vast and stunning desert with a  line of footprint  by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

Beginner’s Guide to Desert Photography: What to Prepare | How to Shoot

When you think about the desert, what comes to mind? The vast, open landscape with its unique and mesmerizing beauty? Or perhaps the thought of a barren and desolate land conjures images in your head.

Regardless of what you imagine, one thing is for sure: photographing the desert can be an incredibly rewarding experience. In this article, we will provide some tips on how to prepare for desert photography, as well as how to take great pictures in this environment.

4 Special Gear for Desert Photography

For dessert photography, you'll need specialized gear to protect your equipment from harsh conditions.

1. Wide Angle or Telephoto Lens

Wide angle lenses are ideal for capturing the vastness of the landscape, as well as foreground details. Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, are suitable for picking out distant subjects and achieving a shallow depth of field.

Regarding desert-specific lens features, look for ones with low-dispersion glass that can reduce chromatic aberration. Also, consider a lens with image stabilization to help counteract the effects of wind and sand.

2. UV Filter and Hood

When shooting in bright desert sunlight, a UV filter can help to reduce the amount of haze in your photos. By blocking some of the ultraviolet light, a UV filter can help improve your images' contrast and clarity.

a woman lying on the desert

Photo by Soheil Kmp on Unsplash

Additionally, a hood can be extremely helpful in reducing glare and reflections. By shading the lens from direct sunlight, a hood can help you to capture clear and vibrant photos. When choosing a hood, be sure to select one that is specifically designed for your camera model.

3. Lens Cleaning Kit

The heat and dryness can wreak havoc on your equipment, so it's essential to have a lens cleaning kit on hand. This unique gear helps to keep your lenses clean and free of dust and sand. The kit includes air blowers, lens cleaning wipes, and microfiber cloths.

  • The air blowers remove any large pieces of debris from the lens.
  • The cleaning wipes can prevent your lenses from fogging in the hot desert air.
  • The microfiber cloths can be used to polish the lens and remove any remaining residue gently.

4. Waterproof Bag

A waterproof bag or case can help to keep your equipment safe from sand, dust, and water. Waterproof bags are available in various sizes, so you can choose one large enough to hold all your gear.

3 Items to Tackle the Harsh Desert Conditions

You'll want to list must-haves before heading out into the desert. This will help you prepare for the harsh conditions and ensure you have a great time while shooting desert pictures.

1. Sun Protection (Hat, Sunglasses, and Clothes)

a man taking photo by standing on a sand hill in the desert

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

A few key items can help protect you from the harsh desert conditions, chief among them being a good hat, sunglasses, and clothing. A wide-brimmed hat will help keep the sun off your face, and sunglasses will help reduce the glare.

It's also important to wear loose, light-colored clothing. This will help reflect some heat and allow your skin to breathe. Remember to drink plenty of water, as dehydration can be a serious issue in the desert.

2. Water & Snacks

When tackling the harsh desert conditions, water and snacks are essential items. Dehydration is a major concern in hot, dry climates, so it's important to have plenty of water on hand to stay hydrated. It's also a good idea to pack some snacks to maintain your energy levels. Salty or sugary foods can help to combat fatigue, and they can also help you to avoid getting dehydrated.

3. GPS & Map

Anyone who has ever been lost in the desert knows how valuable a GPS and map can be. In the desert, these tools are essential for survival. The vast expanses of sand can quickly disorient even the most experienced hikers, and extreme conditions can make it difficult to find your way back to camp.

A GPS can help you stay on track, while a map can provide critical information about where you are and where you need to go. Together, they can help you navigate the desert safely and ultimately help you avoid potential danger.

8 Photography Tips for Desert Pictures

1. Pay Attention to Details

curves and hills in the desert

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

One of the most important aspects of desert photography is paying attention to the small details. The desert can be stunning, but it's easy to miss the beauty if you're not looking for it. Look for interesting patterns in the sand, unique rock formations, and other small details that make the desert landscape special.

2. Take Photos After Sunset or Early in the Morning

The best time to take desert pictures is often after sunset or early morning. The light is softer and more flattering at these times, and you'll avoid the harsh midday sun. If you're shooting after sunset, use a tripod to keep your camera steady.

3. Experiment With Various Composition Techniques

There are endless possibilities when it comes to composition in desert photography. Experiment with different techniques and see what works best for you. Some common compositions include shooting through a frame, using leading lines, and focusing on a single point of interest.

4. Take Creative Photographs of the Night Sky in the Desert

The desert is one of the best places to photograph the night sky. The lack of light pollution means you'll be able to see more stars, and the long exposures necessary for night photography can create some stunning images. If you're interested in photographing the night sky, make sure to do some research beforehand and find a dark spot away from city lights.

a girl is jumping high in the desert

Photo by Phạm Chung 🇻🇳 on Unsplash

5. Utilize Low-Angle Sunlight to Highlight Textures

The sun's low angle in the desert can create some beautiful light for your pictures. Use this to your advantage by shooting at a low angle and using the light to show texture in the sand or rocks. This is a great way to add interest to your desert pictures.

6. Give HDR a Try

High dynamic range (HDR) photography can be a great way to add drama and interest to your desert pictures. HDR involves taking multiple exposures of the same scene and combining them into one image. This allows you to capture a greater range of tones, from the brightest highlights to the darkest shadows.

7. Don’t Shoot With Your Back to the Sun

When shooting in the desert, avoiding the sun behind you is important. This can cause problems with exposure and make it difficult to see your LCD screen. If possible, shoot with the sun at your back or off to the side to see what you're doing.

a women is taking photo by holding a scarf in desert

Photo by Soheil Kmp on Unsplash-

8. Find a Subject or Landscape That Allows for a Sense of Scale

One of the challenges of desert photography is conveying a sense of scale. The vastness of the landscape can be difficult to capture, but some subjects can help. Saguaro cacti are a good example, as they're often tall and slender. In your pictures, you can also use rocks or other structures to create scale.


Desert photography can be a fun and challenging pursuit. By following the tips in this guide, you'll be well to capture some beautiful images of the desert landscape. Always take safety precautions when exploring an unknown area and respect the natural surroundings. Have fun out there.

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