6 Stunning Backdrops for Charlottesville Engagement Photos

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couple sitting on top of rocks looking out over mountain views

Feels like a bit of a whirlwind, doesn’t it? It probably seems like just yesterday you laid eyes on each other and fell deeply in love. Now, as you look at your engagement ring and go over the proposal again and again in your mind, you’re in disbelief that this is really happening—you’re getting married! We bet you never want to forget what you’re feeling at this very moment. We also bet that you want to be able to have mementos that bring you back to this special time in your life for years to come. Are we on to something? If we’re on the right track, let’s talk about the plans for your Charlottesville engagement photos.

Checking off all the little boxes on your “how to achieve perfect engagement photos” master list isn’t a piece of cake. From scouting out and hiring an amazing photographer who clicks with you on every level, to picking out outfits that reflect your personality as a couple, to deciding whether or not to include props…there’s a whole lot of decision-making that goes into getting the kind of engagement photos you have your heart set on.

When you’re having your engagement photos taken in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia, there’s a little extra challenge involved: choosing where you want your shoot to happen. From rolling vineyards and mountain backdrops to the University of Virginia and the downtown area, this place is quite literally a dreamland of possible photographic backdrops. Your job of selecting just one or two spots is pretty tricky—in a good way!

With this in mind, we set out to create a list of our all-time favorite places for capturing Charlottesville engagement photos. So who best to consult? Charlottesville wedding photographers, of course! Thanks to help from Amy Jackson Photography, Karin Nicole Photography, and Sarah Jane Winter Photography, we are sharing six incredible locations that are just perfect for your Charlottesville engagement photos. One of these picks is bound to be a fit for you, no matter what you’re looking for.

1. Swannanoa Palace

For a fairytale backdrop that seems to defy the laws of place and time, head to the top of Afton Mountain, where you’ll find a 52-room replica of Rome’s Villa Medici named Swannanoa Palace. Built by millionaire James Dooley in 1912, the deteriorating Italianate marble palace is every bit as breathtaking—and unusual—as it sounds. Amy Jackson (of Amy Jackson Photography) agrees: “Being at Swannanoa Palace makes me feel like I’ve stepped into another country. It’s old, grand, beautiful and has so much character.” Seeing is believing—check out these incredible moments from a few of Amy’s engagement shoots at Swannanoa Palace.

2. The Saunders-Monticello Trail

The leading lady behind Sarah Jane Winter Photography told us about an engagement shoot spot that’s perfect for the more chilly months of the year. Says Sarah: “Brides and grooms are often inspired by and drawn to the natural beauty of Charlottesville. With mountains, vineyards, and orchards surrounding us, there are a wealth of options to choose from in spring, summer, and fall. Winter can provide unique challenges. The Saunders-Monticello Trail is great because the evergreens provide a colorful backdrop. The area is far less busy in winter than it is the rest of the year, so you can explore to your heart’s content!”

Amy Jackson also loves to take couples to this woodsy spot. “The Monticello Trail is magical,” says Amy. “There’s something about the way the light comes through the tall trees. You really can’t go wrong there, it’s one of our favorites.” See what Amy’s talking about with a few of her engagement pics below.

engagement photo session at Monticello Trail with couple walking holding hands up a wooden hill

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

engagement photo session at Monticello Trail with couple standing inside dark bridge tunnel

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

engagement photo session at Monticello Trail with couple sitting on rock bench embracing

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

3. The University of Virginia

Whether you’re a UVA alum or not, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Thomas Jefferson’s university when it comes to taking photographs. From landscaped gardens with serpentine brick walls, to the stately white columns of the Rotunda and its attached Lawn, to countless other graceful spots on this architecturally lovely “academical village,” the University is what Amy Jackson calls “an ideal spot for an engagement session.” Why so ideal, you may ask? “I always love somewhere with sentimental meaning,” shares Amy. “It’s got beautiful architecture, as well as plenty of gardens and locations that aren’t as recognizable.”

Karin of Karin Nicole Photography echoes the sentiment: “UVA provides a beautiful backdrop for engagement sessions with plenty of brick buildings, archways, and pillars rich with history.“ See how Karin’s captured some of that rich backdrop with our favorites from her UVA engagement session below.

4. Walnut Creek Park

Some of the best spots for engagement shoots are areas that combine a bunch of different natural settings into one location, and that are not mobbed by tourists or recreation-seekers every minute of the day. Walnut Creek Park, a 525-acre natural preserve in Albemarle County, contains a large lake with sandy beaches, hiking and biking trails, and plenty of peace and quiet. Not to mention the fall foliage here during autumn really sings!  Hannah Peterson, the talented lady behind the camera at Hannah Malloy Photography, loves taking couples to Walnut Creek to maximize all of these backdrop potentials. “One Charlottesville spot that I enjoy shooting at is Walnut Creek Park down Old Lynchburg Road,” Hannah told us. “You get some rolling hills, quiet trails and lakeside views!” If you need more evidence, check out Hannah’s engagement shoot below from Walnut Creek—it will have you convinced in no time.

5. The Downtown Mall

Charlottesville’s  historic pedestrian mall is teeming with little hidden gems to serve as interesting backdrops. If you live in C’ville, it’s pretty much a given that you’ve spent some time here. Get industrial on the nearby train tracks, go inside local restaurants, coffee shops, or bars for live-action shots, or simply stroll the picturesque brick streets for a charming setting.

“We love shooting engagement sessions downtown,” reveals Amy. “There are parks, streets lined with colorful buildings, lights, and we even love the parking garages. It’s truly Charlottesville.” For proof of how Amy can make even parking garages look romantic, take a peek at her Downtown Mall engagement shoot below.

couple taking engagement photos at downtown mall of Charlottesville, VA with man kissing woman's cheek in front of buildings

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

couple taking engagement photos at downtown mall of Charlottesville, VA standing in a doorway on a street with a blue building

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

couple taking engagement photos at downtown mall of charlottesville, va looking at each other in front of a blue building

Photo Credit || Amy Jackson Photography

6. Blue Ridge Parkway

This 469-mile scenic roadway winds its way through Shenandoah National Park and the Appalachian region of Virginia and North Carolina, and luckily for Charlottesville couples (and photographers), it begins only 30 minutes from downtown C’ville. With tons of incredible vistas along its numerous pull-offs, you can imagine how phenomenal the Parkway is as a backdrop for engagement photos. “The Blue Ridge Parkway really shows off the mountain views around Charlottesville,” confides Amy. “If you’re a hiker, or a nature lover, it’s perfect.”

Hannah Peterson also recommends the Parkway for ultra-dreamy engagement pics; her favorite hidden gem is a dramatic overlook called Ravens Roost. “Ravens Roost overlook is one of my favorite places to shoot, especially for couples. You get both incredible mountain views and gorgeous sunsets, all within an easy drive from downtown Charlottesville,” reveals Hannah. Talk about gorgeous—these examples from a few of Hannah’s engagement shoots at Ravens Roost have us seriously searching for our breath.

We can’t wait to see your engagement photos!

P.S.—Looking for Charlottesville wedding photographers to capture your own engagement session? You’ve come to the right place!

Vendors Featured In This Post:

Amy Jackson Photography
Sarah Jane Winter Photography
Karin Nicole Photography
Hannah Malloy Photography


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