This blog post of our top Shenandoah Valley engagement photo session spots has been a long time in the making! Since this is our seventh wedding season, we have photographed weddings and engagements all over Virginia. We have some many favorite spots – and so many other spots we want to shoot at! Below is a long list of our favorite spots with some sample photos. At the end, there is a “bucket list” of Shenandoah Valley engagement photo session spots that we are dying to shoot at.
1. Ravens Roost Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway
I know, I know. This spot is widely known, but there is a good reason for that! In my opinion, there is no better spot for sunset mountain views that is readily accessible. Especially once the leaves start changing, this spot is the best! It is best to avoid this spot during peak fall season and on the weekends, but it isn’t too busy otherwise! P.S. Want to see more Raven’s Roost content? Here is a full post from Anna + Brian’s session.
2. Swannanoa Palace in Afton, VA
Tucked away on top of Afton Mountain is a massive marble palace called Swannanoa. This is one of our favorite engagement photo session spots in the Valley because it is private property, so it is just us and the couple when we shoot there. It is a bit run down, but there are so many stunning spots, like the marble steps out front, or the gardens in the back. The property even has stunning mountain views overlooking the town of Afton!
3. Your favorite downtown space
One of my favorite sessions was Paula + Sam’s downtown Harrisonburg engagement session. We walked around downtown and took photos with the murals before ending the session at Pale Fire Brewery with some drinks. Other great downtown spots we love are Staunton, Charlottesville, Winchester, Roanoke and Lexington!
4. Blandy Experimental Farm in Winchester, VA
This used to be a lot closer to us when we lived in Harrisonburg (we miss it so much!) but it is always worth the trip. The farm is owned and operated by the University of Virginia and is generally open to the public. Below are a few photos from a maternity and later an engagement session there!
5. Gaie Lea (or another wedding venue!)
This is a no brainer, especially if you are getting married at a spot in the Shenandoah Valley and you want to do your photos there. That being said, many people want to take engagement photos at a spot different from their venue – and that is totally fine! Gaie Lea in Staunton (pictured below) along with many others will allow you to take your portraits there, either for free or for a small fee. There are so many great options – let us know if you need help choosing!
6. Big Meadows State Park
You can’t go wrong with anywhere on Skyline Drive! Big Meadows is a popular spot for a good reason. First of all – it is a massive spot, so even if there are other sessions going on while we are there, it is totally fine! There is plenty of space to spread out and do our own thing. There are also tons of different vignettes and textures, like open fields, tall grass and sunset mountain views. Check out a recent maternity session from Big Meadows below (and see the full session here!).
7. Humpback Rocks Visitor Center and Picnic Area
This is a little known spot (in my opinion) but it is only about 10 minutes from Ravens Roost and right off the Blue Ridge Parkway! A lot of our couples opt to stop here and take some portraits on the way to Ravens Roost. There are a ton of different vignettes, including lots of gorgeous trees in the fall! Below is just a sampling of our recent sessions there.
8. JMU Arboretum
We have talked about JMU and other college campuses before as GREAT spots to take portraits, but we never really talked about JMU’s Arboretum. This spot is great no matter the season – the maternity photos shown below were taken in January! There are great flowers year round and they keep the pond looking nice. It is a great option for any type of session!
9. Natural Bridge State Park
We have unfortunately only photographed one session at Natural Bridge State Park, but we are dying to go back. Look at those views! We had so much fun with Veronica and Kevin in the fall. There are waterfalls, fun water crossings and of course, the natural bridge. It is a great spot!
10. Viette Farm & Nursery
Last but not least is this little known gem out in the middle of Augusta County. The owners graciously allow free photo sessions and their property is stunning. It is another spot that is great year-round and has tons of blooming flower options throughout the spring, summer and fall. Don’t sleep on this option!
Bonus – Your backyard!
In-home sessions are always cute, but even if you want an outdoor session, odds are that there is great space in your backyard or at a park nearby.