December 1, 2022

Using the Imperial Sand Dunes for Your Family or Maternity Photo Location – Everything You Need to Know

Sometimes, nothing less than epic will do.

Mom and son hugging on the Imperial Sand Dunes during a San Diego lifestyle family photography session.

As a San Diego lifestyle family, maternity, and newborn photographer, I’ve visited and used dozens for locations for sessions, some very popular and others a little more hidden (sshhhh….).

Choosing the right location for your precious photographs is an essential ingredient of their final look & feel, so I’d love to use my expertise to help you decide.

In that spirit, here’s Part 3 in my blog series, “Everything you Need to Know about Having Your Photo Session at [fill in location here].

You can see Parts 1 & 2 here and here. They cover popular San Diego family and maternity photo locations Mission Trails Regional Park and Coronado Beach, respectively.

But let’s get on to the epic stuff you’re here for – the mighty Imperial Sand Dunes outside Glamis, California.

Location #3: The Imperial Sand Dunes

Man and woman sitting and kissing on the Imperial Sand Dunes during a San Diego lifestyle family photography session.
C’mon, you won’t see this awesomeness hanging on anyone else’s wall, will you?


1) Look and Feel

There’s not a whole lot to say here. Located near Glamis, the sand dunes are just epic (I need to stop using that word). A quick check of the thesaurus shows I can also use these words: grand, monumental, vast, lofty, extraordinary, Herculean…

If you want an eye-popping location none of your friends are using, this is it.

As for styling, continue the drama with rich jewel tones and dramatically long dresses that will be picked up by the wind for maximum effect.

Family holding hands and walking up a sand dune on the Imperial Sand Dunes during a San Diego lifestyle family photography session.


2) The Imperial Sand Dunes: What’s Good

  • We’ve already covered the best part of having a family or maternity photo session on the Imperial Sand Dunes. Check out all those adjectives in the paragraph above.
  • Cool factoid about the Imperial Sand Dunes, if you’re a Stars Wars fan: the scenes in “Return of the Jedi,” where Luke Skywalker fights aboard Jabba the Hut’s ship to avoid being cast into the sarlaac pit, were filmed here.
  • No need to worry about crowds here. Even during the desert recreation high season of Thanksgiving week, there was plenty of room to spread out. Plus, watching the ATVs speed around with their colorful lights at sunset was pretty cool.
  • Getting there: the way is long, but straightforward. Definitely no traffic concerns.
  • Parking – free, easy, and plentiful.
  • Restrooms: at the spot I use, there are several clean pit toilets.

Family sitting on top of a sand dune on the Imperial Sand Dunes near Glamis during a San Diego lifestyle family photography session.


3) The Imperial Sand Dunes: What’s Not so Good

  • Depending on how you feel about long drives, it’s either way too far away (about 2.5 hour drive each way from San Diego), or the chance for a fun little road trip. We hit up a fun burgers and beer joint in El Centro on the way home and made a good time of it.
  • Those previously mentioned recreational vehicles: this is their playground, so pick a safe spot where you are clearly visible. Don’t worry, I can help with that.
  • Conditions: depending on your spirit of adventure, if it’s a really windy day (not uncommon), you’ll either hate the sand being blown about, or you’ll embrace it (like this family pictured did) and have a blast running around the dunes.
  • Short seasons: as this is the desert, the only time you can safely and comfortably be out there is about October – March or so.


Woman holding dress walking on the Imperial Sand Dunes during a San Diego Lifestyle Photography Session

3) The Imperial Sand Dunes: Best Time of Year to Use

This is definitely not a year-round location! Stick to October – March or so for bearable temperatures. It’s the desert, after all.



If you’re considering choosing the Imperial Sand Dunes near Glamis as your family or maternity photo session location but still have questions, feel free to email me at

And if you’re loving the warmth & connection coming through my images and would like to know more about booking one of my easy going sessions, inquire here.