Maybe this is the town you met, or where you fell in love. Maybe it’s where just where you chosen to call home. Whatever your reason, Madison is a great place to document your love.
Why is Madison such a great place for engagement photos? Well, you may not know that it has the most parks per capita among cities in the US (12.7 per 10,000 residents). It’s also sandwiched between two lakes, Monona and Mendota, touches several more. All this provides for many naturally scenic areas for recreation and, of course, photography.
It also has a wonderful downtown core area, being more desirable and walkable than those of other towns anywhere in Wisconsin. There are plenty of areas to set the scene for engagement photos and this list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, but we hope it helps you as you prepare to document your love beautifully and authentically!
Governor Nelson State Park
We love shooting at Governor Nelson State Park. There’s plenty of room to move around and explore. And for such a nice park, it doesn’t feel too crowded. Some highlights for us are the rocks along the pier at Lake Mendota and the gnarly oak trees scattered on the rolling prairie near the park entrance
Pros: There's lots of space at Governor Nelson State Park. Also, it's a little less crowded than some of the other lakefront parks in the city limits
Cons: It's a state park, so there's an entry fee. It's also a little farther away from home
Wisconsin State Capitol
It’s the most iconic spot in Madison, and for good reason. Not only is the capitol building itself a beautiful piece of architecture, but the well manicured lawns and significant architecture surrounding it also make for great opportunities to capture some of the best of what Madison has to offer. Pros:The State Capitol building is synonymous with beautiful architecture. Because all sides are symmetrical, you can shoot on whichever side works best with the existing lighting conditions and you still have a predictable setting
Cons: There are usually lots of people milling around this area at any time of day and that makes it a little more challenging to keep the backgrounds clean in all your photos.
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The atmosphere at the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union is young and fun and that tends to put people at ease pretty quickly. There are also some great spots for photos including the UW boating piers and the iconic brightly colored chairs on the terrace, not to mention great architecture inside and out.
Pros:what’s more Madison than hanging out on the Terrace overlooking Lake Mendota? There are those iconic chairs and fun atmosphere to boot.
Cons: The terrace can be busy when it’s nice out which makes it a little more challenging to shoot without getting any distracting background elements.
We “discovered” the arboretum this spring and are so glad we did! From the amazing fragrances of the early spring flowering tree blossoms to the glowing sunsets over the natural prairie and through the loose tree canopy, its’ hard to go wrong here.
The tranquil location also makes for a more relaxed experienced and that can lead to more authentically romantic photos than some of the busier locations in the city. Oh, and Michael’s custard is just up the road if you want to keep the party going after your photos with a post-session snack!
Pros: There are so many different sections to the arboretum that the possibilities are practically endless. You have manicured garden areas, rustic woods, Stately pines, and beautiful prairies.
In the spring, the flowering trees create a fragrant atmosphere and stunning backdrop for any session.
Cons: The arboretum is not a pet friendly location and because it’s such a beautiful place to shoot, it’s no secret among local photographers. Of the many times we’ve shot here, we’ve almost always seen other photographers shooting sessions of all kinds, though there’s still plenty of space to roam and explore.
While Tenney park may not provide the most diverse photo opportunities, it does give you a great spot to enjoy canoodling along the edge of lake Mendota. Pros:Bordering a lovely section of Lake Mendota, Tenney Park is a great spot to grab photos among the rocks that border the pier, amid the park’s verdant greenery, or even in front of the cute houses bordering the park’s eastern edge.
Cons:Because of the still lagoons running throughout the park, mosquitoes can be especially pesky here. Also, there is not as much variety of scenery in this park as in some of the other outdoor Madison locations
East Side Atwood St/ Williamston St
Pros:All the funky charm of Madison’s East side. Brick buildings, personality, and plenty of unique places to grab dinner before or after your photos.
Cons: A good deal of your session may be spent along sidewalks with cars whizzing by just a few feet away. It may take a little longer for some to really feel comfortable in that kind of environment.
Olbrich Botanic Garden
Whenever we shoot at Olbrich gardens, I wonder if it’s what the Biblical garden of Eden must have been like. The entire grounds are perfectly manicured and you really can’t find a bad spot for photos anywhere!
Pros: Beautiful gardens, flowers galore, and plenty of different sections to always keep it interesting.
Cons: The gardens only allow one hour of shooting per session and require a permit submitted with payment a week in advance. It’s a beautiful place for a session, but the added cost and hassle of dealing with the permit application might be more work than it’s worth.
It might not be great for engagement photos, but If you have your wedding here, there’s no permits or time limits to deal with!
Your favorite spot
While these are some great spots that we are happy to recommend, this list is by no means meant to be conclusive or limiting. We are always happy to discover new places.
Maybe you love your neighborhood or know of just the perfect spot. The most important things are that you feel comfortable in front of our cameras and that we can beautifully and ethereally interpret your love story through photos.