Top Engagement Photo Locations in Maryland, Virginia and DC | Social Graces Weddings

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Are you just starting the wedding planning process?

Once you have hired your wedding photographer one of the first things you will do together is shoot your engagement photos. But where should you do it? What time of year? What should you wear? The decisions seems slightly daunting at first because these photos are crucial for the first impression of your wedding… save the dates! Here is some advice from nine top wedding photographers in the DMV area on the best scouted engagement photo locations in Maryland, Virginia and DC and tips they would give you to have a successful session!

There are a lot of similar answers and you know what that means.. It is good advice! If you hear the same things repeatedly from the pros then it must be true!

Feel free to connect with any of these lovely ladies about their wedding photography services, we promise that you will not be disappointed with them!!

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Madeleine Collins Photography

Website – https://madeleinecollinsphoto.com/

Instagram – @madeleinecollinsphoto

Favorite Locations:

Oh my gosh there are so many to pick from!! The DMV has beautiful architecture, lovely nature, and charming towns to pick from, so it really depends on what vibe you want to go for. A few of my personal favorites include the Jefferson Memorial (especially during Cherry Blossoms) or DAR Museum in DC (permits required), Fells Point in Baltimore, and Great Falls in Virginia! 

Best Seasons:

Summer and fall are two of the most popular times of year for engagement sessions! Summer is amazing because all trees, flowers, etc are in full bloom, and the whole region feels really alive! Fall is great too because it’s a little less humid, but still has comfortable temperatures and beautiful nature!

Outfit Styling Tips:

This is one of the most important considerations, and also the one that can vary the most! Things to think about are the location, colors of the scenery, your personal style, and the vibe that you’re going for (formal/fine art, casual/relaxed, etc). Generally, I recommend neutral, complementary colors, or one pop of brightness. So for example, if one of you is in light pink, the other could be in white and beige. Or you could always both be in neutral/light colors. Brown or nude shoes are good as they don’t distract from your faces (plus they make legs look longer– always a good thing). Oftentimes clients will send me photos of the outfits they’re considering, as it can be really helpful to have a second pair of eyes! Flowy dresses always photograph beautifully (like hair that’s worn down, they can capture movement really well and add another visual element to photos). Structured suits or just a sports jacket photograph really nicely too, and can be a great complement to the flowy fabric of dresses.

Engagement Photo Prep:

I recommend prepping for your engagement session like you would for your wedding day! My clients will often get a fresh haircut, manicure/pedicure, and clean their rings (though I bring ring cleaner to sessions just in case)! 

Additional Notes from Madeleine:

The engagement session is the perfect opportunity to really showcase your relationship and the things that you like to do together. I’m a big fan of infusing as much of you two into these photos as possible, and always schedule an entire consultation to talk through these specifics with each couple! This session should be a wonderful collaboration between you both and your photographer, which will make everything as beautiful and cohesive and possible!! Congratulations on your engagement and I hope you enjoy every step of the way as you plan your incredible wedding (you’re in such great hands with Katie and her team)!!

Brooke Michelle Photography

Website – http://brookemichellephoto.com/

Instagram – @brookemichellej

Favorite Locations:

My personal favorite locations for engagement shoots in the DMV area are ones that hold sentimental value to the couple themselves. I love being able to go through places couples had their first date, first kiss, first “I love you” and more to make their images that much more important to them and their story. However, I understand that sometimes that isn’t as “photogenic” or accessible to some couples. Personal favorites for alternative engagement session locations are Longwood Gardens (a short drive, and just the admission fee of $25 per person), any session in the sand at Assateague Beach or an open field on the Eastern Shore. 

Best Seasons:

My personal favorite time to photograph engagement portraits is in the Spring or Fall, simply because of the temperatures in the Maryland area. It’s not too hot, and yet not too cold which allows the couple to be comfortable during their session and not show any tension. However, I usually recommend couples photograph their portraits around 6-8 months before their wedding. This way they have their photos back to use for the save the dates if they preferred, and it’s before the big hustle and bustle of last minute wedding planning details. 

Outfit Styling Tips:

I personally have found my couples benefit most from two outfits for their engagement session! This way we don’t spend too much time changing, we can grab a large variety of poses in each outfit and there is still a variety in their images. I love starting with a casual outfit to show your day to day life as a couple. Whether that’s an in home session in sweats on your bed eating pizza, or jeans and a blouse out grabbing wine. Outfits that your friends and family would see in your photos and just think “that’s them.” This outfit is usually best for getting comfortable and then around sunset (normally the time frame of most of my engagement sessions) we can break out a more formal outfit and celebrate in the golden light. 

Engagement Photo Prep:

I recommend hanging all of your outfits the day before your engagement shoot to have them steamed, ironed and just allow any wrinkles to fall out. It’s also a great way to stay organized and make sure you don’t forget anything the day of! Have your nails either completely done or polish free, chipped nails aren’t a good look on anyone and although it won’t be the focus it can be noticeable in some close ups. Most importantly, don’t try any new skincare products the week leading up to your session. In order to look your best in your photos, you want to feel your best. Limiting any new products will reduce the risk of any allergic reactions or skin irritations the day of! 

Additional Notes from Brooke:

Let this be an experience and a celebration all in one. Engagement sessions are a great way to work with your photographer prior to the actual wedding day so you can build trust and comfort with them. However, it’s also a great time to slow down and celebrate this crazy season of life you are in. Make it a date night, and grab dinner and drinks after to just toast to the time you spent so much time together planning for the future you are going to build.

Molly Lichten Photography

Website – http://www.mollylichten.com/

Instagram – @mmmols

Favorite Locations:

There are so many beautiful places in the DMV area for engagement photos, but Great Marsh Estate, the Lincoln Memorial, Bluemont Vineyard, Stone Tower Winery, and Shenandoah National Park are my personal favorites! Great Marsh Estate charges a $150 photo fee for use of their property and grounds, the Lincoln Memorial requires purchase of a $140 photography permit from the National Park Service, Bluemont Vineyard does not charge a fee for engagement sessions that take place within their standard business hours, Stone Tower Winery charges a $75 fee for engagement sessions, and Shenandoah National Park has a vehicle entrance fee to enter the park.

Best Seasons:

The early spring and late fall are my two favorite times of the year for engagement photos! In the spring, the weather is typically just beginning to warm, and there are usually lots of pretty flowers blooming at parks and gardens. In the fall, we always try to coordinate sessions to coincide with the leaves changing colors — nothing beats the beauty of fall foliage in photos!

Outfit Styling Tips:

When choosing outfits, I always tell couples that the most important thing is to wear clothing that matches your style and personality as a couple. You want to feel amazing during your engagement session, and your outfits should always be a reflection of you! I often encourage couples to bring two outfits — one look that’s more casual, and another that’s more dressy. That way, their final gallery will have a nice variety of looks for them to choose from!

Engagement Photo Prep:

Don’t forget the details! A fresh manicure will show off your ring, polishing your ring will give it some extra sparkle, and getting your hair and makeup done can create a more styled look. Coordinating your hair and makeup trial with your engagement session is also a great way to see how your hair and makeup will translate on film!

Amanda Wose Photography

Website – https://amandawosephotography.com/

Instagram – @amandawose

Favorite Locations:

One of my favorite things about living in the DMV is the wide variety of portrait options we have available, all within a short drive! Tudor Place in Washington DC is a favorite. There is a $200 permit fee to shoot there. Just about anywhere in DC proper will incur a $140 permit fee, so be sure to chat with your photographer about that if you’ve got your heart set on monuments. Speaking of that, it’s hard to beat the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise! If you want to avoid the fees of shooting in DC, Old Town Alexandria is a perfect solution with historic cobblestone streets and water views. 

Best Seasons:

I love May, June, September, and October for portrait sessions! Because those are the best months of the year weather-wise, those months also fill up quickly for photographers. Highly recommend scheduling your session several months in advance if you’re hoping for one of those peak months! 

A BIG question we get in DC is timing for cherry blossoms. It’s important to know that peak cherry blossoms only last 4-6 days, and can’t really be predicted more than 2-3 weeks out. Peak will typically occur sometime between mid-March to the first week of April, but if your heart is set on cherry blossoms, flexibility is key! Also, we’ll need to shoot at sunrise on a weekday to have the best chance at dodging the crowds of tourists. Trust me, the early alarm is totally worth it! 

Outfit Styling Tips:

I always recommend that couples choose two outfits – one casual, and one more formal – to give us maximum variety. The key is for your outfits to complement each other both in color palette and formality. Soft neutral tones are ideal for portraits and flattering skin tones – think blush pinks, navy, creams, dusty blues, and grey! No matter what, make sure that you have full mobility in your outfit of choice, and that you feel comfortable and confident.

Engagement Photo Prep:

A clean ring is always great, but you’ll also want to make sure your nails are neat too. Additionally, if you’re not typically a spray-tanner, now is not the time to experiment with one! Keep it natural to ensure we’re able to render your true skin tones accurately. Professional hair and makeup is great, but if that’s not in the budget, a simple pair of false eyelashes makes a HUGE difference!

Additional Notes from Amanda:

Stay calm and enjoy the experience! We’ll teach you everything you need to know about posing and what to do with your hands 🙂 This is your time to truly relax and celebrate your engagement, and to get to know your wedding photographer. That person will be spending more time with you on your wedding day than almost anyone else, so it’s crucial that we build that trust and friendship at the engagement session!

Sarah Aaron Photography

Website – https://www.sarahaaronphotography.com/

Instagram – @sarahaaronphotography

Favorite Locations:

  • Terrapin Beach Park (Kent Island) – This location is the best of both worlds. You get a mixture of greenery and coastal vibes and golden hour is just gorgeous!! 
  • Old Town Alexandria – I love getting lost in this charming city with my couples and discovering new spots to take photos. The prettiest historic spot with southern flair. 
  • U.S. National Arboretum – Acres and acres of greenery and unique architecture. A permit is required and a donation to take photography but it’s worth it! 

Best Seasons:

Honestly, any season is a great time for engagement photos. I love each season for different reasons. The winter gives you the chance to wear cold weather accessories (ex. hats, scarves, fancy coats) and of course snow. Give me all the flowers in the spring. I love the variety of colors. Summer is my favorite season! There is something magical about summer golden hours and all the greenery. The light is just gorgeous. Fall is the perfect time to dress in your favorite jeans and boots. The changing leaves are the perfect backdrop. 

Outfit Styling Tips:

I always recommend my couples do at least two wardrobe changes at their engagement session. One dressier outfit and one casual. Pinterest is a wonderful way to get ideas on how to dress for your session and of course sending me photos prior if you need an opinion. 

Engagement Photo Prep:

It’s always fun to do a little prep prior to your engagement session. Definitely get your engagement ring cleaned for those close ups. Hair styling and makeup touching is a great way to get pampered before your session and feel a little extra fancy. 

Additional Notes from Sarah:

My biggest advice for your engagement session is to come ready to laugh and have loads of fun! Don’t worry about feeling uncomfortable or awkward, I promise you will not. As a photographer, I love engagement sessions and getting to know my couples in advance before their big day!!

Chesapeake Charm Photography

Website – https://chesapeakecharmphotography.com/

Instagram – @chesapeakecharmphoto

Favorite Locations:

Fells Point, Downtown Annapolis, Matapeake Beach, Hampton Mansion, Cromwell Valley Park (permit required), Longwood Gardens (permit & fee required), Cylburn Arboretum (permit required)

Best Seasons:

My favorite time of year to shoot is spring & summer! There’s something so romantic and dreamy about blossoming trees, bright florals, and lush greenery! 

Outfit Styling Tips:

Timeless, classic pieces are always great for engagement photos! I encourage my clients to choose 2 outfits – one more formal (think a long dress for ladies, and a suit & tie for gents) and one more casual (shorter dress or jeans/blouse for ladies and a button down or polo for gents). This way you get a variety of images, too!

Engagement Photo Prep:

All of my clients are sent an engagement session style guide & Pinterest board of outfit inspiration to help prep them for their session on what to wear, suggestions for professional hair & makeup, and to also get them pumped for their time in front of the camera!  Bonus tip – bring a bottle of champagne to pop at your session! It makes for some really fun photos! Also, if including fur babies in your session, bring a friend along to help handle the pup when they’re not in photos!

Additional Notes from Mandi:

Engagement sessions aren’t just about looking fab, but feeling fab and having fun, all while getting to know your wedding photographer better! They’re also a great way to celebrate this exciting time in your lives. Since you’ll be all dressed up – make a date night out of it! Grab a bite to eat afterwards to keep the fun going!

Caitlin Gilbert Photography

Website – https://caitlingilbertphotography.com/

Instagram – @caitlinmariegilbert

Favorite Locations:

I love downtown Frederick and Greenbrier State Park. 

Best Seasons:

Spring and Fall! The weather is mild and gives you ample options for layering clothes and outfits. Nobody is sweating or shivering!! 

Outfit Styling Tips:

Do not match! Gone are the days of jeans and white t-shirt family photos. Complimentary colors are perfect! And I always say dress it up!! Long, flowy dresses are so flattering on anyone and allow you to twirl around. It’s such a fun day to get dressed up and then go out for a date afterwards! I recommend one casual outfit and one dressy outfit. I share style guides with my clients upon booking for more tips and tricks! 🙂

Engagement Photo Prep:

Schedule professional hair and makeup, get your nails done, have your ring cleaned and build in extra time for travel!

Jaclyn Steele Photography

Website – https://jaclynsteelephotography.com/

Instagram – @jackiesteelephoto

Favorite Locations:

North point state park! There is a $3 entrance fee. It has a mixture of open fields & beachy vibes both get you an epic sunset!

Best Seasons:

Contrary to everyone else in the world I love summer shoots! I love the beach and getting couples in the water every chance I get. Also a sucker for greens.

Outfit Styling Tips:

I always recommend two outfits, one casual and one fancy. Usually we start in the casual outfit and switch to fancy half way through. I always recommend wearing neutrals and to avoid patterns to keep focus on my couple and not their clothes. 

Engagement Photo Prep:

To prep I always suggest looking at photos on pinterest for inspo and maybe have a beer or two before to relax a little 😉

Additional Notes from Jackie:

I love giving my couples prompts to do rather than stiff poses to make them feel comfortable and to try and get them to have some fun! Not to toot my own horn but toot toot, usually it works!

Erica Lynn Photography

Website – https://ericalynnstudios.com/

Instagram – @ericalynn.photo

Favorite Locations:

My absolute favorite engagement locations are Fells Point, The Monuments in D.C, Bishops Gardens, and Constitution Gardens. Each one tells a different story, but all have a variety of places to walk to. For instance, Fells Point gets you a little greenery, a little water, and some old town feels. Especially if you plan on changing outfits, we do not have to travel to get different scenery. 

Best Seasons:

Spring and Fall are hands down my favorite times to take my couples engagement pictures. The biggest thing to consider when taking your engagement photos is what feel you are going for. If you want to take photos in Paca House or Inn at Perry Cabin, you may want to consider Spring since the grass will be green and flowers will be blooming. However, if you wanted to do the monuments in D.C. or the City (Fells, Georgetown, Annapolis, etc), you can do either season. This is something I always talk with my couples about beforehand!

Outfit Styling Tips:

I get questions A LOT about engagement outfits and I am so thankful that I do!

  1. First, definitely wear something you can move in! It is no secret that we will be walking, but we may add in a little twirl and you do not want to feel confined in your clothes. The same goes for your shoes!!
  2. For all of my engagement sessions, we do one outfit change. Most of my couples will do a more casual look and then a dressy style. Think of the casual look as brunch attire. Casual outfits are perfect for holiday cards, pictures with your dog (or any furry friend), social media, and more. It shows your style and personality which is your best quality! Dressy looks are perfect for those framed photos in your home, Save the Dates, and dressing up just makes you feel FIRE! When I say dressy, I mean a suit, heels, cocktail dress, and the accessories to match. This is my personal favorite look as it is not your everyday wear, so you already feel more beautiful before I even take out my camera. I always tell my couples to get dressed up in cocktail attire and then treat yourselves to a nice dinner to celebrate this milestone. All this being said. remember to dress the same scale. If your fiancé is wearing a suit and you’re wearing jeans, then you’re not going to look like you go together! 
  3. SOLIDS/NEUTRALS: I am a mega-fan of a neutral. I think it compliments any background and any environment. I also believe that neutrals are timeless just like solid colors. So, maybe you have a solid blue dress you have been dying to wear, that’s perfect. Match it with some statement earrings and heels and we’re ready to shoot. The same thing goes for men. Solid button downs tend to photograph better than patterned. Your clothes are an expression of you, we should be looking at you in the images, not looking at the clothes and then at you.
  4. Make it YOU! If you take anything away from this, it is this: Photos are a representation of a moment in time. If you are not a couple that likes to wear dresses or jeans, then don’t wear it. The above are simply suggestions for the session and what I have seen work the best. It is totally ok to try something new, but make it YOU!

Engagement Photo Prep:

There are some little details that you may not think of before your engagement session. First, clean your ring!!!! I usually bring a jewelry wipe just in case you forget, but we want to see that ring SHINE! I recommend steaming your clothes and also try them on together so you can see how you look side by side. Remember, you want to complement each other, but not match. My couples send me photos all the time in their outfits so I can help adjust if needed. Last, consider getting hair and makeup done. I always recommend doing your hair and makeup trial on that day. You will get to see if you like the way it photographs and then you can book your hair and makeup artists early.

Additional Notes from Erica:

Engagement sessions are my favorite part of the storytelling process. We get to go to the location of your choice, you get to wear clothes you feel comfortable in, and it’s just us! Unlike a wedding day, you get to be completely focused on each other. You will laugh, be romantic, travel to a new location or stay at home and cook a meal together, etc. At the end of the day just remember, the whole point of this is to have fun! It’s our time to get to know each other and you shouldn’t stress about it! I hope these tips will help prepare you for your engagement session!

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