Best Engagement Photo Locations in Washington, DC
There are so many amazing locations in Washington, DC to take engagement photos, and I wanted to put together a list of some of the best places!
Before choosing a location for your engagement photos, make sure you do your research! Many places in DC require permits in order to have professional photos taken. Just because a location is open to the public does NOT automatically mean that a professional photo shoot can take place there! I’ve heard horror stories of engaged couples and their photographer being kicked out of parks/museums/etc during their session because they didn’t have a permit, and then they needed to scramble to find a new location. Trust me, it is much easier to get your ducks in a row beforehand!
I’ll include any permit information that I know of in this post, but please be aware that my blog will not be the most up-to-date resource. Policies are constantly changing. Head to the individual location’s website to look for their photography policy, or give them a call.
By far the most popular spot for engagement pictures in Washington, DC is around the monuments! The Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Reflecting Pool, around the Tidal Basin…. all of these iconic spots make absolutely beautiful backdrops for photos. The monuments are usually packed with tourists, snapping away with their cameras and cell phones, so it comes as a surprise to many people that PERMITS ARE REQUIRED for professional photo sessions. All of the memorials and monuments are maintained by the National Park Service, and their permit application can be found here. There is a $90 application fee plus a $50 location fee. (If you’re planning to do wedding photos at the monuments, the fees may be higher depending on the number of people in your bridal party,)
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
With beautiful white columns, the huge staircase, and amazing views of the Tidal Basin and Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial is one of the most commonly chosen locations for engagement photos in DC! It’s also one of the busiest tourist destinations in the city as well, so be sure to plan your visit around the crowds if you can. I always recommend sunrise engagement sessions for anyone wanting photos at the Jefferson (or other monuments) to keep the number of tourists to a minimum.
If you’re reading this in 2019, please be aware that the Jefferson is under major construction! There’s lots of scaffolding and temporary walls, and you won’t be able to access the sides/back of the memorial with all of the columns. I recommend searching the location on Instagram if you want to get an idea of what the memorial currently looks like! Expected completion date of the construction is May 2020.
The views along the Reflecting Pool can’t be beat! There’s often lots of tourists trying to get that same angle with the Washington Monument in the background, but if you can find some space to yourselves it’s a beautiful shot! Again, planning your engagement photos around sunrise will make it more likely to have the place to yourselves.
Another one of the most popular monuments for pictures is the Lincoln Memorial. The giant staircase and marble columns are a classic DC location, so it makes sense that so many people want to do their engagement photos there!
Union Market’s heart wall/Never Give Up mural is the perfect place to document your love story! This iconic mural is one of DC’s most famous street art locations, and all the colorful hearts make it an obvious choice for engagement photos. The Union Market area has a few other murals as well - there’s Yoko Ono’s quote (“Relax. Your heart is stronger than you think!”), the colorful Human!ty mural, and the giant eye by the Angelika Pop-Up. The inside of Union Market can be a great spot to capture documentary-style engagement pictures as well. You can get photos of you and your fiancé doing some shopping, grabbing a drink, or enjoying some ice cream or gelato!
If you’re trying to find the white, marble column look of the monuments but want to avoid the permit fees, the Supreme Court is a great option. There’s no need to get a permit or make a reservation to take your engagement photos here! The only things you have to consider are that tripods/light stands cannot touch the marble, so check with your photographer if they typically use those for sessions. And also be sure that you do not touch the columns.
Meridian Hill Park
Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, is located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and has so many great photo spots! There are several giant staircases that are great for posing on, as well as the famous cascading waterfall fountain. Just be aware that the fountain is only on during certain times of the year, and even during the summer months the water can be turned off for repairs. So if you’re hoping for water, just check out the park (or give them a call) in the days before your session to find out the fountain’s status. Like the monuments, Meridian Hill Park falls under the National Parks Service, so the same permit information applies.
The Spanish Steps are a little green getaway in the middle of the city! The small park is located in the Kalorama neighbohood, in between Decatur Place and S Street. The staircase is also surrounded by beautiful landscaping with black-eyed susans, magnolias, and other flowering trees. Keep in mind that the park is very small (it really is just a staircase!), so you may want to use this location in conjunction with another spot to get more variety in your photos.
Rock Creek Park
If you and you fiancé love hiking but don’t want to travel out of DC to hit the trails, Rock Creek Park might be a great location choice for you. With over 32 miles of trails, the options are endless! Discuss with your photographer if there are particular places in the park you’d like to go to (Boulder Bridge is a popular spot), and determine where the best parking lot is to meet. Keep in mind that some of the smaller lots will fill up quickly if you’re visiting on a beautiful day at a busy time!
The District Wharf has a mix of urban neighborhood and waterfront views for tons of variety in your engagement pictures! The shops and restaurants provide a beautiful backdrop for photos, and if you go close to sunset you’ll also get the twinkling string lights and neon signs in the background. You can take a walk down one of the piers, play on the giant swings, or even get out on the water in the warmer months! If you’re feeling adventurous, rent kayaks or paddleboards, or take a ride on the water taxi. There’s so many options! The Wharf doesn’t require a permit for engagement photography, but you’ll need to contact them and let them know when your session will be so they can notify security. The Wharf frequently hosts large events and concerts, so make sure you also check their events calendar before deciding on your date!
If you and your fiancé are animal lovers, you should definitely consider taking your engagement pictures at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Hopefully you’ll get lucky and the animals will be out and about in your photos, but even if they’re not, it’s still a pretty location! There’s lots of green space, some cool murals, and you can even ride on the carousel. No permits are needed for engagement photography at the zoo, but they just remind couples that you will be like any other zoo visitor (they are not going to bring any animals out to you for your photos haha).
The Eastern Market neighborhood is another area of DC that is an excellent choice for engagement photos. You can explore the market itself, grab a bite to eat, and check out all the local vendors. There are also lots of colorful murals in the neighborhood and Capitol Hill Books is right around the corner if you guys are book lovers!
National Gallery of Art
If the weather is a concern for your engagement photos, the National Gallery of Art is a great choice for indoor pictures. My favorite spot is the cool light tunnel connecting the East and West buildings. The East building has a beautiful open atrium with lots of natural light, and the giant open staircase is a gorgeous spot as well. And of course, there’s two whole buildings filled with artwork to explore! The National Gallery of Art does not require a photography permit, but they do not allow flash photography and it’s best to call ahead to make sure there are no special events going on.