How to Plan A National Gallery of Art Engagement Session | Washington DC - Juliana Wall Photography

I had the pleasure of photographing Chelsea and Austen’s National Gallery of Art engagement session in Washington DC. We spent over an hour strolling around the museum taking in art, architecture and enjoying each other’s company. It was such a fun day and they were so much fun to photograph!

Chelsea had a very specific vision for their engagement session that was sleek, modern, and romantic while surrounded by art and unique architecture. They actually met in school but didn’t talk to one another very much. It wasn’t until she saw a baby picture of Austen that he posted on Twitter that sparked a digital conversation in the comments that they then became friends in real life.

We had such a blast wandering the art exhibits for their engagement session and taking in the different kinds of art.

Why The National Gallery of Art is A Must-See Attraction

The National Gallery of Art museum is one of the largest art museums in the world, with over 2,000 pieces in its collection.

To give you an idea:

  • The National Gallery of Art was founded in 1937 by Andrew Mellon with a donation of his personal collection—which consisted of over 1,100 pieces! Since then, it has added to this original collection by acquiring new works. Today they have over 2,000 paintings on display (and many more in storage).
  • Over 6 million people visit this museum each year! That’s amazing if you think about how big our country is and how many cities there are where people can go out and enjoy themselves on any given day. This truly makes it accessible to everyone who wants to see it for free or for a small fee that doesn’t break the bank (*cough cough*). There are also tons of events happening throughout all four seasons including lectures from experts around DC as well as great concerts at night from local musicians playing their hearts out on stage!

How to Best Prepare for an Art Museum Photoshoot

  • Research the museum and plan your route ahead of time

A visit to a museum is an experience in itself, and it’s important to consider how you will interact with the space while you’re there. Think about what kinds of images you hope to capture, whether they are group shots or more intimate moments between just the two of you. After all, there are many things that may affect your ability to get those photos—including crowds at peak tourist hours, lighting in certain areas of the museum, or even rules regarding what types of photography are allowed (some places only allow for flash-free photography).

  • Consider how much time you’d like to spend at each location

If there are certain pieces that stand out as must-see works from their description on Yelp reviews or other trip planning guides online, book them before going so that they don’t sell out on tickets ahead! It’s also helpful if everyone involved in creating these images has some idea which locations might work best for which type(s) of photos.

How to plan your National Gallery of Art Engagement Session

To plan your photo session at the National Gallery of Art, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Make sure to check the museums hours for the day you want to visit: Monday through Friday 10am-5pm are the usual hours. The early hours are the best to avoid crowds.
  • Pick an event or exhibition that you would like to be photographed in front of. If there isn’t a specific exhibit you want photographed at, find out when new exhibits are opening.
  • Choose a time of day that will result in good lighting and not too many crowds. For example, if it’s raining outside and everyone has cancelled their plans for the evening because there’s no way anyone wants to get wet and cold just for some art—this may be one time where planning ahead with our photographers could actually help them get more business! Just kidding… or am I?
  • Consider seasons as well; if winter is approaching then snowflakes might look great in photos but summertime may mean flowers blooming everywhere else so maybe think about what type of scene will work best with your location! This also applies if you’re going somewhere else like Europe where everything looks very different depending on what season it is there (and yes… this means even within each country).
  • You are allowed to have bags and bottles of water, but you have to wear backpacks on one shoulder, per the museums’s rules so that you don’t accidentally hit any of the artwork. They do have a coat and bag checking service, so you could leave anything you don’t want to carry at the front, including any live flowers which they do not allow in the museum.

We had a ball at the NGA!

The National Gallery of Art was a great place to take photos for Chelsea and Austen’s engagement session. The art and architecture were really interesting, and it felt like we were tourists in our own city.

We loved being able to explore the museum, appreciate all the different styles of artwork, and just enjoy each other’s company without any distractions (except for maybe some people who looked at us like we were crazy).

Of course we love looking at it, but we also love looking at our couple, as they shine in front of all the paintings.

The paintings are great, but they’re also just a part of the story. What really makes an image special is having your subjects look at each other, or look at the camera. What we like to do is take a step back from the painting and create an interesting composition with your couple and all these amazing things behind them.

We also like to use some of the architecture of the museum to create unique shots that wouldn’t be possible in any other place or time. The light in museums tends to be very soft and even, so we don’t need to bring additional lighting equipment unless you want some dramatic shadows or contrasting colors on one side of your subject’s face versus another (like with natural light).

So much beauty in one place.

The National Gallery of Art is a great place to visit no matter how you feel about art. There are so many beautiful pieces, but the architecture and landscaping are also incredible. The garden is gorgeous and they host free events on a regular basis like guided tours of their Impressionist exhibition and live music performances by the Rembrandt Chamber Players.

If you’re an art lover, you can’t miss this opportunity!

It’s a perfect setting for an unique elopement and engagement photos

If you’re looking for a unique location for your engagement shoot, the National Gallery of Art is an excellent choice. It’s an iconic spot that has been featured in many movies and TV shows, including Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The West Wing.

The museum offers a wide variety of backdrops to choose from. You could get creative by doing something like photographing in front of historical paintings or even modern artwork in the East Building. You could also go classic with some shots at the Grand Staircase or the Sculpture Garden—either would make great backgrounds for photos!

The best part about choosing this venue is that it’s free! It doesn’t matter if you have limited funds or are on a strict budget; there’s no additional cost to use this location as long as your photographer has permission from the museum staff first (which they usually do).

The museum hosts free art events on a regular basis

As an elopement and couples photographer, I am always looking for unique places to take photos and the National Gallery of Art is a great option. The museum hosts free art events on a regular basis such as a guided tour of the Impressionist exhibition and a live music performance by the Rembrandt Chamber Players. Imagine that incredible experience to be able to photograph in these gorgeous spaces while listening to classical music and learning about some amazing artists!

We spent over an hour strolling around the museum taking in art, architecture and enjoying each other’s company during this National Gallery of Art engagement session.

We spent over an hour strolling around the museum taking in art, architecture and enjoying each other’s company. We found ourselves at multiple crossroads where we had to make decisions about which way to go next: right or left? Upstairs or downstairs? One side of a hallway or another? This exercise helped us get more comfortable with each other and allowed for more connected photos while engaging with the art instead of just posing in a field somewhere for their engagement photos.

Here are a few final tips to visiting the museum: Go early; lots of people go during lunch hours so going either earlier or later in the day is better if you want less crowds. Wear comfortable shoes because there will be lots of walking (you can wear flats if you don’t want your feet killing after a few hours). Look up at ceilings and walls for interesting details (the ceiling has all kinds of crazy patterns) that will make great pictures together! Ask questions about what things mean if they interest you. There are tons of interactive displays throughout the museum that might help spark conversation too!

Chelsea and Austen really had a great time during their National Gallery of Art Engagement Session. The museum is a wonderful setting for a photo shoot and it was so fun to wander around taking in all the art!

I’m so excited to offer National Gallery of Art in DC both engagement and elopement packages! Want to plan your own romantic museum photo session? Contact me today to get started!

Want to learn more about how to plan your DC Engagement or Elopement? Check out my free planning resources below:

Self-Officiating in Washington DC: What Is It & How Do You Do It?

10 Unique Elopement Locations In Washington DC

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