DC art museums are some of the best locations for engagement photographs in the world. For starters, admission to the vast majority of them is free! Entry to almost all the Smithsonian museums in particular is free of charge. More importantly for your engagement session, commercial photography is not only permitted, it’s encouraged! (And it doesn’t require an expensive permit!) In addition, DC art museums offer you a tremendous amount of variety. There are so many in the Nation’s Capital that you’re certain to find one that fits your aesthetic tastes. And no matter which one you pick, you’re going to have a location with loads of creative possibilities for your engagement photos! For example, the National Gallery of Art gives you the chance to get a cool dark celestial engagement photograph like this, but also so much more!
Because we’ve been working as DC wedding photographers for many years, we’ve had the privilege to do engagement sessions at quite a few of the city’s most famous museums. As a result, we've got a pretty good idea of which ones are best for portraits. With this in mind, here is a quick list of our favorites:
In a city with one of the most diverse collections of museums in the world, this one sets a new standard for variety. Each of its three parts – the East Building, the West Building and the Sculpture Garden – offers you a completely different setting for your engagement portraits. The highlight is arguably “Multiverse,” a dazzling tunnel lit by thousands of sparkling LEDs. (More on that below.)
For fans of eclectic and daring artwork, The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a great location for an engagement photoshoot. Its unique collection gives your engagement photographers almost endless creative possibilities. Unorthodox lighting, bright colors, unconventional angles… Everything is on the table in this ultra-cool museum!
Sharing a building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum is a much more traditional space. The National Portrait Gallery seeks to document our country’s history through (for lack of a better word) portraits of its most significant figures. The works themselves don’t offer a ton of photographic possibilities, the space itself is almost tailor-made for an engagement session. There are lots of doorways and open windows that are ideal for framing you in close-up shots. We can also get some awe-inspiring wide-angle shots that include some of the building’s gorgeous interior architecture.
Want a more nature-y vibe without all the hassles of nature? Want engagement photographs that include more exotic wildlife that one normally finds in the DMV? Then check out the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. As you can imagine, the various exhibits dedicated to showcasing the broad diversity of the natural world make fun and interesting backdrops for creative engagement portraits.
Ok, we’re cheating a little bit with this one. In truth, the interior of the main Smithsonian Institution Building is not all that interesting when it comes to an engagement shoot. Outside the castle, though? Totally different story. On the back side of the Smithsonian Castle is a gorgeous network of green spaces. The main part of the Enid A. Haupt Garden is a sprawling lawn with crisscrossing flowering bushes. To one side of that is a lovely little nook with cherry blossom trees that bloom every spring. On the other is the Moongate Garden, a cool spot that is the best place in the area for unique and creative engagement pictures.
As we mentioned above, the National Gallery of Art houses one of the coolest places in the DMV for engagement portraits. Connecting the East and West Buildings is a 200-foot walkway. The ceiling above it and one of the walls comprise curved metal paneling with more than 41,000 LEDs. Those lights flash on and off in a series of dazzling preprogrammed sequences. As you can imagine, the space is great for creative engagement photos!
Also unsurprisingly, there are a lot of different ways to compose a couples portrait in Multiverse. During this particular shoot, we really wanted to emphasize the otherworldly atmosphere and starlike nature of the LEDs. So we approached this shot as though we were doing a night portrait. We made our settings very dark and set up a light behind the couple to silhouette them. The result? A really cool dark celestial engagement photograph!
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