Congratulations on your recent engagement. This is such a special and exciting time in your life and a perfect reason to capture the memories with stunning engagement photographs.
You’ve already started looking for a unique engagement photo location in Charleston. Something that matches your vision and your personality as a couple, right? Clearly not an easy choice with all the possibilities in and around Charleston. No matter if you are familiar with the Holy City or not, this can easily get overwhelming.
If you are struggling with having too many locations to choose from or issues coming up with at least one, don’t worry, we got you covered. The following article will provide you with some insights to help you to pick the right engagement photo location in and/or around Charleston.
As Charleston Engagement Photographers we love to explore our environment on a daily basis and you might be surprised about the one or other location you haven’t even thought about as a perfect engagement location candidate so far.
Downtown Charleston is typically referred to as the Historic District, but you can break it further down into separate districts, each offering its own unique and photographable backgrounds. Let’s start at the tip of the peninsula.
For the seventh year in a row, Charleston is the No. 1 U.S. city, according to the Travel + Leisure magazine’s “World’s Best” awards. We’re talking about Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina, on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. The Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet here and create the Charleston downtown peninsula.
The southern flair incorporates unique architectural styles and elements such as Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Classic Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Victorian, and Art Deco. We believe that all of the above is the reason why Charleston is nothing like most cities in the United State. Sounds like you can’t do anything wrong by picking the Holy City (because of the large number of churches, synagogues and diverse religions) as the location for your engagement photographs, don’t you agree?
Most photographers provide enough time in their offerings to include more than just one location for your engagement photographs. Since most picturesque locations in Downtown Charleston are walkable we usually plan a tour ahead, ending up with about 4-5 different locations and backgrounds
Spanish moss-draped trees… Rare cobblestone streets… Centuries-old mansions… countless venues for art and music and fabulous local cuisine. As you walk past horse carriages and the antebellum architecture, you might think you've traveled back in time.
Talking about the colorful Charleston houses, don’t miss one of the most famous Charleston sightseeing spots - Rainbow Row. Tradd Street will automatically lead you to East Bay Street where Rainbow Row is located. You will find a series of thirteen colorful Georgian houses in a row.
I actually don’t recommend planning to take the majority of your engagement photographs here, since Rainbow Row is one of the most touristy and crowded spots in Charleston - unless you arrive super early. However, if you find it empty when you get there, go for it! And if you are from out of town definitely take a couple of minutes and enjoy the view before you head back to White Point Gardens along the Charleston Harbor right before your two hours are up.
We rather recommned to walk a little further down to the Public Pier. There is a beautiful little park and it provides a stunning view on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bride.
If you want to include the Battery while having Charleston Harbor and a water view in the back, you should definitely plan for a sunrise engagement session. The rising sun and the increasing amount of tourists later the day make it difficult to create romantic and intimate photographs.
From here we love to explore the less crowded areas of Downtown Charleston. Legare Street right around the corner offers some beautiful photography backdrops while Charleston’s famous and majestic oak trees offer shade during hot summer days. Continue all the way to the end where Legare meets Tradd Street. Head east and enjoy the beauty and variety of Charleston’s architecture.
Colorful houses - all shades of blue, pink, yellow or just plain white - combined with plantation shutters and a variety of Charleston’s typical front doors make your photography dreams come true. The unique door knobs and marvelous decorated flowerpots around each entrance complete the picturesque setup and we promise you’ll definitely find a framing that matches your preferences.
As its name suggests, South of Broad is located south of Broad Street, at the very tip of the Downtown Charleston peninsula. We would say, it is a primarily residential area with great views of the Charleston harbor. However, only a few of Charleston’s most expensive homes provide a good setup for your engagement photographs. Understandably Charlestonians value their privacy and therefore hide their houses and backyards from tourists.
This being said, let’s get started with White Point Gardens as our first engagement photo location. White Point Garden is a public park located at the tip of the peninsula offering enough free on street parking (up to two hours) and a white pavilion sitting right in the middle. Reason enough to start your tour here.
If you’re in love with the famous Charleston cobblestone streets and the old-world Charleston charm, you should head west of East Bay Street. There are many great engagement photo locations and it’s easy to customize multiple easy roundtrips. Usually State Street is a good place for free parking (1-2 hours) and to start a tour through the district.
State Street connects to Chalmers Street. A famous and picturesque cobblestone street. It is one of the most photographed streets in Charleston and is located in the French Quarter. The cobblestone streets in Charleston were created when ships arriving in the city unloaded their ballast stones, which were then used to pave the streets. Over time, many of these streets were replaced with smoother surfaces due to the inconvenience and safety hazards of the cobblestones. Other streets that still retain their cobblestone charm and offer a glimpse into the city's history are Adger's Wharf, Gillon Street, Longitude Lane, and Philadelphia Alle
Tip: It did not become easier nor safer to walk these cobblestone streets, especially when wearing high heels. Consider to bring another pair of shoes.
Make sure you include Queen street, Church Street or Chalmers Street and you’ll be able to cover all the beauty Charleston has to offer in walking distance. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible to plan for specific buildings or backdrops since parked cars, groups of tourists or construction sites can change the urban image from time to time. However, this forces you to explore and get creative. You might discover the city from a vantage point you may not have seen before.
Just around the corner you’ll find Charleston Waterfront Park and home of the famous Pineapple Fountain. It’s a beautiful place to stroll along the Charleston Harbor not only for engagement pictures. Even though it has some pretty photo options, we’ve never taken engagement photographs there (yet). Similar to Rainbow Row, it’s always busy. But we are definitely open to give it a try some time.
We want to highlight one popular café right next to it. Carmella's, a delightful establishment that offers a unique blend of Italian and Southern flavors. Carmella's is renowned for its artisanal coffee, freshly baked pastries, and delectable brunch options.
East Bay Street in Charleston is a vibrant and bustling area known for its charming cafes and hotels. It can easily be considered the heart of the Charleston French Quarter. It separates Waterfront Park from the more residential area and is also the starting point of the famous Historic Charleston City Market. Right in front of the market is a quite impressive building which will catch your eye immediately.
The United States Custom House. Its architecture incorporates Greek and Roman design elements. The huge two-story, Corinthian limestone columns make it definitely unlike most other buildings in Charleston. It’s hands down one of our favorite engagement photo locations, since it provides a white and super elegant backdrop.
Tip: It is also the perfect “emergency” photo location in Downtown for rainy days since the area all the way up the stairs is covered.
And if you’d like to end your engagement session with a pop of color just keep walking next door. The famous Mills House shines in a light pink/rose façade. A very popular engagement photo location and one you’ll find all over Instagram and Pinterest.
Take your time at the end of your engagement session, have a look inside and don’t forget to order a glass of champagne to cheer to the new chapter of you life.
We recommend the lower end of Charleston’s business district if you’re looking for a very elegant vibe in your engagement photos, but still don’t want to miss variety.
To be more precise, we’re talking about the corner of Meeting and Broad Street. This intersection is the famous “Four Corners of Law” with Charleston City Hall, Charleston County Court House, the United States Post Office, and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Each corner represents a different branch of law: city, state, federal, and “God’s law”, as we have learned.
All buildings have a mainly white/grey appearance with darker detailing and ironwork. The overall majestic and elegant looking exterior, combined with the right engagement outfit, will easily add the wow factor to your engagement photographs. Right around the corner a few feet north on Meeting Street you’ll find Hibernian Hall , also seamlessly fitting in this elegant scheme.
One of the standout locations for engagement photos in Harleston Village is Colonial Lake. A historic tidal pond close to the Ashley River. This serene oasis features a tranquil lake surrounded by lush greenery, blooming flowers, and elegant benches. The lake's calm waters reflect the stunning surroundings, creating a dreamy and ethereal ambiance.
Before moving further north on the downtown peninsula, let’s look at one last and very romantic option — especially when you’re from out of town. Wentworth Mansion is a luxurious Charleston inn with splendid interior and hands down one of the best places to stay in Charleston.
Its Second Empire style makes you feel like traveling back in time. This is also the perfect place to stay if you’re about to propose!! The small cupola that towers from the mansion’s roof provides you with a spectacular 360° view over Charleston and makes for the perfect spot for watching the sunset.
The great news is that Canon Park is located slightly north-west of the college and makes a great addition. Looking at it the first time it might appear as some kind of amphitheater or stage. The Greek columns are remains of the old Thomson Auditorium following a fire. The park has plenty of trees flanking the ruins providing more variety.
Nestled into this neighborhood, and basically separating the calm Halston Village area form touristy King St and the Historic District, is the College of Charleston campus. No matter if you are a former student or not. The Cistern Yard, the heart of the campus, is a fabulous spot for engagement photos. Timing however is of the essence.
Within Harleston Village and not far off Colonical Lake are the Charleston City Marina or The Harborage at Ashley Marina. If you are thinking to put out to sea for some engagement photos, have a look at our last section of this article.
Let’s not forget about the west side of the Charleston Peninsula. The Harleston Village neighborhood offers a picturesque and romantic backdrop for engagement photos. With its tree-lined streets, historic architecture, and charming atmosphere, couples can capture timeless moments in a truly enchanting setting.
Heading north on King Street leads you into a more rustic and slightly industrial area with Victorian commercial architecture elements. It’s a complete different style and creates a more modern atmosphere. Buildings such as Woolfe Street Playhouse offer another great engagement photo location. We personally love the industrial style since glass and steel elements add an interesting touch to your photographs. The Cigar Factory on the Eastside is another perfect example and we really hope to see more of this style in Charleston in the future.
Before we head to the next district we’d like to offer you one more alternative. It’s secretly one of our favorite engagement photo options. Actually, it is not even a specific location. Have you ever thought about taking engagement photographs on top a of a parking deck? Probably not because it sounds quite strange and not very romantic. But let me show you how stunning the results can be with these engagement photographs taken on the Meeting street parking Garage.
The Karpeles Manuscript Building in Charleston is a true gem in the city's architectural landscape. This historic building, located on the corner of Meeting Street and Hassell Street, exudes a unique charm.
It is one of our absolute favorite Charleston engagement photo locations on our list.
Similar to the Custom House, the building is in the Greek Revival style and was inspired by the Temple of Jupiter in Rome.
Originally it was a Methodist church built in 1856. The ornaments, the columns and the fact that it is far from the usual tourist locations, makes it a true insider tip for everyone who is looking for a somewhat different and intimate engagement photo location.
The Boroughs, located in the central area of the Charleston peninsula, north of Calhoun Street, is a collection of three distinct neighborhoods: Radcliffborough, Cannonborough/Elliotborough, and Mazyck-Wraggborough. Although each neighborhood has its own unique visual appearance, they are all connected by King Street, which runs through all three boroughs and continuous its array of restaurants, bars, and shops. However, once you step away from the bustling King Street, you will experience a different vibe.
Mazyck-Wraggborough, also know as Garden District, is a historic neighborhood that exudes elegance. The neighborhood today boasts four parks, including Marion Square, for residents and is known for its quiet ambience. It also hosts some of the most luxurious hotels in Charleston such as The Dewberry and Hotel Bennett, as well as several Museums.
On the other hand, Radcliffborough and Cannonborough/Elliotborough have a vibrant and trendy bohemian feel. These neighborhoods are known for their artistic flair, eclectic shops, and lively atmosphere. The colorful facades of the buildings and the quirky street art create a dynamic backdrop for engagement photos. Couples who are looking for a more contemporary and edgy aesthetic will be drawn to the energy and creativity that radiates from these neighborhoods.
Note: Most Airbnbs in Charleston are clustered in the Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood because of zoning. In recent years, especially Spring Street gained a reputation for its vibrant culinary scene.
If you’re more of a nature lover and would like to include this into your engagement photography location, then the numerous state and county parks around Charleston are worth a look. Palmetto Island County Park is our favorite.
Walking along a gorgeous deck while looking over the sheer endless marsh, shimmering with golden light during sunset. This park creates its very own romantic atmosphere that you can almost feel when looking at the photographs of our couples.
As you can see, the variety and options of engagement photo locations seem to be endless in Charleston.
Note: Some (most?) of Charleston’s plantations and gardens charge a fee for professional portrait sessions — from around $100 to $500 per session. Also, they all close at about 5pm.
Cypress Gardens. Probably has not (yet) made it on everyone's list. This unique garden, created in 1927 and now under the care of the City of Charleston, is a great attraction featured in national magazines, and movies. Visitors can enjoy picturesque views along 3.5 miles of walking and hiking paths that loop through the swamp and gardens. However, the highlight is with no doubt the paddle boat ride through the swamp. Surrounded by alligators and waterlilies, this is a fantastic experience.
Cypress Gardens offers a serene and captivating setting for engagement photos, with its lush vegetation, charming boardwalks, and tranquil waters. Despite its beauty we haven't see it crowded at any visit.
Obviously, we can’t miss including Charleston’s gorgeous plantations and gardens as one of the most sought after options for an engagement session.
When it comes to finding engagement photo locations in Charleston, gardens and plantations offer a picturesque and romantic backdrop. Did you know that there were more than 300 of these plantations in Charleston County? Many of them were built along the banks of the Ashley River. Today quite a few are open to the public. Either you’ve been in Charleston before and visited the plantations, or saw them in pictures or movies like “The Notebook”. You might already be familiar with one of the plantations.
Some of the most popular gardens and plantations in Charleston for engagement photos include Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place. Boone Hall Plantation is known for its stunning Avenue of Oaks, while Magnolia Plantation and Gardens offers beautiful gardens, bridges, and a picturesque plantation house. Middleton Place features beautifully landscaped gardens, historic structures, and waterfront views. These locations provide a blend of natural beauty, historic charm, and Southern elegance, making them ideal settings for capturing unforgettable moments.
Also, while some are mainly lovely gardens with paths leading through a sea of flowers (especially in spring), others like Boone Hall for example have still a running agriculture operation. Don’t miss to check on their seasonal events.
Share your ideas and vision with us and we will figure out the right location for your engagement session with us!
Edisto Beach is located one hour south of Charleston Downtown. It offers a more secluded and untouched aesthetic compared to the other Charleston beaches. The beach is characterized by its natural beauty, with driftwood and fallen trees scattered along the shore.
Seabrook Island, located just south of Kiawah Island, is another well known spot for its unspoiled beauty and tranquil atmosphere. As Kiawah, the island offers a sense of seclusion and privacy, which can enhance the intimacy of your engagement session.
Kiawah Island is a barrier island located off the coast of South Carolina, just a few miles from historic Charleston. Kiawah Island is known for its natural beauty and pristine coastline, but also for its world-class resort and of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. While the island is primarily a gated residential community, it offers various accommodations, including rental properties, vacation villas, and a boutique hotel. The expansive beach stretches for miles, allowing for plenty of opportunities to capture unique compositions and tranquil seascapes. Due to its exclusivity, the chances are good to have a less crowded beach section.
Folly Beach is known for its laid-back and bohemian vibe. The beach is surrounded by sand dunes, which offer a picturesque backdrop for photography. The iconic Folly Beach Pier stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean, providing a stunning composition for sunset shots. On the northern tip of the island you have the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve providing a great view on the Morris Island Lighthouse. The County Park on the southern tip usually guarantees quite empty beaches and even some amenities if you are going for some splash engagement photos. Both potential engagement photo locations offer a lot of nature as a backdrop
Sullivan's Island boasts a more serene and peaceful atmosphere compared to other Charleston beaches. If you go anywhere north of Station 18 you will discover that the vibe is quite similar to Isle of Palms and increases the closer you get to the bridge at Thomson Park. The historic Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, with its distinctive black and white stripes, is a popular subject for photographers. If you head a little further south to Fort Moultrie National Historical Park you will get to beautiful part of the island. We personally love to walk along the historic rocky breakwaters at the southernmost end of Sullivan’s Island with a fantastic view on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bride.
With its palm-lined shores and upscale beachfront homes, Isle of Palms offers a more refined and luxurious aesthetic. It is best to achieve a more clean look due to the relatively low dunes and vegetation. The northern part of the island belongs to the gated Wild Dunes community. The beach is the most popular in Charleston, which means that it is usually well maintained and family-friendly, but also highly trafficked. Parking can be a challenge, and even getting there in peak-season. With that we definitely recommend avoid the crowd and go for an early morning session.
Each Charleston beach and island has its own distinct characteristics, which might suit your vision more or less. The following descriptions are intended to give you a general idea for each Charleston beach.
It's important to pay attention to the forecast, both in terms of weather and tide. Beaches can look completely different at high tide compared to low tide, so it's important to choose a time when the tide is low if you want to have a stretched beach line in your photos. Additionally, the sun plays a crucial role in the aesthetics of your photos. Whether you opt for a sunrise or sunset shoot, or prefer the full sun during the day, each option will give you a different look and feel.
When talking about engagement locations in Charleston, there is no way around its renowned beaches. With a variety of options to choose from, including Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, Folly Beach, Kiawah, and Seabrook Island, you're sure to find the perfect spot to capture your love in a stunning setting. Imagine posing under the shade of a palmetto tree, walking hand in hand along the sandy shores, or even incorporating the unique textures of driftwood and rocks into your photos. The possibilities are endless!
Bars, restaurants, or hotels can offer an unique and exciting alternative, when it comes to choosing an engagement location. Whether you're looking for a cozy date night vibe with cocktails or a glamorous Hollywood setting, these venues can add a special touch to your engagement photos. In Charleston, there are plenty of options available to cater to different preferences and styles. You might even already have a favorite location in mind within the city.
Consider that indoor locations are usually darker so that your photographer needs to use flash. This is important for you to consider because it impacts the look of your engagement photos, because it looks different to natural sunlight.
We love using direct flash in such situations and go for the red carpet (or paparazzi) look. The lighting in direct flash photography is even and intense, resulting in a heightened sense of drama. The colors become more saturated and vivid, adding a sense of vibrancy to the images. The subject stands out prominently against the background, drawing the viewer's attention.
To ensure a smooth experience, it is important to reach out to potential locations as soon as possible. This will allow you to discuss the available options and understand their photo policies. Some venues may have restrictions on photography, while others may require a minimum order to allow photos to be taken. By having these discussions early on, you can avoid any disappointments or misunderstandings on the day of your engagement shoot.
Additionally, if your photographer agrees, you can offer to share the photos for marketing purposes. This can be a win-win situation for both parties involved. The venue gets beautiful images to showcase their space, while you and your photographer gain exposure. It's worth exploring this possibility and discussing it with your photographer and the venue.
Are you in for a session but you don’t know what to wear? Head over to get our most trusted dressing tips for your engagement photographs!
Sounds all good but you still haven’t quite found what you are looking for? Tell us more about your vision and we are more than happy to find something unique for your session!
I highly encourage you to be creative and to think outside the box. The most unlikely locations can make a great backdrop for an engagement session. Maybe a private estate where you have exclusive access or an island with some secret ruins? The sky’s the limit and we are always excited to discover something new together with our couples.
Alternatively, if you're looking to add a touch of sophistication and elegance, consider including a fancy vintage car in your shoot, reminiscent of James Bond. The possibilities are endless, and by incorporating props or hobbies, you can elevate the overall look and feel of your engagement photos. So, whether it's a bike, vespa, sailboat, or vintage car, choose a prop that resonates with you and adds a special touch to your photo commitment session. Let your creativity shine and make your engagement photos truly unique and unforgettable.
Adding props or incorporating hobbies into your engagement photo session can make it even more memorable and unique. Whether it's a small prop or a larger one, you'll find that including something special in your photos can turn the session into a fun and enjoyable experience.
If you both enjoy riding bikes or have a passion for vintage Vespas, why not include them in your photoshoot? Imagine the joy and excitement captured as you ride together, creating beautiful moments to cherish. If you're in Charleston, exploring the harbor with a sailboat as your prop can bring a touch of adventure and romance to your engagement photos.
Let’s stop here for a second and consider a drastic location change. What are your thoughts on an engagement session on a sailboat, overlooking the Charleston peninsula while sailing into the sunset? It is definitely something special, given that you don’t get seasick of course. It’s also super easy to style up with props like a picnic basket and champagne. Coordinate with your captain and voila, there is your very private and romantic date night combined with your engagement photo session.
You have the option to get on the water basically everywherewe in Charleston. We previously went to the Charleston City Marina or The Harborage at Ashley Marina, but also Patriots Point usually offers charters.
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