How to Photograph DC in 3 Days
Whether you use a simple disposable or a complex digital camera, Washington, DC has a ton of places to capture great photos: monuments, memorials, historic places, rushing rivers, stately mansions, sweeping vistas, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, carousels, funky and kid-friendly sculpture, ethnic neighborhoods, colorful storefronts, mural art, and free-admission Smithsonian museums that let you photograph many of their exhibitions.
So, what do you photograph if you only have a few days in DC? Our founder, E. David Luria (and long time DC resident) put together a day-by-day guide to help you conquer the most of DC in just three days! Get your gear and let’s go!
The White House: Walk right up to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and 16th Street, poke your camera through it and get a nice clean shot of the North Portico of the White House, with its magnificent flower bed and fountain.
Lafayette Park: Find the tree just north of the Andrew Jackson statue. Stand under it and use its branches to frame a “three-in-one” photograph of the Jackson statue, the White House, and the Washington Monument, all neatly aligned in your viewfinder.
Washington Monument: Go to the Floral Library located between the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin, just off Maine Avenue and 15th Street SW.
Lie down next to the magnificent flower beds, putting them in the foreground, and shoot towards the Washington Monument. In the spring these flowerbeds show every variety of tulips. Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it under the cherry trees on the Tidal Basin.
Jefferson Memorial: Go about one-quarter mile to the right of the paddleboat-rental boathouse on the Tidal Basin, at Maine Avenue and 15th St SW, find the exact spot on the path from which you can see the Jefferson statue outlined inside of the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin. There’s your postcard quality shot!
U. S. Capitol Building: Go to the intersection of First Street SW and Independence Ave SW, right behind the US Botanic Gardens, kneel next to the colorful flowers and bushes you will find at that corner, and photograph the West Front of the Capitol from that southwest corner. This shot is best done in the late afternoon sun.
Library of Congress: The Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful interior spaces in the world, is best photographed as the late afternoon sun comes through its windows. It is located on First Street SE, just behind the US Capitol.
You will sleep well after exploring all of these places in one day. Get a good nights sleep and get ready for Day 2! (And don’t forget to charge your camera batteries and download your memory cards every night.)
Lincoln Memorial: Go to the patch of trees on the path leading to the Korean War Memorial just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial. Stand under the tree whose branch arches from right to left, using it to frame your view of the Lincoln Memorial in the early morning light. Best time is within 60 minutes after sunrise.
Korean War Veterans Memorial: In the morning sun, get in close with your telephoto to the fear-filled faces of the 19 soldiers on patrol in Korea. Point your camera at the black granite wall and capture the 19 soldiers and their 19 reflected images, making a total of 38 soldiers who symbolize the 38th parallel crossed by the United Nations troops in Korea.
Vietnam Women’s Memorial: In the morning sun, do a tight close-up of the nurse cradling the dying soldier in her arms while she tries to stop the bleeding from his wound. Shoot from a low angle and you will also get the second nurse behind her as she looks to the sky for a helicopter Medevac.
Albert Einstein Memorial: You and your entire family AND your high school class can drape yourselves and be photographed on the huge whimsical statue of Albert Einstein, near the Vietnam Memorial on 22nd and Constitution Avenue NW.
Vietnam War Memorial: In the late afternoon sun, find the spot on the Wall where you can see the reflection of the Washington Monument in the dark wall of the Memorial.
Photograph a child’s hands taking a rubbing from the names on the Wall. If you have double-exposure capability with your camera, photograph a panel of names on the Wall, then, using the same negative frame, photograph the three soldiers monument. The resulting picture gives you the three soldiers with a ghostly image of names behind them.
Pennsylvania Avenue: The “Avenue of the Presidents” boasts some of the best architectural treasures in Washington, DC. Begin your photo tour at the US Treasury Building at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Ave NW and capture in your camera such unique delights as the Willard Hotel, the Wilson Building, the Reagan Building, the Old Post Office (with its tower that you can climb), the Navy Memorial, the glass-sheathed Newseum, the Canadian Embassy (with its great view of the Capitol), the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, and, finally, the Capitol Building itself. Best done in the afternoon sun.
Whew…what a day! Can you imagine how good your photography skills will be when you are done touring DC!
Potomac River: Get up VERY early, stand on the pathway bordering the Potomac River just in back of the Kennedy Center, and wait for the pre-sunrise kayakers and racing shells to pass by your camera as the early morning mist envelops the river, with the Memorial Bridge looming in the background.
Pick a Museum: Most of DC’s museums and art galleries DO allow photography without flash or tripod inside many of their galleries, allowing you to capture famous works of art inside your camera. Suggestion: Use a high ISO and a fast lens like a 50mm F1.4 on an SLR camera.
Mural Art: Some of Washington’s most photogenic art is on the walls of our buildings. The most famous of these is the portrait of Marilyn Monroe at Connecticut Avenue NW and Calvert St NW. You will also find a portrait of Duke Ellington at 13th and U Street NW, all best photographed in the afternoon sun. And you can do some great abstract photography by shooting portions of the huge “United We Stand” wall mural in Adams Morgan on 17th Street and Kalorama Rd NW.
Pick a House of Worship: Washington DC has many picture-perfect churches. Be sure to photograph the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception (Michigan Avenue and 4th St NE) with its picturesque basilica in the morning sun. Not far away is the little-known treasure, the Franciscan Monastery at 14th St and Quincy St NE, a beautiful working monastery with magnificent flowerbeds that show off best in the afternoon sun. Also do not miss the magnificent Washington National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue and Macomb Street NW, especially its stained glass windows and the adjoining Bishop’s Garden.
And if you have more time, take a shot at these:
Monuments at Night: Photograph your favorite monument at night. The Vietnam Three Servicemen, Vietnam Nurses, the FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument and the very best one in town, the Korean War Memorial at night are beautiful at night. And there are fewer tourists at night!
Funky and Famous Memorials: A tall draped figure with arms outstretched (bearing a remarkable resemblance to Leonardo di Caprio!) stands on a pedestal at P St SW and Water Street SW, right on the Potomac — its the Titanic Memorial, dedicated “to the men of the Titanic who gave their lives so that the women and children could be saved.” And be sure to photograph Thinker on a Rock, a contemplative rabbit in the National Sculpture Garden at 7th St and Constitution Avenue NW, across from the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art.
There is so much to photograph in DC! If you would like a professional photographer to take you around DC, sign up for our Monuments and Memorials Photo Safari or The National Mall Experience photo safaris. For hands-on one-on-one instruction, let us set up a Private Safari for you or your group.
Have questions about a safari? Email us at [email protected] or call 202-537-0937.