Picture Taking Tips

Some cliff dwellings are open only from late spring through early fall. During the off-season, photos may be taken from the overlooks above the cliff dwellings, weather permitting.

Most of the cliff dwellings are best photographed in mid-to-late afternoon.

It is easier to get good color pictures than black and white as color will separate the similar tonal qualities of the cliff and the dwelling walls.

If you have an adjustable lens we suggest you close your lens down at least 1/2 stop from what the photo meter indicates (spot meters excepted). For example, in black and white photography the front walls of Cliff Palace will give your meter a false light reading. We suggest you bracket your settings on Cliff Palace exposures.

If you are looking for pointers to help you make your summer snapshots look more like professional photographs, see the Amateur Photographer’s Guide to Mesa Verde National Park (pdf, 317 kb). To get the Free Adobe Reader required to read the pdf file, click here.


Best Times to Photograph by Season

June to September 3:45 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
October to November 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
December to March 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
April to May 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

During mid and late fall and early and mid spring the sun is lower in the southern sky and more light strikes the cliff dwellings. Winter light is generally less bright. On overcast days the soft light allows for photos to be taken that will show good details and subtle colors. During the winter months there is less vegetation obstructing views from the overlooks after the scrub oak has lost its leaves for the season.

Additional Photography Tips

Additional tips for specific archeological sites can be found by using the link below.

Last updated: December 14, 2018

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PO Box 8
Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330



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