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!
Many places in DC require permits in order to have professional photos taken.
. THE MONUMENTS
. UNION MARKET DC’s murals
. UNION STATION
. GEORGETOWN WATERFRONT/ CANAL
. US CAPITOL
. NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
. SUPREME COURT
. The STEPS at MERIDIAN HILL PARK
. ROCK CREEK PARK
. SPANISH STEPS
. YARDS PARK
. District Wharf
. Georgetown Row Houses
. Library of Congress
. EASTERN MARKET
. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
. Brookside Botanical Gardens
. Book Hill Park
. Francis Scott Key Bridge
. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
. Wilkes Street Tunnel
National Harbor Boardwalk
. Glen Echo
. Blind Whino (Super Colorful Church)
. Library of Congress
. Any Metro Station
. Georgetown Row Houses
. James Madison Memorial Building
. The Friendship Arch in Chinatown
. The Watermelon House
. Washington DC Skyline from Arlington, VA
. American Art Museum / Portrait Gallery
. The Kennedy Center Roof Terrace
By far the most popular spot for engagement pictures in Washington, DC is around the monuments!
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,)
I always recommend sunrise engagement sessions for anyone wanting photos at the her monuments) to keep the number of tourists to a minimum.
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!
There is construction going on at the Lincoln that is expected to last for months (some have even said years), so just be aware there are white walls up blocking access to both sides of the monument. You’re still able to walk up the main staircase, but if you were hoping to get engagement photos along those side columns, that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Now CityCenter is one of the more controversial locations. It’s technically private and thus you need to obtain a permit if you’d like to shoot there. With all of the seasonal art installations, CityCenter can be worth it especially for couples who live and work there.
Yards Park. Located near the Navy Yard metro, Yards Park has a ton of unique urban structures and park area, along with the Potomac River in the background which makes photos extra interesting. I like Yards Park because it’s close to good food (Bluejacket and BonChon) and honestly it’s just not a common place for engagement photos yet. I’ve also shot a ton of weddings at District Winery near there as well!
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, 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 neighborhood, 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.
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 paddle boards, 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!
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!
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.
My last recommendation on where to do engagement photos in DC isn’t in DC but it is one of the places I shoot at the most. Historic Old Town Alexandria has a variety of views and vibes from the waterfront to the loved cobblestone streets. There are great food and ice cream options too so post-session we can hang out!
These really are my top places for engagement photos in Washington DC, what are some secret spots you’ve found to be beautiful? To me, these are the best engagement photo locations in Washington DC!
If your Instagram account if full of colorful photos you’ll love the Watermelon House. With a massive watermelon mural on the side this house is sweet. Often when people are visiting the Watermelon House they will post a photo of themselves jumping in front of the mural. Additionally there is a cute kiwi mural next to it as well.
One of the newest museums in DC is ARTECHOUSE which is loaded with seasonal interactive art. Before heading to ARTECHOUSE I recommend checking their website to see what exhibit is happening and to buy tickets. In addition to the interactive art spaces ARTECHOUSE has a small bar where they make cocktails that you can interact with using AR in their app.
This isn’t a specific spot but a neighborhood full of beautiful row homes. If you love posting colorful houses on your Instagram feed this neighborhood is for you. If you visit during Halloween or Christmas you’ll see loads of decorations on people’s steps, windows, and doors.
You’ll have no trouble finding something to Instagram in Georgetown. Parking isn’t too bad and once you are parked I recommend just walking blocks to explore the area.
One of the best views of DC’s skyline is from The Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, Virginia. It’s a classic view of the skyline with views of the US Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial, plus it’s a perfect spot for sunrise.Also while visiting this spot you can visit the US Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) which is a short walk away.
For this location you’ll need a lens with a good amount of zoom, I shot this with a 300mm on a full-frame camera.