As a Washington, DC wedding photographer that has shot several engagement sessions at the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, I have figured out the best practices for using these locations for your engagement session.
Washington DC Wedding Photographer Do’s and Dont’s at the Monuments
Do get a permit from the National Mall and Memorial Parks and hand deliver it to the office on Ohio Drive. Photography permits cannot be emailed. Applications can be delivered Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, except on federal holidays or other National Mall and Memorial Parks office closures. Applications are accepted up to one year in advance and a minimum of four days from the activity. You can also put more than one location on the permit. I recommend doing this because then you only have to pay one application fee of $90.
Don’t just try your luck and show up without a permit in hand. You will be asked to leave by a park ranger if you don’t have one. When I did my engagement sessions at both the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials on different days, I was actually never asked to show my permit, but I had a tremendous piece of mind and could focus on my clients and creating great engagement pictures for them.
Do schedule your sessions as early in the morning as possible. These are public parks and can get quite busy with tourists which can create distracting backgrounds of crowds in your photos. Depending on what time of year your photos are being taken, research what time the sun rises and plan on starting about 15 minutes before then.
Don’t plan on parking close to any of the memorials. The best place to find parking for the Lincoln Memorial is on Consitution Ave NW between 23rd St. and 21st St. The earlier in the morning the better chance you will find a spot. Keep in mind, it still is about a 10-minute walk to the steps of the Lincoln. As far as the Jefferson Memorial, you can find parking in Parking Lot A (971 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC 20024). If you have the ParkMobile App, that will save you time.
Do check online to see if there are any parades or marathons on the day of your shoot. I learned this the hard way. I didn’t realize that there was a marathon taking place around the tidal basin at the Jefferson Memorial. When we arrived, the roads were blocked to Parking Lot A so we had to find other parking which was a farther walk and took additional time.
Don’t expect to have the monuments all to yourself. Although it may be before sunrise when you arrive, there will typically be other photographers and tourists there at the same time. I found this more to be true at the Lincoln Memorial rather than at the Jefferson Memorial. You’ll have to bring your patience and be courteous around other people who also want to take pictures at the top overlooking the reflecting pool.
Do bring a towel or cloth if you’re planning to change outfits. There are public restrooms at each of the memorials, however, the restroom at the Jefferson Memorial was under construction when I did two engagement sessions there. Not an ideal situation, but if you have to, your partner can hold it up over you as a shield when you need to change outfits behind some trees. A towel also comes in handy to wipe off any dew residue on any ledges or stairs you might be sitting on.
When you do your homework and plan ahead, you’ll end up loving the DC monuments as backdrops for your engagement photos.
Nadine Nasby Photography is a Washington, DC wedding photographer who serves couples in both Washington D.C. and Orlando, Florida.
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