April 20, 2024

Choosing Death Valley National Park for Your Family Photos – Everything You Need to Know

As a San Diego lifestyle family 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 5 in my blog series, “Everything you Need to Know about Having Your Photo Session at [fill in location here].

To read about other Southern California photo locations I recommend, just click on “Locations” in the category list. On desktop, it’s on the right side of this page 👉🏻; on mobile, scroll to the bottom 👇🏻.

I do hope you find it helpful!

The Location: Death Valley National Park’s Badwater Basin

A woman wearing a hat and jeans hugs her ten year old sun in Death Valley's Badwater Basin.


1) Look and Feel

How COOL is it to have your photos taken in lowest spot in the United States, where the HOTTEST recorded temperature on EARTH was measured??

That’s what you’re getting when you choose to have your family or maternity photos taken in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, folks. Bet none of your friends have that up on their walls!

The looks is surreal – just white salt flats stretching in every direction, creating an incredible backdrop for your photos.

As you’ll see in these photos, it had rained a lot prior to our visit, so we were treated to something very unusual – an actual LAKE in Badwater Basin! There were kayakers out there!


2) What to Wear for Photos in Death Valley

For styling, rich colors for a pop of drama against the white salt flats really works here, as does some drama in the form of long, swishy dresses. Or, all white for a neat monochromatic look.


3) Badwater Basin: What’s Good

  • The really neat setting, with white salt flats stretching in all directions: so dramatic and unusual!
  • The bathroom situation: there are clean (this is the National Park Service, after all) vault toilets located at the main parking area.
  • Crowds: meh, not really a concern. Even when it’s busy around the main parking area, you can drive to another area and walk out on the flats, or just walk further out than everyone else.
  • Bragging rights: nuff said. You’ll also get a visit to one of our country’s wonderful national parks (see them all!) under your belt. Drive around, see the sights, stay someplace rustic the kids will love, get your national park passport stamped in the visitor center. Our kind of vibe.

A mom and her 10 year old son embrace and smile at each other  during  a family photo session in Death Valley's Badwater Basin.


4) Badwater Basin: What’s Not so Good

  • Summer is definitely off limits here, for obviously reasons (hint: the scorching, dangerous heat). So you do need to choose your time of year carefully.
  • Depending on how you feel about roadtrips, getting to Death Valley is either a drag of a long car ride, or a fun road tripping adventure with lots of neat sights along the way (for me, it’s the latter).


A mom and her ten year old son stand in Death Valley's Badwater Basin, hugging and looking off in to the distance together. This is during a family photo session by San Diego's Love Michelle Photography.


5) The Best Time of Year for Photos in Death Valley

Not summer.

A close up of a woman wearing a cowboy hat, hugging her ten year old son as he looks up at her and smilies, during a family photo shoot in Death Valley National Park.



6) Where to Stay in Death Valley

We loved staying at Stovepipe Wells, about a 50 minute drive from Badwater Basin (a reasonable drive in Death Valley, which is huge).

The hotel was clean and cozy, there was an old-style saloon/restaurant that we loved, the kids loved the open space outside the rooms to explore, and the service was always friendly and helpful.



If you’re considering choosing Death Valley for your family or maternity photo session, but still have questions, feel free to email me at michelle@lovemichellephotography.com. And if you’re loving the warmth & connection coming through my images and would like to know more about booking one of my fun and easy going sessions, inquire here.