Luxury Resort and Travel Guide

Desert Photography Tips for Beginners

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

While many of us are finding a bit more free time on our hands and the urge to go outside, now is a great time to pick up that photography hobby you’ve been putting off. We tapped Scott Cook, the Fitness Supervisor and talented hobbyist photographer at Mountain Shadows for his tips on snapping the dreamiest desert landscape, his favorite photo apps and more.

Scott also leads the Guided Photography Hikes at Mountain Shadows, a monthly series that takes guests on a guided hike while leading a mini photography lesson through the scenic desert landscape.

Scott Cook (Photo: Mountain Shadows)

By Scott Cook, Fitness Supervisor for Mountain Shadows

Is there an ideal time of day or weather condition to shoot desert landscape around Arizona?

Everyone knows that sunrise or sunset will provide some great photo opportunities, but one thing I like to look for is unique weather conditions. A spring rainstorm could provide some low clouds that might cover the mountain peaks. Monsoon season produces a lot of very interesting cloud formations. Dust storms and lightning could provide some dramatic photos as well. Just remember to stay safe and keep your distance!

If someone is interested in starting a photography hobby, what are some beginner tips you have?

Just get out there and start shooting. You can do all the research you want, but nothing is better than hands-on practice. Once you get back, take a look at your photos and critique them. What do you wish was different? How could you improve the shots you took? Give yourself some honest advice and try to correct it for next time. It’s trial and error; no one starts as an expert.  

Any favorite spots around the Valley that you enjoy shooting?

Downtown Phoenix has a lot of great photo spots. There are several unique murals and art pieces around the downtown area, which you can incorporate into your photos to give them extra flair. Pair this with one of our spectacular desert sunsets, and you’re on your way to a great photo.  

Do you have a favorite hike or point around town that offers amazing views of the city?

The Superstition Mountains offer one of the best areas for shooting the desert landscape, in my opinion. Lost Dutchman State Park is a great place to start. You’ll find plenty of saguaros, desert flora, towering cliffs, and interesting rock formations. This is a desert landscape goldmine.  

If someone doesn’t have a camera, what are some ways to get camera-worthy photos with just their phone?

One tip you can use no matter what camera you’re using is leading lines; when you line up your photo, try to find a line that will draw your eye into the picture. Maybe it’s the line in the road, a branch on the ground, or even a puddle that meanders towards the horizon. Having something draw you in will help you tell a story and create a better photo. Once you have that line, find the right angle to enhance it. You may need to get low or get creative to find the perfect angle. Take your time and line it up.

Any favorite camera/photo apps that you would recommend?

There are a lot of great apps out there to take your photos to the next level. Personally, I use Lightroom most often. You can get Lightroom mobile, which has a ton of great features, but as I mentioned there are plenty out there to choose from. Many of the apps have an “auto” button. Start with that. It’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of it and give you a great starting point. Then, the sky’s the limit. Everyone has their own artistic taste, so create the photos that you enjoy. What you like might be different than someone else’s taste, and that’s perfectly fine.By Scott Cook, Fitness Supervisor for Mountain ShadowsThere are a lot of great apps out there to take your photos to the next level. Personally, I use Lightroom most often. You can get Lightroom mobile, which has a ton of great features, but as I mentioned there are plenty out there to choose from. Many of the apps have an “auto” button. Start with that. It’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of it and give you a great starting point. Then, the sky’s the limit. Everyone has their own artistic taste, so create the photos that you enjoy. What you like might be different than someone else’s taste, and that’s perfectly fine.

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