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  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

Washington DC Photo Locations | Top Places to Take Pictures in DC

Updated: 2 days ago

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Washington DC is a stunning metropolis that beckons travelers from around the world. This city of monuments and timeless neighborhoods offers an unforgettable experience that’s not to be missed!

So, why wait? Grab your camera or phone; these are some of the best spots in Washington for gorgeous Instagram photos sure to make all your friends jealous.

Location: Front Side of Lincoln Memorial

Where You Should Stay While You're Here

If you still haven't booked your accommodations yet and are wondering where to stay, consider these top pics for hotels in Washington DC - conveniently located near many of the spots we mentioned above.

Capitol Hill Hotel

An upscale hotel located right next to the James Madison Memorial Building and just a few minute's walk to the Library of Congress. Easy access to the National Mall.

Intercontinental Washington DC

A 4-start hotel with a scenic riverfront location, right near the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin. Perfect spot if you want to be near the cherry blossoms in the spring.

Hotel Washington

A beautiful hotel right at the center of everything. Perfect location with a great view of the Washington Monument.

Now that you have a better idea of where to stay when you visit, lets take a look at the best places to take pictures in DC.

National Mall

The National Mall in Washington D.C. is an absolute photo-takers paradise and one of the best places to take picture in DC! With endless photo spots along the way, it is sure to please any photo enthusiast.

From the towering Washington Monument to the iconic stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and its reflection in the water to the architectural grandeur of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, there are so many photo opportunities to experience and explore.

No matter what type of photo you're looking for - from majestic landscapes to more intimate takes - there is something for every taste here, making it a great location for photos! Below are my top recommended photo spots that you can't miss in the National Mall.

Location: Overlooking the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool

1. Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial, located in the National Mall, is easily one of my favorite places to visit and take photos in Washington DC. There's something special and majestic about this place that attracts visitors from all over the world. I'm just not alone in that sentiment; this monument is always filled with so many people!

Thankfully there's nothing quite as beautiful as the reflecting pool below and the front view of the memorial, no matter how many people are gathered around it. If you want a shot without a lot of other folks in it, try getting there before sunrise – though any time during the day you’ll still be able to get decent shots.

My personal favorites are from inside looking out at the Washington Monument and from directly in front of the memorial itself, but you can capture a few photos from anywhere around here and get great results.

If you want to get a shot with the entire structure in the background, you can do so from the Arlington Memorial Bridge (by the Potomac River). No matter what places you decide to visit with your camera here, trust me when I say that your shots won't come out looking anything less than amazing!

Location: Jefferson Memorial by Tidal Basin

2. Thomas Jefferson Memorial

One of the most iconic photo spots in the National Mall is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial-surrounded by its majestic columns. It isn't as popular as say, the Lincoln Memorial, so you can enjoy fewer crowds and get your perfect shot while you're there.

Whether it's for your Instagram feed or other purposes, it's hard to go wrong with taking some snaps at this place. This is a very popular site for graduation and engagement photos, especially in the spring during cherry blossom season. We saw a lot of professional photographers working around the area.

There's no better time to come here than early spring when all the cherry blossoms bloom around the Tidal Basin and make for a stunning backdrop to any photo. Visiting Jefferson Memorial almost guarantees that you'll have plenty of pictures to showcase in your feed without the crazy crowds!

Location: Supreme Court

3. Supreme Court Steps

The Supreme Court is one of the most iconic and Instagrammable places in Washington DC. We went to take pictures on its front steps one afternoon, just before sunset - and boy, were we glad we did!

The light was hitting the building perfectly, bringing out all the beautiful details of the stone that makes up the entire structure and its steps. If you're a photography enthusiast looking for the perfect shot, it's definitely worth visiting this spot!

Just remember to check their website ahead of time to make sure that the place is closed. This can be quite a busy spot when the court is in session.

Also keep in mind that other people may be looking for the same picture-perfect moment as you are: when we visited, we noticed quite a few professional photographers there capturing graduation and engagement photos. To ensure an uninterrupted photoshoot session and avoid sharing your space with someone else, come as early as you can!

Location: Facing front side of US Capitol; in the walkway to the left of Union Square

4. Capitol Building & Library of Congress

Visiting Washington D.C. and not getting a picture of the iconic Capitol Building is like going to France without taking a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower. This is an absolute must-visit destination, and it's obvious why when you get there - no matter what angle you choose, you'll be able to capture stunning shots.

Of course, everyone heads right for the front of the building to snap their pictures, which typically results in having photobombers ruin your shot. But if you venture around a bit, you may uncover a hidden gem spot where you can take your perfect photo of the dome framed perfectly against the blue sky.

One such place we found was on the left corner of the green space directly next to the United States capitol - this provided us with an unforgettable view that we will cherish forever! Check out how this shot came out in the photo above.

Location: Behind the building

The capitol dome is iconic and breathtaking from the front, but if you’re looking for hidden gems to add to your Instagram feed, I recommend exploring the rear side of the US Capitol. When we visited this side of the landmark, there were nearly no other tourists there!

We had all the time in the world to find our perfect picture, snapped up-close with all of the intricate details of the dome fully displayed. If you’re short on time, skip waiting in line to take a selfie in front and instead head around back; you won't be disappointed!

Library of Congress

If you have some extra time in capitol hill, consider capturing some once-in-a-lifetime shots inside the Library of Congress. Visiting the world's largest library is an opportunity that should not be missed!

Not only are you surrounded by boundless knowledge and world-class works of literature but it is also home to world-renowned art installations, decadent marble staircases, and luxurious features inside this grandiose building.

Taking pictures in the Library of Congress will allow you to capture a memory that’s instantly steeped in culture and opulence. If this sounds like a spot you want to check out, make sure you plan ahead. You can only get in with a timed-entry pass (free of charge) that you need to schedule online in advance.

My recommendation is to schedule your visit first, and then head over to the Capitol Building anywhere from 1-2 hours before your ticket-time. That way, you can do a mini-photoshoot outside the building, and then head inside to the Library of Congress.

Location: The Washington Monument - from the WWII Memorial

6. Washington Monument

Taking a photo with the Washington Monument in the background is a must for any D.C. visit! Finding a great spot isn't hard as there are plenty of prime locations around the National Mall that provide an ideal backdrop for your photos - from farther away, or up close and personal.

For instance, when I visited, I snapped mine from the World War II memorial across the street which was just a 10 minute walk away. Another option would be to capture it from one of its surrounding grassy areas - perfect if you want it to appear larger in your background photo!

And if you're feeling adventurous, consider taking an aerial shot - quite the experience to look down at all of Washington D.C. while perched atop the Washington monument itself! If this sounds like something you'd want to do, plan ahead of time.

To tour the monument you need to schedule ahead and reserve an admission ticket. The tickets are free, but there is a $1 service charge for reservations. For more information, check out their website.

Location: United States White House - from E Street NW

7. The White House

Taking photos in front of the White House is a unique experience you can only get in Washington DC. The monumental white building stands tall and endures as a symbol of government and freedom. Furthermore, having a picture of yourself in front of the White House will always be memorable.

It's almost like having proof of visiting an iconic monument that has withstood throughout centuries - and it even makes for great bragging rights! If visiting Washington DC for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, don't forget to snap pics of yourself at the White House!

Given the number of people that were lurking around this area, I chose to capture a photo of the building without myself in it. If you're really excited for this one, I recommend taking a selfie with the White House versus trying to get an artistic shot. You'll still get proof that you visited while avoiding having to ask people to move.

Location: Smithsonian Institution Building

8. Smithsonian Castle

If you're in Washington DC and looking for an unforgettable photo op, then look no further than the Smithsonian Institution Building - A.K.A. the Smithsonian Castle! Built in 1855, it's one of the most iconic buildings in all of DC. Not only does it offer some stunning backdrops showcasing its beautiful red façade, but its rear garden is a hidden gem that visitors can't overlook.

Take photos from around the courtyard or outside where visitors can see statues, fountains and greenery surrounding this beautiful site. You won't be disappointed with photos taken at the Smithsonian Castle as they will always bring back joyful memories.

9. Korean War Veterans Memorial

Located just to the left of the National Park Service building is the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Whether you're here for personal or commercial photography, this is a spot that you can't miss.

Here you'll find walking paths with life-sized statues of soldiers from the Korean War. It's a sight to see and impossible not to photograph. As always, be respectful when taking your photos.

If you have the time, also check out the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It's situated on the right side of the Lincoln Memorial, near the Constitution Gardens.


Georgetown in Washington, DC has become a popular spot for taking pictures; colorful murals line the alleyways and Georgetown Waterfront Park offers stunning views from its river viewpoint. Also known as the “Most Instagrammable Place in D.C.,” modern-day Georgetown is filled with colorful homes that create an endlessly Instagrammable backdrop for pictures.

From historic sites to colorful backdrops, this quaint neighborhood just northwest of the National Mall has become a destination for those seeking something special for their Instagram! Below is my favorite location in Georgetown for photos.

10. Call Your Mother Deli

While strolling through the beautiful streets of Georgetown, we stumbled across this bright pink and blue house, and I just had to stop for a picture. It turned out to be the famous Call Your Mother Deli!

Everyone seems to know it for its amazing bagels and bagel sandwiches. It's known on social media as the "Georgetown pink house". Unfortunately, it was closed when we arrived. However, this worked out for us because we got to take our photo without any distractions.

Location: Call Your Mother Deli - Georgetown

If you're coming here just for a picture, avoid lurking during their business hours since you’ll just end up in the way of their customers. If the call of the bagels is too strong, however, there’s nothing wrong with taking your shot just before they open and then going inside afterwards!

Other Places You Should Consider

Washington DC is a city that has so much to offer and though we had three days there, it was still nowhere near enough time. I had a list of potential photo locations for us to capture but unfortunately, many of them didn't get crossed off. If you ever have the chance to visit D.C., make sure to take advantage – these photos are worth capturing!

From the iconic monuments scattered around town to the cherry blossom trees in April, you won't regret taking the time to wander around this amazing city. Below is the list of the other photo spots that I had planned to go to, and that you should also consider checking out.

11. Smithsonian American Art Museum

If you're looking for an opportunity to take amazing pictures in a national gallery, then the Smithsonian American Art Museum is the place for you! The structure itself is nothing too special from the outside, but once you get to the National Portrait Gallery and Kogod Courtyard, your mouth will definitely drop.

The Kogod is an enclosed courtyard with a beautiful glass canopy that makes for a jaw-dropping background. Every inch is Instagram worthy and it's only natural that your feed will be flooded with stunning shots taken here. So if you haven't yet planned a visit here, do yourself a favor and go check it out!

12. Watermelon House

If you ask any Washington D.C. resident or tourist what their favorite place to snap a picture is, many would tell you the exquisite Watermelon House located at 1112 Q St. NW. This massive watermelon mural is situated right between the city blocks of Maryland Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue and draws attention from far and wide due to its vibrant colors and one-of-a-kind design.

Not only do you get to experience the beauty of art through this two-story masterpiece, but it also serves as a popular photo spot with backdrops perfect for capturing memories that will last a lifetime - making it well worth paying a visit!

If you're looking for more murals as photo backgrounds, also check out the wave wall located at 3510 O St. NW, Washington, DC 20007.

13. The Chinatown Friendship Arch

Visiting the Friendship Archway in Washington DC is a must-do on any trip to this iconic city. Not only will you be able to capture amazing photos of one of the most famous structures in DC, but its design also lends itself perfectly to creating memories that will last forever.

This friendship archway is an impressive 40 feet tall and is decorated with incredible Chinese symbols designed by renowned architect, Alfred H. Kirkeby. Taking a photo here is not just about capturing the beauty of the structure; it's about capturing friendship, history and culture or even just having a great time with friends.

Whether you’re visiting DC's Chinatown for pleasure or business, make sure to take a photo at the Friendship Arch as an unforgettable reminder that you have visited this incredible city.

14. United States National Arboretum

If you're looking for a stunning and unique backdrop for your next photography experience, the United States National Arboretum in Washington DC is a perfect choice. Home to a beautiful array of gardens, meadows, and forests, this site is naturally suited to the creative eye that comes with a visit there.

The expansive grounds provide a variety of interesting structural elements to capture: rows of blooming azaleas and cherry trees, wildflowers galore, a bonsai museum, and historic architecture like the National Capitol Columns - all reflecting different lights and shadows throughout the day. In my opinion, this place is way more picturesque than other green spaces like Yards Park or Meridian Hill Park.

If you don't have a lot of time here, definitely focus on the National Capitol Columns as your background - you won't regret it. With lush foliage in all directions and opportunities for random discoveries as you explore its beauty, The US National Arboretum consistently inspires photographers in search of both color and texture and is certainly well worth experiencing.

If you don't want to venture too far outside Capitol Hill to the National Arboretum, check out the United States Botanic Garden. Its interior is perfect for taking colorful pictures, and it's located right next to the United States Capitol.

15. Union Station

If you're looking for photos of gorgeous architecture in Washington DC, Union Station is the place for you! Just taking a glance at this metro station from the outside will impress, as its walls are large and grandiose. But what's even more impressive is once you enter and explore the inside of it; this place is an Instagrammer's dream!

Not only can you find spectacular archways to photograph, but it's a direct competitor of Grand Central. The Main Hall - where I recommend you take your pictures - is all white and beautiful. This is also a perfect place for wedding and engagement photos.

16. Culture House DC

If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy place to take snaps in Washington DC, the Culture House is a must-visit. With its historic colorful church and colorful displays throughout, it's hard to go wrong when you arrive here with a camera.

The place is an Art Gallery that provides great backdrops for photos both outside and inside. Not only is it worthy of capturing a shot from the abstract façade of the building, but from its funky interior spaces.

Plus, there are fun seasonal events like the World Village festival that spruce up the area with colorful decorations, art pieces, and more. Photography is an excellent way to bring home memories of your visit to the Culture House in Washington DC, preserving them mentally and visually - so be sure to pack a camera!

With its grandiose buildings and gorgeous parks, it's no wonder that Washington DC is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. And although there are countless places to take a picture-perfect photo, these few locations should be at the top of your list.

So next time you find yourself in D.C., be sure to check out these picture-perfect locations - your Instagram feed will thank you! If you want to find out more about how you can learn to take better travel photos for your social media, check out our other blog post: How to Edit and Take Jaw Dropping Travel Photos.

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