Congratulations, You found "the one"!

Now it's TIME TO tell your story...

Whether you're about to pop the question or you've already done so and need photos for your wedding invites, this list is for you! There's is absolutely no shortage of beautiful locations in which to commemorate your love in the nation's capitol. Whether your love story began or blossomed in DC, here are the best locations to choose from to highlight DC as a pivotal part of your relationship. We've broken these locations into 9 different categories ranging from Iconic DC Staples, to intimate gardens, classic museums, and more. With this list you can be sure to find the perfect spot for you, regardless of your budget or the time of year.

The Most iconic DC Staples (1-3)

These 3 locations are what I call the "trifecta" because they're all a 3-minute walk from each other. If you're trying to get the most out of an engagement session you can easily get a variety of great images in all 3 spots in about 60-minutes or less!


1. U.S. Capitol


2. U.S. Supreme Court


3. Library of Congress

  • 1 U.S. Capitol - The Capitol dome is an unmistakable DC icon. Don't let the security presence intimidate you, they're actually quite nice! You can walk right up and enjoy an up close view of our nation's Capitol without any drama! The steps on the east side leading up to the dome are definitely a highlight for capturing images like the one above. No permit required for photography around the exterior.

  • 2 U.S. Supreme Court - The Supreme Court has a clean, bright, and open aesthetic that anyone can appreciate. The sleek white, floor, crystal blue fountains, and columns close-knit columns always make for timeless portraits for couples who like to get dressed up. Despite security presence, there's no permit required for photography in the exterior.

  • 3 Library of Congress - The Library of Congress has a façade that comes straight out of a royal fairytale and has one of the best views looking back at the Capitol. The interior is just as magical with classic European architecture, marble busts along the ceilings, and Latin murals. The books are mostly underground and off access to casual visitors, but there will still be a place to view them from a distance. No photo permit required but you will need a timed-ticket for entry.

Best Views of the Washington Monument (4-6)

There's only 1 Washington Monument but here are the 3 best spots to see it.


4. Lincoln Memorial


5. Jefferson Memorial

6. Constitutional Gardens

  • 5 Jefferson Memorial - This is perhaps the best alternative to Lincoln Memorial in the sense that you can also get epic shots of the water, the Washington Monument, and tall columns in the rear. Although this monument is also under construction (updated February 2024), it's nowhere near as extensive as what's currently happening at the Lincoln Memorial. No permit required.

  • 6 Constitutional Gardens - This private little island is perhaps the closest you can get to the Washington Monument without being bothered by huge crowds. You will often find a friendly group of ducks nestled under the willow tree. I highly recommend this for couples who want some privacy, perhaps a little picnic, and the view of the monument. No permit required.

Best spots For DC locals (7-9)

For those who aren't feeling the monuments but still want a clean DC aesthetic, these locations are for you!


7. Union Station

8. WWI Memorial


9. Kennedy Center

  • 7 Union Station - Couples who choose this location almost always have a story to tell about travel or long-distance. You'll definitely want to capture memories within the outdoor hallway that stretches back a full city block. The lighting in the interior is heavenly and is almost always full of hustle and bustle that makes for great action shots. No permit required.

  • 8 DC War Memorial - Don't be fooled by the name. Although this Memorial is dedicated to the soldiers of WWI, this monument is frequently used for small DC elopements / weddings and has an intimate feel despite resembling with other towering monuments. No permit required but you may run into other events that have rented this space ahead of time. Luckily it's nestled close between other beautiful spaces such as the Reflecting Pool and the Tidal Basin.

  • 9 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - There are many scenic spots in just this one building. You will find stunning, timeless backdrops on the sleek and elegant rooftop, the epic ground floor terrace, and the classy interior hallways. No permit required.

Best spots by the waterfront (10-12)

These areas each have their own distinctive charm and are the best places to view sunrises and sunsets.


10. The Wharf


11. Georgetown


12. Navy Yard

  • 10 The Wharf - On top of having clean, modern aesthetics, this is also perhaps one of the best date spots in DC. Here you can capture views with the piers' large wooden swings, water fountains, high rises, strung up lights, bonfires, and also catch epic sunrises and sunsets.

  • 11 Georgetown - This spot is so many different locations in one. Pictured in the center is the waterfront with a lovely cityscape backdrop of Rosslyn. You can also take a romantic stroll along the vibrant inner-channel with views of small waterfalls and greenery. There are also bustling city vibes from under the steel bridge or some peace and quiet among some beautiful brick building facades. No permits required.

  • 12 Navy Yard - You'll note in the image the unique "whale bone" bridge located in The Yards square. This spot in particular looks great at sunrise or sunset. You can also find the best view of the Frederick Douglass Bridge overlooking the water as you walk from here towards Nationals Stadium. When your session is over, definitely grab a bite to eat in any of the savory local establishments and you'll rarely be disappointed.

Best DC Museums (13-15)

Did you know that all Smithsonian Museums are all free admission and require no photo permits? These are my favorite 3 but don't let these limit you!


13. National Portrait Gallery

14. National Gallery of Art


15. Smithsonian Castle

  • 13 National Portrait Gallery - There are 3 great spots within the National Portrait Gallery that are great for your engagement photos. Don't miss the Kodog Courtyard, The Great Hall, and the Luce Foundation Center. Of course it never hurts to grab a portrait with your favorite political figures too!

  • 14 National Gallery of Art East / West Wings - Are you a couple that appreciates a good Monet? Rothko? It's all here and then some. Why not take a portrait by amongst some of the finest portraits, landscapes, and sculptures of all time. While perusing the scenery, you'll also see wonderous fountains, staircases, rotundas, and even a futuristic tunnel of lights. This indoor location is great if you're ever concerned about weather. No permit required.

  • 15 Smithsonian Castle - A fairytale romance isn't complete without pictures in front of a castle. Smithsonian's exterior façade sports a unique orange hue seen nowhere else in DC. In the rear is also a beautiful courtyard that really shines in early spring when magnolias bloom.

Best DC PArks (16-18)

These spots are great for taking a peaceful, romantic stroll with your partner.


16. Bartholdi Fountain / Botanical Gardens

17. National Capitol Columns @ Arboretum

18. Meridian Hill Park / Malcolm X Park

  • 16 Bartholdi Fountain / Botanical Gardens - This hidden gem provides a great view of the Capitol but with the privacy of a local park. It's lush greenery is well-tended to nearly all times of the year and the European-style fountain is unlike anything else in DC. Afterwards, you can easily cross the street to the Botanical Gardens and grab even more beauty amongst the greenery. No permit required.

  • 17 National Capitol Columns @ The Arboretum - There's no more surreal location in DC than the view of these towering columns reaching towards an open sky. When you show people these photos they'll almost always ask "where was that?" You may also want to stop and smell the flowers while you're up there. Permits are required but with that comes the security of knowing you won't be intruding on any events that may be taking place here.

  • 18 Meridian Hill Park / Malcolm X Park - Even with it's renowned fountain being shut off indefinitely since before the pandemic, this park has much to offer. You can still find romance beneath the gorgeous canopies, on it's stylish staircases, amongst its 2 stone fountains, and an open green-space hallway. When you're finished you can say hi to all the friendly neighborhood dogs in the main square. I would not recommend this location in the winter months when the trees are likely bare. No permit required.

Best City Vibes (19-20)

For a modern love feel, these are the coolest spots to be seen.


19. Blagden Alley

20. City Center

  • 19 Blagden Alley - The colorful murals (especially the featured "LOVE" mural) in this spacious alleyway are perfect for engagements! It's criminally overlooked since it's not known for being near the monuments but it's nonetheless a huge favorite of mine. No permit required.

  • 20 City Center - This shopping center provides a sleek, modern backdrop of glass buildings, colorful storefronts, and electric displays. This city square often features a different, seasonal exhibit that hang from above that are always colorful and complete the frame. No permit required.

Best DC Gardens (21-23)

Lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and serene surroundings only serve to enhance the romance. Depending on the time of year, these locations my be more or less scenic.

21. Hillwood Estate


22. Bishop's Garden

Pink magnolia engagement photo at Enid A. Haupt Garden in Washington DC

23. Enid A. Haupt Garden

  • 21 Hillwood Estate - The estate's stunning formal greenery, including the French Parterre and Japanese Garden are not to be missed. These provide a classic elegance along with tranquil natural beauty. I would not recommend this location in the winter months when the trees are likely bare. Permit is required.

  • 22 Bishop's Garden - This intimate, flower garden is right next to National Cathedral. This well-tended to, well-curated garden is peaceful and serene. You'll have no problem feeling at ease and romantic among the stone ornaments and bursts of color. I would not recommend this location in the winter months when the trees are likely bare. Permit is required

  • 23 Enid A. Haupt Garden - If you want to escape the bustle of DC for your engagement, you can find tranquility in Enid A. Haupt Garden. From hidden corners bursting with seasonal color to serene reflecting pools, its diverse landscapes offer endless possibilities for capturing genuine moments of connection and joy. Enid A. Haupt Garden is especially gorgeous in early spring when saucer magnolias are in bloom. The garden is open daily from dawn to dusk.

Best nature walk (24)

  • 24 Rock Creek Park - Sometimes you just need to escape and spend time in nature. I highly recommend Rock Creek for adventure seekers who love hikes, longs walks, and fresh air. It's a big place, but the stone bridge and log cabin stand out as noteworthy photo spots. This park most idyllic in spring, summer, and fall and less idyllic in winter, when the trees are bare. No permit required.

(25) Literally any place that's significant to you both

Where was your first date? Where did you first say "I love you"? Where is your favorite neighborhood spot to chill and be yourselves? Some people even choose to have their engagement sessions in their own homes. The point is to pick a spot that holds a special place to you and tells your story. Wherever you're thinking, I'm sure there's a way to make it look incredible behind the lens.

Parting thoughts

Wow, having put together this list makes me realize how lucky we are to live in such a vibrant and diverse city with so many great options for different personalities and aptitudes. I hope this resource helped you with your search for the ideal engagement photoshoot location and look forward to working with you. There are so many other beautiful spaces not listed here. If you didn't find something that suits your tastes here feel free to contact me and we can find the next best thing.