5 Indoor Photo Spots in Des Moines


botanical garden. Des Moines MomIt’s that time of year when nobody wants to be outside for very long. It’s also a time of year when families and photographers might not be quite as busy, making it a good time to get a photo session scheduled. But if your photographer doesn’t have a studio space, it can be tricky to find a good spot for photos when it’s cold and/or rainy outside.

5 indoor photo spots in Des Moines with great light and interesting backgrounds.

1. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Find it: 909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines; 515-323-6290

If you want lush, green, floral backgrounds in the dead of winter, there’s no place better than the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. In addition to balmy 70-degree temperatures, inside you’ll find a stone path weaving through the lush gardens, with a stone overlook, a bridge, a waterfall feature, and much more.

The Botanical Garden is no stranger to photo shoots, so they have a detailed photo policy, which you can find here. They do charge a session fee of $175 per hour for a group of up to 12 people ($225 for 13 people or more), plus a photographer and assistant, and the fee includes admission for your group. They ask that you call at least a week ahead to schedule your photo session. If you’re a member of the Botanical Garden, your household is allowed one free portrait photography session per membership year. And since the Household/Grandparent membership is $125, it’s a win-win to become a member, enjoy your photo session, and come back to explore the gardens all year long.

2. West End Architectural Salvage and Coffee Shop

Find it: 22 Ninth St., Des Moines; 515-243-4405; [email protected]

If you’re looking for a unique backdrop for your family photos, look no further than West End Architectural Salvage. The eclectic inventory in this beautiful shop comes from around the world, and you’re likely to see something new every time you go. With four floors of salvaged items and custom furniture to explore, you could probably spend all day in here. For photo sessions, they ask that you call ahead to schedule and check in at the desk when you arrive. There is a $50 session fee, but there’s no limit to the number of people in your group, and you’re welcome to browse and take photos as long as you’d like. Background options are almost endless, but the stained glass windows throughout, the decorative letters on the third floor, the tin tiles and mirrors, and stacks of salvaged doors on the upper floors are fantastic options. Even the stairwells could work for a quick photo-op.

Bonus tip: If you’re looking for space to host a bridal or baby shower, give West End Architectural Salvage a call. They have a beautiful event space on the main floor, and you can use any of the shop’s inventory to decorate the event area.

3. Downtown Des Moines skywalk

Find it: Park downtown along 4th Ave or 5th Ave near the Kirkwood Apartments and walk North toward the Iowa Events Center

There’s no shortage of natural light in the four miles of Downtown Des Moines skywalk system, making this climate-controlled indoor walkway the ideal spot for photos. There are plenty of walkways to explore, but my recommendation is to start in the lobby of the Kirkwood Apartments building at Fourth and Court, with its phone booths, big windows, high ceilings, and large columns, then head up the blue staircase to the skywalk entrance. From there, head over to Capital Square, and follow the skywalk North toward the Iowa Events Center. Along the way, you’ll find stone and bricks and lots of open walkways with natural light. Continue north from the Hilton Des Moines Downtown and follow the skywalk to the Iowa Events Center. The skywalk as you walk in is covered in interesting photographs, and the lobby of what was once Veterans Memorial Auditorium has beautiful stone, a huge staircase flooded with natural light, and display walls detailing events and concerts that happened in the past. If you’re not familiar with the skywalk system, you can download this app to help you navigate.

4. Freedom Blend Coffee

Find it: 2329 Hickman Road, Des Moines

The beautiful coffee shop feels a bit like a rustic mountain ski lodge, with rich pine paneled walls and huge log columns. Freedom Blend Coffee was started in 2011 as an outreach of Freedom for Youth Ministries to bring employment training opportunities to young people in the community. They started out roasting and selling coffee, and their dream of opening a coffee shop came true in 2017. The front room is bathed in natural light, with a beautiful fireplace sitting area, and simple-but-tasteful neutral decor. It’s a quiet, cozy spot for photos that will feel a little bit like you’re renting a mountain vacation home.

5. Valley Community Center

Find it: 4444 Fuller Road, West Des Moines; 515-327-6000

The mission of the Valley Community Center is to do good for the community, with the community. Their space is open to the public Monday through Friday, with a cafe, community room, and play area. There’s also a gym and a meeting space available for rental. The natural light and neutral decor are ideal for family photos, with a stone fireplace, plenty of tables and chairs, and some tin/wood doors for a more rustic look. There’s also a fun #LoveYouDSM sign near the entrance. For photos, they ask that you call ahead to make sure there are no events scheduled. If you need a backup plan for rainy spring photo sessions, this simple, bright community center should be your first stop!

Looking for more ideas for where to take family photos in Des Moines? Check out these ideas: 
5 Unique Places for Family Photos in Des Moines

5 Places for Fall Photos in Des Moines


This post was originally written in 2020 and updated in 2024.

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Kimberly Isburg
Kimberly is a Northwest Iowa native, a Drake University graduate, and a fan of all things Des Moines. She is a girly girl who grew up and became a boy mom, and is now an expert on all types of construction equipment and big machines. She shares her Des Moines home with hubby Sam (2006) and sons Jack (March 2014) and Henry (December 2016). Kimberly studied magazine journalism in college, spent 10 years working for a newspaper, and recently became a postpartum doula. In her abundant (and almost nonexistent) free time she enjoys writing about mom life, drinking coffee, documenting time with family and friends, starting Shutterfly projects she rarely finishes, doing Crossfit, and daydreaming about future decorating and crafting projects.


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