19 Best Places To Take Engagement Photos in Columbia, SC

by | Aug 9, 2016 | Columbia, Engagement

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “Where should we take our engagement photos in Columbia?”
 
Many of the sessions that I post are on family owned property, or the clients have special permission from a friend to use the location. I always recommend thinking about these options first. If the location is unique and has special meaning to you, it will always add value to the session. 
 
But what if you don’t have any special places in mind, and you don’t know anyone with beautiful property?
 
No problem! Columbia has some excellent options for engagement session locations. Many of the ones listed here are free and open to the public. Others may take a little planning or require a fee, but are often well worth it! Either way, you have plenty of great options to choose the perfect location for your engagement session!
 

1. Riverwalk

Columbia has several beautiful places to access the river. Since the flooding in October, some of the access is limited, but there are still some great options!
 
Here are some of my favorite places around the river:
 
Gervais St. Bridge (both sides)
Cayce Riverwalk
Blossom St Ruins
Columbia Riverfront Park
Columbia Canal

2. The South Carolina State House

One thing I love about the State House is that it has been designed to look great all year. There is almost always something blooming, and plenty of green. You can get a great outdoor/garden feel, but then also take advantage of the unique architecture. Not to mention, the State House is a great way to show off your South Carolina heritage. Nothing says “Columbia” more than pictures at the capital.  
 
Another bonus is that the State House is centrally located, and it would be easy to walk down Main Street, to the Horseshoe, or to The Vista. 

3. The Horseshoe

I’ve done DOZENS of sessions at the horseshoe, and yet every time I still find something new. There are so many nooks and hidden places to explore. The Horseshoe is great at any time of day because there is always shade. In fact, early morning is one of the most beautiful times on the horseshoe. If you’re thinking about doing a morning engagement session in Columbia, this is probably one of your best options. 
 
This is also a perfect place to do a session if you went to USC, or if you are a big South Carolina Gamecocks fan. The Horseshoe is iconic to the University of South Carolina, and while you have the option of showing off your love for USC, you can also have a generic session here if you aren’t a Carolina fan ;)
 
Speaking of being a Carolina fan, I’m not including these on the main list of best places in Columbia for sessions, but if you want to go all out, it is possible to do your engagement session at Williams Brice Stadium, or at the Gamecocks Baseball Stadium! 

4. Lace House & Gardens

Most people don’t even know that the gardens at the Lace House are open to the public on weekdays from 9-5. These gardens are immaculately kept, and are a perfect option for a slightly more traditional session. Lots of arches, brick, ivy, and fountains. 
Engagement session at Lace House under lamps
Engaged couple kissing sitting in arch at Lace House
Engagement photo on main mall at Columbia Lace House

5. The Vista

The Vista is a great place for an engagement session if you are looking for a more urban feel with lots of brick, alleys, colorful walls, and historic buildings. The environment is perfect for more formal attire. The Vista is also a great place for shooting at night if you want some engagement photos after dark!

6. Main Street

Main Street has some really nice opportunities for photos if you are creative. Some of my favorite things include looking back at the Capitol, getting reflections in buildings, alleys, and if you’re feeling adventurous, even going inside of some of the buildings (I have been kicked out before, so don’t say I didn’t warn you lol). 
 
Another cool idea would be going on Saturday morning during the Soda City market! 

Bonus: Mix and Match

The first 6 locations in this post were intentionally chosen to highlight some of the best places in Downtown Columbia. The great thing about these locations is that you can easily pick 2-3 for your session and drive between them in a matter of minutes. Usually, I encourage my clients to bring two outfits and pick one location for a formal wardrobe, and one for a more casual feeling. 
 
So far we’ve covered easy locations that are free and open to the public. These are great options when you just want to keep things simple and casual or if you are pressed for time.
 
However, with a little planning, there are plenty of other options to consider! I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Other Notable Places

There are quite a few places that I’ve found over the years where you can stop on the side of the road and take a few quick shots. I don’t recommend trespassing, but sometimes you can get some beautiful shots in a random parking lot or in the middle of the road. Be sure to take notes of these little places where you can stop between other main locations. These can also come in really handy on wedding days!
 
There are also several places where you can shoot if you pay for admission or make arrangements with the venue owner. Often these require a fee outside of admission, which varies based on the location.
 

5 Points

five-points-dip

Adams Pond

Engagement session at The Millstone at Adams Pond

Wavering Place Plantation

This is literally one of the most beautiful properties in the midlands. There is a fee to set up a session if you aren’t having your wedding there, but if this is the look you’re going for, it is WELL worth the fee. You won’t find this anywhere else in Columbia.

Engagement session at Wavering Place Plantation
 

The Main Branch of the Richland County Public Library

Note: you might want to get permission for this. We did for this session, and STILL got kicked out by security. Cool idea, but might not be feasible depending on how you do it. Please be respectful of other patrons and their rules. 
 
Engagement session at the Richland County Public Library
 

Sesquicentennial State Park

Engagement Session at Sesquicentennial State Park


The South Carolina State Fair

Engagement Session at South Carolina State fair
 

Williams Brice Stadium

If you’re hiring us to do your engagement session, I’d be happy to make arrangements to do your session at Williams Brice. There is a fee required, and you’ll have to schedule with their office. Hint: join the Gamecock Club and you’ll get the best price. 

How to take engagement photos at Williams Brice Stadium

Congaree National Park

Be aware of mosquitoes. If you go at the wrong time of the year they will eat you alive. About 30 minutes from Columbia.

engagement session at Congaree National Park

Lake Murray Dam

Engagement Session at Lake Murray Dam

Parking Garages

There are several to choose from, just scout them out beforehand. Again, please respect the rules posted.

engagement sessions on top of parking garages in downtown Columbia SC

Pine Island

You’ll have to be a member to access this space, but if you are, it is a really pretty location on Lake Murray!

Pine Island Engagement Session at Lake Murray

Peak Trestle Bridge

This little gem is only about 30-40 minutes from Columbia. Lots of trails provide a good variety for an engagement session!

Peak trestle bridge engagement photos

Random Places

There are quite a few places that I’ve found over the years where you can stop on the side of the road and take a few quick shots. I don’t recommend trespassing, but sometimes you can get some beautiful shots in a random parking lot or in the middle of the road. Be sure to take notes of these little places where you can stop between other main locations. These can also come in really handy on wedding days!
 
Not to mention the dozens of small parks that exist all over town. Even if they aren’t large enough for an entire session, you can always pick multiple locations!
 
Here are a few examples of random places. A mural downtown, a random church parking lot, a small park in Earlwood (Marshall Park) and a small park in Irmo (Irmo Town Park). I seriously could have given dozens more examples, but I just wanted to show you that even small locations can really be worth considering!

Day Trips

Another thing I love about Columbia is that we are centrally located to SO many other amazing places. With a 2 hour drive, you can find a huge variety of locations. Everything from mountains to ocean, from big cities to enchanted forests.

Charleston

One of my favorite places on the planet. Seriously, I could write another post that would be 10x longer than this one with engagement session locations in Charleston. Maybe I’ll do that one day. At less than 2 hours from Columbia, this is an easy day trip, and you can even pick a few different locations if you want to do a longer session!

Engagement Session Locations in Charleston, SC

Charlotte

The largest metropolis within 2 hours of Columbia, and again there are hundreds of locations to choose from. 

Engagement Session Locations in Charlotte NC

Tallulah Gorge

If you’re up for an adventure, Tallulah Gorge won’t disappoint!  Be prepared for a hike though, this one isn’t for amateurs! 

Engagement session at Tallulah Gorge

Enchanted Forest

Tallulah is an adventure, but at least there is a trail. If you want to go all out, we can find something unique. This location is one I call the “Enchanted Forest.” You’ll have to park on an old service road, swim across a river, and find your way with no trail, but this place is one of the most magical places I’ve been.

Couple in the enchanted forest

The Blue Ridge Parkway

This stretch is especially beautiful if you can go when the leaves are changing! Be sure to schedule plenty of time so you can stop in all the random places that catch your attention along the road.

Engagement session on the Blue Ridge Parkway

 

These are just a few of my favorites. There are literally hundreds of small towns in South Carolina with SO much personality. I’ve done sessions in too many to count, and this post is already too long to include more! I mean, there are still major cities that I left off this list. Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Augusta, Sumter, Orangeburg, Camden, and the list goes on and on. Of course if you want to drive a little further you can easily get to Atlanta, Savannah, Asheville, and SO many other incredible places. They also make these nifty things called planes if you’ve got a little extra money to spend. But this post is about Columbia lol. 

We’re always up for an adventure. But I hope that in this post you’ve been able to see that there are plenty of opportunities to get amazing photos right in our own back yard!

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