Top 11 Places for Engagement Photos
If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’ve recently gotten engaged, or that you soon will be. So first let me say, congratulations!! I’m so happy for you! Engagement is such a sweet, yet short season of life. Looking back to when I myself was engaged, I can honestly say that it flew by! I hope you take time to document it with an engagement photoshoot. Sure, you’ll have plenty of photos with you and your new fiancé on your wedding day, but it’s so nice to capture this particular time, and also to have photos of you two together in something other than a white gown and tux!
The Triangle region of North Carolina has so many awesome options for engagement photos! There are wide variety of parks, urban areas, and university campuses each with a different flair! I’ve grouped the locations based on city and county, so first you’ll find places to take photos in Raleigh, then Durham, and last Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.
These are by no means the only places to take engagement photos in the Raleigh-Durham area, but they are what I would consider the top 10! If you have a place that is special to you and your fiancé, like a favorite restaurant or park, I would definitely encourage you to consider a place like that too!
Raleigh & Wake County
1. WRAL Azalea Gardens
The WRAL Azalea Gardens are located right behind the WRAL studios near NC State’s campus. They are particularly spectacular in the Spring and early Summer! My favorite times to go have been in April, when the azalea bushes are in bloom, and in June when they have the hydrangeas. The gardens do tend to get busy, but the walls of flowering bushes do a good job hiding you away from other guests visiting the gardens. Even with crowds I’ve never had an issue getting great shots!
2. Downtown Raleigh
There are many places to take engagement photos in or near Downtown Raleigh, but my personal favorites are Union Station* and Boylan Bridge, which are a very quick drive from each other! While either location could be enough on its own, it’s easy to add variety to your gallery by going to multiple places. Other downtown options are Fayetteville Street with the capitol building as the backdrop, City Market with cobblestone streets, or any of the colorful downtown murals! If you like the idea of some photos in the city but also want to feature some green, there are several parks nearby, including Dorothea Dix and Fred Fletcher Park.
*Please note that as of the time of writing this article in early 2023, there is a lot of construction by Union Station, which may make the plaza more difficult to access at times.
3. North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art is centrally located near Wade Avenue, making it a convenient (and very popular) spot to take photos. I recommend it for couples not only in Raleigh but in Durham too. You might be thinking, an art museum sounds like an odd place to take engagement photos! However most people don’t take the photos in the museum itself. The NCMA actually features a ton of paved walking trails and open grassy areas that make for a beautiful backdrop! On a nice day near sunset, you can expect it to be busy with people picnicking, going for a stroll, and yes, other photographers as well. But don’t worry–there’s always room for one more!
Also, one more great feature of the museum walking trails are convenient bathrooms! They’re pretty large too. This is great if you want to change outfits mid-way through your engagement session. It’s so nice to not have to worry about changing in your car or one of those park bathrooms that are barely better than an outhouse!
4. Historic Yates Mill County Park
Historic Yates Mill is a great location if you’re looking for something more rustic! It is such a unique spot featuring an old mill with a water wheel, a dam waterfall, and a small lake. It makes you feel far from the city, even though you’re only a short drive away!
This is one of my favorite spots for year-round photo shoots, as you don’t have to rely on things being green! (Although it definitely is popular and beautiful in the other seasons too!) Keep in mind that dogs are not allowed at this park, so if you were hoping to feature your fur baby, you’ll need to pick a different option.
5. Lake Crabtree County Park
Lake Crabtree County Park is in Morrisville near the airport, so it’s another convenient location to most people in the Triangle. The park features a nice grassy open area beside a lake. Some of my most magic golden-hour photos have been right here! There isn’t a lot of variety in this park, but what it does have is absolutely beautiful!
6. E. Carroll Joyner Park
Here is my go-to option for my Wake Forest people! E. Carroll Joyner Park is a large park with plenty of beautiful trees and fields for photos. It has three miles of paved walking trails to stroll, though you certainly don’t have to go far to find a great spot! The park also has some cool stone walls that can add a rustic feel to your photos. Even though Joyner Park is in Wake Forest, it’s not a far drive for those located in North Raleigh.
7. American Tobacco Campus
The American Tobacco Campus holds a special place in my heart, as this is where my husband and I had our first date and also where he proposed! (That’s us in the photo above!) The American Tobacco Campus is an old tobacco factory complex in Downtown Durham that has been transformed into a unique place to dine, shop, and work! In its center there is a grassy plaza surrounded by running water features and shops with exposed brick walls.
This is a great location if you want to make your engagement photoshoot into a date night! There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby. The Durham Performing Arts Center and the Durham Bulls Stadium are also in short walking distances as well!
8. Duke University
So when it comes to Duke sports you can count me out, but even I have to admit that it has some beautiful places to take photographs on campus, and a good bit of variety too. The gothic architecture by Duke Chapel is absolutely stunning, and for basketball fans you can stop by Cameron Stadium too!
9. Sarah P. Duke Gardens
These are arguably the best gardens in the Triangle! Duke Gardens offers a wide variety of locations for photos. My personal favorite is the Asiatic Arboretum, which features a red bridge and bamboo forests that make you feel as though you stepped into Japan. The Gardens also feature beautiful cherry blossoms in March that make for amazing photos!
One thing to note about Duke Gardens is that they require reservations and a fee for photography sessions. For a golden hour shoot (which they define as the first and last several hours of light each day) you must pay $150, plus parking.
10. UNC Chapel Hill
Okay maybe I’m just a biased alumni, but UNC has got to be one of the best spots all around for photos in the Triangle! In a short walking distance there is a wide variety of photograph opportunities that will sure to please anyone (unless, you’re a fan of a rival school that is…)
Some of my favorite spots to take photos are the Old Well, the Arboretum, South Building, the Bell Tower and either the Upper or Lower Quad. If you want to see examples, check out my blog post Best Places to Take Pictures at UNC Chapel Hill. UNC is beautiful any time of the year, but it is at its best in the spring and summer. In the spring, the campus is packed with students taking graduation photos, but over the summer it grows quiet and there is little competition for photos!
11. Occoneechee Mountain State Park
Did you know that there is a mountain near Raleigh? It’s actually in Hillsborough! Occoneechee Mountain stands at 857 ft, making is a small mountain, but a mountain nevertheless! Couples don’t have to hike to get great photos, as there is a beautiful grassy pond just across from the parking lot. However, if you are looking for a short hike, you can walk to the overlook at the top of the mountain for a nice view of Orange County below.