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.
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!
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! Alynna had the perfect dress hidden away in the back of her closet, never worn, but was absolutely perfect sitting by the water waiting for me to catch the perfect splash!
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 Adrienne’s favorites too!
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 Diner in Chandler. Before long, our group was laughing, having fun, and I was clicking away catching fun candid pictures of Rae as she enjoyed an old-fashioned shake and a fun evening with her mom.
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!
I love that more dramatic lighting we get too, plus we can include the city lights!
And yet another fun look in Downtown Scottsdale. We’re so lucky to have beautiful locations in every part of the Phoenix area!
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.
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!
7 of the my favorite locations for senior pictures in Metro Phoenix and East Valley
- 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