best Locations Senior Pictures East Mesa

Best Locations Senior Pictures Graduation

Just Add Water

If you’re sticking with the nature theme, there are some great locations where we can get your feet wet, literally. Not to far from my office, we have this lovely stream and lake. If you saw it in person, you’d likely walk right past it and never give it a second look for a photo shoot location.  Yet it’s a favorite of many of my seniors. I remember this afternoon perfectly. I asked Kaitlyn if she wanted to be in the water or just splash her feet from the side. I turned around to this…pure joy, pure heaven as she played in the water! If you know this girl, this is just her personality. It just fits!

Best Locations Senior Pictures Lake Mesa

Now, not everyone jumps in to splash like Kaitlyn–that was a first! However, it’s just as awesome to sit on the edge and splash or enjoy the natural beauty like these two beautiful young ladies. It’s all about your personality and what makes you the most comfortable. That’s the top priority!

Best Locations Senior Pictures Girls Mesa

Best Locations Senior Pictures Mesa Lake

At a nearby lake in Chandler, we created one of my all-time favorite images ever with Adrienne. By Arizona standards, it was really cold that day, but she was a trooper! Don’t let the warmth of the image fool you though, she was covered in goosebumps but “it was so worth it” I say from my warm, dry spot on the rocks. LOL! Nah, I know it is one of her favorites too!

Best Locations Senior Pictures Az Lake

On-Location Doesn’t Have to Mean Outdoors

Local businesses can be fun venues, too, but this a tricky one, because we’ll definitely want to plan ahead and get permission from the owners before making concrete plans. Love cafes and sidewalk eateries? How about bookstores? Totally into the ‘50s? Check into taking pics at a local retro diner to show off your personality. Rae’s personality shines in the photos below as she poses for her senior pictures at Chase’s Diner in Mesa, AZ. Not only is this charming restaurant a step back in time, it offers up hearty and delicious portions, along with hospitable service. (Pro tip: Arrive hungry and order the gigantic slice of chocolate cake!)

It didn’t take five minutes for Rae to feel comfortable and in her element at Chase’s. Before long, our group was laughing, having fun, and I was snapping candid pics of Rae as she enjoyed an old-fashioned shake and a fun evening with her mom.

Best Locations Senior Pictures Retro

Best Locations Senior Pictures Diner

It’s Not all Sunshine

That is to say that not all of your pictures have to take place while the sun is shining! Even to the untrained eye, things look different at night, more mysterious, more magical. The same goes for photographers. Some of my favorite photo shoots have taken place in the evening, allowing me to use light in a different way and capture things like shadows, stars, silhouettes, and more.

The sky was perfect the night of Ashley’s senior portraits, perfect her to twirl under the stars!

Best Locations Senior Pictures Mesa

I love that more dramatic lighting we get too, plus we can include the city lights!

Best Locations Senior Pictures Gilbert

And yet another fun look in Downtown Scottsdale. We’re so lucky to have beautiful locations in every part of the Phoenix area!

Best Locations Scottsdale Senior Pictures

Your Pictures, Your Style

When I go out with a client on a photo shoot, my main objective is fun. Here’s why. If you’re having fun and you’re excited about your senior pictures, if you’re energized about the setting, your outfits, and your look, then you’ll be more relaxed and natural in your pics. And that’s the look you want in your final images. Just look at this post! Many different seniors, all different personalities and looks, but each gorgeous and matching the personality of the senior. That’s the winning ticket!

That’s why so much work goes into your senior portraits on the front end. Part of that work is scouting new and fun locations around the Phoenix area. I’m always on the lookout for interesting backgrounds, unique props, and scenery that would do justice to your photos. Sometimes it’s a funky wall. Other days, it’s a retro soda bar or a neon chair. The great thing about where we live? Our backyard is full of variety, adventure, and beauty. You’d probably be surprised to know that the photographs below were all taken at the same park, mere minutes from home, with a different focus, and with creative takes on lighting and composition.

Best Locations Senior Pictures East Mesa

Creativity is the only limit when it comes to planning the perfect senior portrait photo shoot, so day or night, sunrise or sunset, indoors or out, it’s all about your personality and preference. From there, it’s a wide-open road—and trust me, it’s a fun trip!

Favorite Locations for Senior Pictures in the Phoenix Area

  • Downtown Phoenix near Roosevelt Row & Heritage Square
  • Downtown Gilbert, almost anywhere, lots of options
  • Downtown Chandler along Arizona Avenue, especially at night
  • Downtown Mesa, Mesa Arts Center
  • Eastmark in East Mesa
  • Tumbleweed Park in Chandler
  • Riparian Preserve in Gilbert
Queen Creek High School Senior Published in Magazine | East Valley Professional Photographer

Queen Creek High School Senior Published in Magazine | East Valley Professional Photographer

Senior Picture Published in Senior Year Magazine

It’s not every day you take a picture that you feel could fight off 464,000 images. That’s exactly how many pictures that Senior Year Magazine had to choose from for their recent publication. So to say competition is tough would be a massive understatement! Not to mention that most of those photos are taken professionally and are the pride & joy of whichever photographer created them. But time and time again, I fall a little bit in love with one of my senior photos, and I find myself submitting it – how could I help it!?

Erica’s Winning Image

Well, sometimes the world turns in my direction, stars align, and I am blessed with an image worthy of publication. In truth, I think my photos deserve a magazine of their own! But we can’t have it all – yet.

For now, I’ll settle for my picture of the lovely Erica Marie Hart being published. An exceptionally smart attendee of Queen Creek High School, Class of 2021, Erica was more than fun to spend an evening with. It was one of those sessions that you lose yourself in. Your creative flow is flowing, your finger is at the ready to capture almost any moment, and creative sparks are flying!

Anyhow, Erica knew exactly what she wanted her shoot to look like. On that sunny day in Scottsdale, Arizona, Erica wanted waterfalls, deserts, vintage vibes, rustic scenes, and some hobby-related images sprinkled on top. Are you thinking what we were thinking? The Wild West! What else could it be? Arizona IS the perfect place for it, after all. So, while not all of Erica’s images revolved around the rootin’-tootin’ theme, it certainly encapsulated everything her shoot was about – fun, passion, and doing what she so pleased.

We wandered around and found some rich wood backgrounds that mimicked old-school saloons. We came across even more miracle opportunities, such as an adorable wagon wheel bench. And that was the moment! There was Erica, blue jeans, white top, trusty cowgirl boots, and an obligatory cowboy hat. It was almost too good to be true!

Best Scottsdale Senior Pictures Girls

Erica’s shoot wardrobe surpassed all of my expectations. She looked comfortable, at home, and all-together gorgeous even as she lounged lengthways across the bench. Can I just take this moment to mention how natural and effortlessly cool she looks? While it might seem like these times would be the easiest for photographers – they’re often what sets out pulses racing and minds fuddling. But my years of experience prepare me for moments like these when everything comes together. So, I readied myself and just let Erica be her beautiful self! 

Perhaps it’s the three-tone beauty of the image, the uniqueness of the setting, or Erica’s winning smile – maybe it’s all of those things. Either way, Erica’s photo made it into Senior Year Magazine’s Best of 2020 issue. Really there couldn’t be anyone more deserving. Erica’s fashion sense, intuition, and keen-eye for a good scene all made this photo possible.

There she sits in the magazine among numerous other seniors. Is it one of my favorites? 100%!! Am I biased to say I think Erica’s photo is the best? 100% not!

Award Winning Senior Pictures Scottsdale Photographer

This definitely isn’t the first image I’ve had published, and it hopefully won’t be the last!!! I enter images at least twice a year to various publications. So if you’re ready to have your own magazine-worthy senior pictures, let’s make it happen!

Graduation Pictures at Sunrise by the Superstition Mountains | East Mesa Senior Photographer

Graduation Pictures at Sunrise by the Superstition Mountains | East Mesa Senior Photographer

East Mesa Senior Photographer

Getting a photo shoot off to an early start is daunting, but not for Maria! After having the wonderful idea of rising with the sun so that we could use it creeping over the horizon as a background – I couldn’t say no! Doing anything for the perfect shot – even getting up at 6am.

Sunrise Graduation Pictures by the Superstition Mountains

So, I dragged myself out of bed, piled all of my gear into my car, and off I went to meet Maria at the beautiful Superstition mountains. There, Maria’s sunrise vision became a reality and boy did it look fantastic on camera! The shot was so perfect and Maria’s energy was so catchy that I somehow forgot it was the crack of dawn.

East Mesa Professional High School Graduation Photos

Looking Gorgeous in Yellow!

Recently graduated from East Valley Academy, Maria plans on becoming an elementary school teacher someday, and I can see it! Her infectious warmth, enthusiasm, with a side of fun, would be magnetic to kids. Plus, yellow just seems like such a “my favorite teacher” color, and it just so happens to look sublime on Maria. Coincidence? I think not!

East Mesa Professional Photos Sunrise

Mixing & Matching with Another Favorite Hat

With just a quick dip into the style closet we found the perfect summer hat to accompany Maria’s gorgeous yellow dress. Maria here is playing with her wonderful deep brown hair which adds life and ‘oomph’ to the image. Speaking of hair, I’ve dealt with all types. You name it – I’ve snapped it. My hair editing skills know no bounds and if anyone ever thinks their mane might be the exception, they’re never right! Stray hairs are basic retouching with all my senior sessions.

East Mesa Senior Photos Hats

Finding inspiration in the seemingly ordinary

But if there’s one outfit that I just adored, it was Maria’s playful pink & white overalls. Aren’t they just adorable!? But really, everything she put on she wore with unshakeable confidence. She owned every single one of her outfits including these cute daisy sunglasses from the style closet.

East Mesa Senior Photos Sunglasses

Of course, we had to match Maria’s happy-go-lucky attitude with a few laid-back yet fun photos. We found a darling little farm store that was just too cute. It’s the little things like this that you might miss in day-to-day life but make all the difference in photos.

East Mesa Senior Photos Outdoor

A shout-out to the moms!

Every photoshoot has some blips; that’s just how it is in photography. All that posing, bending, lighting, clicking, something’s bound to give at least once. This time around, it was Maria’s lovely mother who took the wrap!

Like any doting mom, she was doing her best to use a reflector to block out the pesky light, and she was doing a good job! The only issue is that we were next to a stream, and one step too many led to a bit of an accidental splash. But Maria’s mom wasn’t bothered in the slightest; in fact, she even hopped into a few photos afterward! I always encourage moms to take part in the photoshoot and maybe jump into a few shots every now and then.

East Mesa Senior Photos Water

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!

East Mesa High School Graduation Photos

If there’s one thing I could mention really quick, it’s that I LOVE the moms! It’s great having them around, and I hope to make them comfortable at every step. Maria’s mom wasn’t quite yet comfortable with English and let’s face it, the English used during a photoshoot can be all over the place. Most clients can’t keep track of the jargon at the best of times! I’d just like to let her know and the other moms that if you need me to slow down or speak a bit more clearly PLEASE ask. I’m more than happy to help and I don’t bite, not even in the slightest. Well, maybe sometimes. Ok, nope, never. I might throw a grapefruit, but I never bite! LOL!

I can’t thank Maria and her wonderful mom enough for the great morning we spent together! I had so much fun and can’t wait to have Maria’s little brother in front of my camera when he graduates in a few short years!

The Rewards

Maria and her mother were ecstatic at their image preview, but receiving their gorgeous image box and storyboard was even better!

East Mesa Graduation Pictures Gifts Prints

Dressing Right for Your Photo Shoot

East Mesa Senior Photos Fun

Being comfortable during a photoshoot is incredibly important. Heck! We can barely sleep if we’re uncomfortable; what makes us think we’ll be able to pose!? I guess Maria got the memo because she just knew how to dress. She radiated confidence in every single one of her outfits!

Want to find out how you can too? Let’s take a look:

  • Dressing for your size: If you feel like your outfit is wearing you or that you can’t move around comfortably in it – it might be time to rethink. Clothing that fits properly is a necessity!
  • Your day-to-day: While it’s nice to want to look your best and dress up for a photoshoot, it’s best not to go overboard and launch yourself into unfamiliar territory. Wear what you know and makes you feel confident!
  • Outfits Galore! If you’re not sure what outfit will feel like “you” on the day – bring them all along! There’s no limit and plenty of try-on time!
Small Business Showcase | Nizhoni Spa | Serving the East Valley, Mesa, Apache Junction, Gilbert, and Gold Canyon

Small Business Showcase | Nizhoni Spa | Serving the East Valley, Mesa, Apache Junction, Gilbert, and Gold Canyon

Small Business Showcase: Nizhoni Spa

Best Spray Tan Gold Canyon

Hello, my name is Christina Hayes and I am the owner operator of Nizhoni Spa, located near the base of the majestic Superstition Mountains! Talk about working with a view! The Arizona desert has always been my home and I love living here. There is nowhere else in the world like it!

Best Day Spa East Valley Bikini Wax

Throughout the years, I’ve been enchanted with areas in the northern part of our state and the Navajo culture. I think Lake Powell is a magical place on earth and in part, inspired my business name. The word Nizhoni is a Navajo term for beautiful or to walk with beauty. The colors and theme of my spa are inspired by Navajo culture including their origins, jewelry, weaving and connection with the earth.

Best East Valley Spa Full Body Waxing

Best East Valley Facial Massage

Spray Tans

Here at Nizhoni Spa, I strive to create my own culture of truly feeling beauty from the inside out. My desire is to help all of my clients look and FEEL their best and that starts with confidence. One of my favorite services that I offer is spray tanning. This is a safe & natural way of getting that sun-kissed glow which can boost anyone’s self-image. The truth is, when we have a little color it can change our mood and add confidence to any outfit!

I exclusively use professional spray tanning products made by South Seas Skincare. I have trained in California with the amazingly talented owner, Julie Nostrand herself! She has been sponsoring the TV show Dancing with the Stars for many years.  Most of the cast and dancers are tanned with her product line and I’m thrilled to bring those same products here to my clients!

South Seas Spray Tan Mesa

I think the key things that set my tans apart from other studios or booths is simply attention to detail and quality products! Spray tanning can be a wonderful service if done correctly. My personal promise to each client is that I will always give you my best tan possible and guide you through the process for a successful glow! I look forward to tanning with you!

Waxing, Facials, and Massages Too!

While Christina has mostly talked about spray tans, let me assure you she is awesome at everything she does!!! Waxing, facials, massages…she does it all! Speaking from experience, it’s not easy to find someone who does amazing, painless, brows. Yep, you heard me! Pain free! My brows are always red after waxing, often used to bleed too, until I met Christina. She only uses hard wax and my skin has never been more thankful! My daughter Alex is also very fussy about her brows and Christina is her go-to after a bad experience at a salon. A little too stressed out? Ha, aren’t we all? Christina’s massages are wonderful and so relaxing! She’s has her own space that just feels calm. I love it! Let me tell you, Christina has clients for life!

Nizhoni Spa
1075 S Idaho Rd Unit 102, Apache Junction, AZ 85119
http://www.nizhonispa.com/
Book Online

Best Mesa Skin Care Waxing

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures | Senior Portrait Photographer

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures | Senior Portrait Photographer

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures

As a photographer, I’ve run into all types of themes, preferences, and location requests. However, every now and then, there’s someone who just wants to “live.” What do I mean by that? Well, Brianna is the perfect example!

A True-To-Life Photo Shoot

Graduating from Gilbert High School as part of the class of 2020, Brianna aims to attend CGCC before setting sights on the university of her choice. In her spare time, she spends time with friends, plays softball, and impressively – lifts. Phew, it’s hard to find time to do much else! Just from looking at the photos, it’s easy to see this dynamic side of Brianna. While the locations are natural, outdoorsy, and oh-so sunny, there’s a certain aspect of authenticity to each photo. We get to see the real side of Brianna. And really – she just shines through. The camera clearly found a favorite!

Gilbert Senior Pictures Fashion Hats

Picking the Right Props and Poses

Though every moment was full of fun, smiles, and spontaneity, we still tried to incorporate everyday aspects of Brianna’s life.  One very important part of her life is her cousin, Ashton. So when Brianna asked if she could join us a for a few shots, of course the answer was YES!!!

Gilbert Senior Pictures Graduation

Gilbert Senior Pictures Cap Gown

A softball glove here, a friend there, and the most perfect chalk sign– what more does a photoshoot need?!

Gilbert High School Senior Pictures

Bringing out the fun in photography

Brianna has a strong, colorful, and striking sense of style, and she was clearly not afraid to have some fun! I can’t even explain how happy I was when she choose these funky sunglasses from the style closet. A playful twist at the moment often turns into an eye-catching look, which clearly worked for Brianna! And of course, if you know me at all, we had to add in a floppy hat!

Gilbert Senior Pictures Outfits

Solving the Glasses Issue

While Brianna’s glasses suit her wonderfully, they may have had a slight fight with the camera. You see, lens glare is a big no-no and general annoyance for anyone who’s expertly posed for hours to achieve photos they’ll love. It takes attention away from the face and hides your beautiful eyes! However, despite being outside under a shining sun, we managed to minimize pesky lens glare to the best of our ability and I did the rest afterwards during editing. To avoid it completely, it’s best to simply pop out the lenses before the shoot. No one ever notices and it makes getting authentic, natural reactions so much easier if you’re not constantly moving to avoid the glare.

Gilbert Senior Pictures Girls

Gilbert Arizona Senior Pictures Girls

Tips If You Wear Glasses for your Photos

Speaking of glasses and cameras, they don’t always go hand in hand. Here’s a way to get around some of those pesky issues so that you can wear your glasses with pride and ease!

  • Remove the lenses if possible. Use an old pair of frames. It really is the best advice I can give!
  • If lens removal isn’t possible, clean them just before the shoot, and we’ll take care of the rest with editing!
  • Ask your photographer to be your eyes. Knowing where to look isn’t easy, but I always try to give you some direction!

A surprise guest

As an incredibly sunny day turned to night, it seemed we’d be treated to something perhaps even more beautiful than the glowing sun. As though the stars had aligned for Brianna’s shoot, the pink moon rose in the background. And not just any pink moon – the super pink moon! By catching it in the background, we managed to create a sort of “dreamy” effect. However, on closer inspection, with Brianna’s softball glove in shot, it might even look like she’s ready to make the catch of her life! Oh, and did I mention that this image was Brianna’s absolute favorite AND it was published in Senior Year Magazine’s Best of 2020 issue? Yep, over the years I’ve had many images published. When you schedule your photo shoot with me, you might be next!

Gilbert Az Outdoor Senior Pictures

In the end, everything worked out perfectly. I had the time of my life capturing the many sides of Brianna’s bubbly and laid-back personality. So, I’d like to say a big thanks to Brianna for letting me capture this special time in her life – here’s to many more!

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