The USA’s capital city abounds with iconic monuments, grandiose landmarks and instantly recognisable views. That combines with weather that gives crisp wintry, gorgeous blossoms in Spring and endless blue skies in Summer make it a photographer’s paradise.
It’s not just the vast museums, war memorials and seats of power that will get your camera clicking, Washington DC is also packed with historic quarters, seaside villages, wildlife gardens and waterfront parks. Pack some extra memory cards. Here’s our guide to the best places you can take photos and also a guide to what you can’t.
One of the most brilliant, and frustrating, things about photographing Washington DC is the way the light dances across the buildings creating shadows and casting everything in different hues. It means that you’ll be wanting to return to photograph things at different times of the day.
In a place so packed with photogenic structures it’s hard to know where to begin, but nothing quite beats the view of the White House’ North Portico at the top of Pennsylvania Ave and 16th Street. The Washington Monument is the tallest building in DC and the reflections it creates across the Tidal Basin is truly special – time your visit for the cherry blossoms if you can. Jefferson Memorial is built in the style of an ancient Roman pantheon with columns casting epic shadows that will have you clicking your camera for ages.
The view from the Netherlands Carillon, next to Arlington National Cemetery, provides a great view of the city’s skyline with the US Capitol Building, Washington Memorial and Lincoln Memorial all within frame.
Olympus Photography Tip: Head to the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise where you can watch the light rise across the memorial. Even more spectacular is the lesser-visited Korean War Memorial. As the sun breaks the horizon it lights the larger-than-life statues of soldiers in a beautifully surreal way.
Unsurprisingly you can’t just go around taking photos of whatever you want in Washington DC. Generally speaking taking photos of seats of power, security installations, security guards and so on are a no-no. Drones aren’t allowed anywhere in DC.
You can take photos during a regular tour of the Capitol Building but you can’t take any photos in the House or Senate Chamber if they’re in session. Same goes for the Supreme Court Chambers. And The Pentagon is off limits for obvious reasons. You can take photos of The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial but that’s it. You’ll need a reader identification card to study in the Library of Congress Room but unfortunately cameras are not allowed.
You’re allowed to take photos within the Metro stations, except at The Pentagon Station, as long as don’t use a tripod and don’t block traffic and if you’re asked to stop by a security guard – do.
If you’re in doubt, just ask security politely and respectfully what you can take photos of. They’re usually accommodating and if they aren’t, it’s always best to stay friendly, respectful and comply.
There’s so many iconic sites in Washington DC that it’s easy to neglect the region’s other photogenic delights. Make time to explore the historic quarters of Georgetown and Old Town and also the picturesque fishing villages of Eastern Shore. The Blue Ridge Parkway offers stunning landscapes and great wildlife.
And lastly, Washington DC is a city for all seasons – blossoms in spring, vibrant multicoloured leaves in autumn, snow and frost in winter and sunshine and lush greenery in summer. Whenever you go, you’re bound to be spoilt for choice when it comes to framing the perfect photo of this monumental city.
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