5 Favorite Locations for Portrait Sessions near Washington D.C. | Client & Photography Tips - manaliphotography.com

5 Favorite Locations for Portrait Sessions near Washington D.C. | Client & Photography Tips

July 12, 2017

I’m Manali
Brand photographer & educator based out of Northern VA & DC. When I'm not behind a camera or teaching about systems, you'll find me at a vineyard with wine & cheese or cuddled with my cat Keegan on our cozy couch!
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I actually made a very similar post a while ago about my favorite locations to take portraits at the University of Virginia and so I figured since often one of the first questions I get asked is which locations I recommend when people start to book with me. I decided to compile a list of locations that make for great backdrops and share it on the blog today! I will say as a mini disclaimer that more so than any location, the lighting determines the quality of how your pictures will turn out. This is why I always aim to take portraits about 2 hours before sunset in order to get soft, beautiful, flattering light. This makes it easy to take pictures in any spot at the chosen location whereas harsh light at a location makes it difficult to get even light on you and the background simultaneously. However, when the light is softer, it is easier to incorporate elements of the location in the background of your pictures adding to the variety of shots that you can. Here are my top five places to take pictures at around Northern Virginia.

  1. Georgetown Canals & Waterfront
    I absolutely LOVE shooting at Georgetown because of the variety of locations that are just perfect there! Out of all of these places, Georgetown goes on the top of my list because of the variety of locations all in one place as well as my familiarity and the number of portrait sessions I’ve shot there. And I somehow seem to find a hidden gem of a location every time I’m back there. I could seriously wander around the streets without a plan of specific locations there beforehand and find the most amazing spots to take pictures in! There are cute cobblestone streets that add a bit of an old-time European flair to pictures which I love and have overarching trees that make for perfect lighting in the evening. The canals have the prettiest light that filters through and there are pedestrian bridges that provide some variety of your shots on the way down to the canals. Georgetown University itself has the most gorgeous gothic architecture. And you can end at the Waterfront Park which has gives you the amazing backdrop of the Key Bridge or the Kennedy Center at sunset! Plus, there’s boats parked along the side if you want a slight nautical twist to your photos!
  2. Old Town Alexandria Waterfront
    Although, I’ve only been to Old Town Alexandria a couple of times I’ve shot portraits here almost every time I’ve been! Old Town is similar to Georgetown in that it has smaller cobblestone streets that make the perfect backdrop. Market Square has a huge outdoor fountain that works great and nearby alleys are perfect for more private locations with gorgeous light filtering through! However, the reason I love Old Town Alexandria most is for their waterfront and docks. They have ships parked in the harbor, all the wooden docks and boats to make any nautical heart happy, and even a gazebo at the end of the dock that makes for perfect pictures! If you’re the kind of person that loves having salty wind in their hair and being by the water and want that captured in your pictures, this is the place for you!
  3. Kennedy Center Rooftop
    Classic, simple, elegant, and with the most breathtaking view of everything DC has to offer. If you’re a Northern Virginia local and have never been up to the rooftop at the Kennedy Center, I highly recommend you check it out! Come for a show, spend some time at their rooftop bar, or just go right on up to the top to enjoy some beautiful panoramic views of DC at sunset. The rooftop terrace gives you 360 degree access to the DC skyline. This place is a DREAM to take pictures at because they have a gorgeous river terrace as well with pools and beautiful trees.
  4. Jefferson Memorial & Reflecting Pool
    As an alumna of the University of Virginia (still getting used to saying that!!), I absolutely love the classic white pillars and architecture of the UVA Rotunda. And nothing reminds me more of it than DC’s own Jefferson Memorial! This gorgeous memorial is right off of the Tidal Basin offering some of the best views, has white looming pillars all around, and marble stairs for days that lead right to the Reflecting Pool and a view of the Monument. It’s the perfect backdrop for pictures if you’re willing to get up bright and early to beat crowds or are ok maneuvering a bit around while having your pictures taken to avoid too many people in the back of your shots.
  5. Union Station & United States Capitol Building
    Although I have never been here for a photoshoot, I think both places provide the classic DC architecture with lots of light beaming off of the pillars that is great!! It’s definitely a look that isn’t done too often, and if DC is of importance to you then this is the place to have your pictures taken! Same as the Jefferson Memorial, as with anywhere else in DC, you may need to be a little bit more patient here than at other less bustling location, however I think it’s well worth any waiting!

I hope this list of locations is useful if you’re picking out the perfect location for your photoshoot. I have a couple of other locations on my list as well, so if none of these appeal very strongly to you, then feel free to reach out to me to ask about other locations I think would better suit your style!


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