Laura Adams Armer was born in Sacramento, California, and moved to San Francisco with her family as a child. She was educated in public schools and by private tutors. She attended the California School of Design and spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley. She opened her own photography studio in 1899, and achieved rapid success as a society portraitist. Her work was exhibited to great acclaim in San Francisco, New York, and other cities. In 1902, she sold her studio and traveled around the Southwest with her sister. Later that year, she married Sidney Armer, also an artist, with whom she had two children, and moved to Berkeley. She continued her photography there and in 1905, illustrated the book Leaves From an Argonaut's Note Book by Theodore Elden Jones. After the death of her baby daughter in 1905, she retired briefly, and then returned to to active participation in the Berkeley art colony. In 1919-1920, she began to document systematically the Hopi and Navajo peoples of the Southwest, which resulted in numerous publications on their societies, religion, folklore, and art -- especially sand paintings. She compiled volumes of notes, which she used in painting, photographs, and books that she wrote and illustrated solo or with her husband. These included Waterless Mountain (1932), for which she won the Newbury Award, Southwest (1935), The Traders Children (1937), The Forest Pool (1938), and In Navajo Land (1962). She also made a documentary film in 1928, The Mountain Chant.