Need Help Planning Your Fall Family Photos?

I’ve created this guide to help you identify the best timing and locations for fall family photos in and around Des Moines. Most of my family sessions take place on weeknights about 90 minutes before sunset and last approximately one hour. My typical turnaround time for gallery delivery in the fall is three weeks (so take this into consideration if you plan to order holiday cards.)

Sunset and temperatures change a LOT from September to November, as do the trees. If you know you aren’t available for a session until 6pm, then September will be best for you. If your little ones have an early bedtime routine, then late fall may work better. If you want a classic fall vibe with colorful leaves, plan for mid to late October. See the overview below of what each month offers September through November to help you plan what works best for you.

SEPTEMBER (early fall)


Ranges from 7:45pm to 7:00pm


Highs range from 80s to 70s


Lush and green


Sundresses, shorts, sandals, barefeet, button downs, chinos

Mom, dad and baby boy sitting on their front steps smiling at the camera for fall family photos in September

OCTOBER (prime fall)


Ranges from 6:50pm to 6:15pm


Highs range from 70s to 50s


Peak time for fall colors is typically the third week, per Iowa DNR


Dresses/skirts, jeans, long sleeves - layers for warmer or cooler days

Dad with son on shoulders smiling at mom with daughter on her back in an open field at Brenton Arboretum in October

NOVEMBER (late fall)


Ranges from 6:00pm to 4:45pm


Highs range from 50s to 40s


Most are brown and without leaves (except for evergreens)


Sweaters, jeans, jackets, boots, beanies

Smiling mom, dad and toddler daughter standing by pond at Jester Lake for family photos in November

Things to Note:

About sunset - my sessions typically start about 90 minutes before sunset to capture that golden hour light

About temperature - the temperature during golden hour will likely be cooler than the average high, so plan accordingly

About trees - no guarantees

About wardrobe - choose clothing based on temperature so no one is too hot or too cold (especially kiddos)


Location Ideas for Fall Family Photos Around Des Moines:

Young family wading in water at Ledges State Park with large rock face behind them

Ledges State Park

This is one of my favorite outdoor locations for fall family photos and it's less than hour's drive from Des Moines. It offers many great options September through November.

Siblings walking along large log at Brenton Arboretum

Brenton Arboretum

Just a short drive west of Des Moines, Brenton Arboretum is full of trees and prairies. With the exception of evergreens, this location changes by the month from green to orange to brown.

Mom, dad and toddler smiling for fall family photos at Jester Park in Des Moines with pond and trees behind them

Jester Park

Jester Park is another location with a lot of variety from trees and trails to prairies and ponds. It photographs well throughout the fall and even in the snow.

Mom in long dress watching her two children wade into Saylorville Lake

Saylorville Lake

Whether you prefer shorelines, prairies or trees, Saylorville Lake offers all nearby. I love capturing your toes in the sand and the last of summer flowers, so September is my favorite month to photograph around the lake.

Dad, mom and toddler son smiling at the camera on a parking garage rooftop in East Village

Downtown Des Moines

From murals and rooftops to storefronts and cityscapes, downtown Des Moines offers a variety of backdrops for family photos. An urban setting is also a great option if trees have already turned brown for the season.

Dad smiling and holding baby as mom kisses son's feet next to the apple trees in their backyard

Your Own Backyard

Or front yard. Photo sessions at home in your own backyard will always be meaningful, private and super easy because I come to you! Of course we're not limited to your yard. A stroll to the neighborhood park works as well!

Brother and sister holding hands and smiling at the camera at Strautman Tree Farm

A Tree Farm

This is the perfect location for an outdoor session in November when all the other trees have turned brown and lost their leaves, especially if you want to dress cozy in sweaters, boots and beanies.

Pregnant mom, dad and their two sons smiling at the camera during holiday photos at Rose Farm

Rose Farm

Rose Farm is a magical place and available to rent for private photography sessions. The iconic greenhouse will be fall-themed from 9/8 - 10/22.

It will be holiday-themed from 11/3 - 12/21.

Mom holding her two sons in her arms and all smiling at the camera during a studio photo shoot

Indoor Photo Studio

Don't want to worry about Mother Nature at all? You can always book a private indoor photo studio for your session. Please note that studio sessions take place mid-morning through mid-afternoon.


mom, dad, daughter and son sitting on ground laughing during fall family photos at Brenton Arboretum

Ready to book your fall photos?

Fall is the most popular time for family photos and availability is limited, so be sure to book your session early! A session fee of $250 is required to book. Print and digital packages start at $600. Contact me to inquire about available dates.

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More Examples of Fall Family Photos Around Des Moines:

Expecting mom smiling up at her toddler daughter in daddy's arms during fall family photos at Brenton Arboretum
Toddler boy wearing a plaid shirt and beanie holding on to mom and dad's hands as he smiles at camera for fall photos
young girl in white sundress in a green field with yellow flowers in September
portrait of young girl smiling and wearing a sweater and hat next to a log pile in November at Rose Farm
young sisters sitting in front of red door at Rose Farm greenhouse smiling at camera for holiday photos
three brothers smiling and walking with arms around each other by pond at Jester Park
mom, dad, daughter and son sitting on ground and smiling for fall photos at sunset in Des Moines park
toddler boy wearing jacket and bandana and holding mom and dad's hands and smiling
dad, mom and two young daughters holding hands and walking through Pappajohn Sculpture Park with Des Moines skyline
Toddler boy wearing a yellow vest and beanie sitting on stump with a big smile for the camera
mom, dad and three daughters standing in front of greenhouse at Rose Farm smiling for holiday photos
mom, dad, daughter and son wading in the water at Saylorville Lake
mom, dad and two sons sitting on blanket in field and smiling for fall family photo
Toddler girl in floral romper and knee socks walking through forest at Jester Park during fall in Des Moines
Expecting couple kissing in their lush green tomato garden
two brothers sitting against red door of the greenhouse at Rose Farm for holiday photos
Mom and young daughter smiling at each other with similar long blond hair
portrait of boy wearing a denim shirt smiling at the camera
girl wearing a sweater and beanie sitting on ground at tree farm leaning against her brother also wearing a beanie