One of my favorite places to photograph at in Washington DC is at the National Gallery of Art, located along the National Mall between 3rd and 9th St at Constitution Ave. Having a National Gallery of Art engagement session is like a DC staple when it comes to capturing you and your partner in peak elegance! It’s one of the most popular art museums in DC, not just amongst tourists but also amongst photographers. This is due to the fact that there are no permits recquired, which is absolutely splendid because so many other popular places to shoot at in DC are heavily checked for permits, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Tidal Basin, etc. Luckily, professional shoots are free at this art museum, so long as you’re respectful of the place and people and aren’t obscuring any pathways or lugging around equipment, etc.
For an art museum, it’s comparatively large, with lots of different galleries and art pieces to explore and use as your backdrops during the shoot. It not only provides variety in your photos, but it also ensures that the area is spacious enough to avoid the tourists. If you’re looking to avoid the crowd, I would recommend shooting on the weekdays right when the museum opens (10am) or the last hour before it closes (5pm).
Parking may be difficult if you’re coming by car since there’s mostly street parking where you’ll have to battle with the rest of traffic to find spots, so if you have the extra cash, I would suggest finding a parking garage nearby. If you’re able to find more convenient parking along the vicinity of the area, I would metro in instead. The closest metro stop to the museum is the Smithsonian station, which will leave only a 10 minute walk from there.
I also recommend arriving there about half an hour before the shoot begins if you can, just because there are SO many exhibits you can walk through, and it’s easy to get lost in the maze because it branches off into different paths and has two floors! I suggest entering in from the main entrance facing 16th St, since there’s an East and West entrance, which can make it even more complicated if you haven’t been there before. From the entrance facing 16th St, you can start off the shoot by the sculptures, make your way up the marble staircase, and then further explore the paintings and garden rooms on the second story.
When I first hopped on the phone with Sally, I asked her what her vision was for the engagement session, to which she replied with “something that is as romantic and elegant as possible” that’s within the Washington DC area. She said that she wanted the photos to feel dreamy and movie-like, and I told her I knew just the place! Coincidentally, her wedding next year is also going to be at an art museum, so I told her that all the stars were just aligning here haha.
We started off in the exhibit with all the Greek statues, then headed up the marble staircase to where the rest of the art galleries were. I loved being able to make use of all the beautiful details of the museum, with all the differently colored walls, marble and granite pillars, and colorful paintings. Sally and Mohammad literally stole the show!
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