If you have recently gotten engaged and are looking for a really fun and offbeat place to have your engagement photos taken, we wholeheartedly recommend the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Located a few blocks from the Chinatown neighborhood in downtown Washington, DC, the museum is dedicated to showcasing the breadth and diversity of artistic expression in the United States from its founding to the present day. What this means for couples portraits is that the space is filled with all sorts of unique and colorful pieces that can be incorporated into pictures of two people celebrating their plans to spend the rest of their lives together.
As wedding photographers who have been active in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area for several years, we always love coming back to the American Art Museum, because it allows us to really flex our creative muscles and to come up with some stunning and daring photographs of the fiancés who hire us to document their love. One of our favorite images of our entire careers (one for which we have won several awards) was taken of a future bride and groom standing in front of a dazzling and multihued painting at this Smithsonian institution.
We also love this particular picture, which we captured on film in a different part of the museum. The installation in the background is actually one of several pieces of video art displayed on the top floor of the American Art Museum. As we explored the museum with the couple, looking for new and unique spaces in which to pose them, we happened upon a darkened room in which a largely blank white film was playing on a screen on the back wall. We thought this would be a perfect spot for a black-and-white silhouette photo of the bride- and groom-to-be embracing. And that is exactly what it turned out to be!
What makes this picture work so well, in our professional opinion, is the way that the future spouses are kissing sweetly and almost chastely. Though passionate kisses can look great on film, they can be problematic when done in shots in which the couple is silhouetted. With only the contours of the bride and groom visible, it can be hard to tell where one person begins and the other ends if they are pressed together too tightly. When spouses-to-be kiss like these two did, however, the resulting image looks great. It is clear what they are doing and obvious that they love one another very much, but each silhouette is distinct from the other and you can see which one is the bride and which the groom.
One last thing that makes us keep coming back to the American Art Museum for couples portraits sessions is the fact that it is colocated with another great museum in the Smithsonian network: the National Portrait Gallery. That particular institution houses some of the most iconic portraiture that artists have done of famous Americans and is a great place to take pictures of brides- and grooms-to-be posing with important historical figures in the background. Because the artwork in the National Portrait Gallery is more traditional than what is found in the American Art Museum, a couples portrait session in the building housing the two museums gives brides and grooms (and us as their wedding and engagement photographers) options that suit every different taste.