I was so excited this summer to finally get to shoot a downtown Grand Rapids engagement session! I spent four years in West Michigan for college (Go Hope!) but I’ve never been able to do an engagement session in downtown Grand Rapids. When Erika and Will booked me for their September 2020 wedding, they knew they wanted to use the city as a backdrop for their engagement session!
During this downtown Grand Rapids engagement session, we stopped at quite a few landmarks around the city, including this awesome mid-century wall, murals over on Library Street, and of course the infamous Blue Bridge. Does anyone really make it out of Grand Rapids without using the Blue Bridge somehow?
Erika and Will are college sweethearts and met at Central Michigan University. Right before their engagement session bought a house AND got the most adorable golden retriever puppy, Nala. I can’t believe how many of my clients have dogs and always want to feature them in their photos – I’m always game for that, your dogs are always welcome at your sessions!
We headed to Provin Trails just outside the city to meet Nala and get some nature photos because these two love to spend time outside! Golfing, skiing, hiking, you name it, they’re an active couple! Nala was just as sweet as can be (wait until you see her in their wedding photos from September, my oh my she got big). She was so good for the camera. I’m so glad Erika and Will choose to include her.
Abby and Alkin’s downtown Detroit winter engagement session was a perfect example of why February doesn’t suck for downtown sessions. Downtown Detroit winter engagement sessions are never a bad idea — the city shines in any season!
Abby and I actually knew each other as kids. She lived on the same street as one of my childhood friends and we actually played softball together for several years. I was honored that she asked me to photograph her and Alkin’s wedding and engagement photos!
These two met while working at a local bowling alley, not a story you hear too often in the Internet age, but adorable nonetheless. Workplace romances is a common theme for many of my clients.
We started at the Dequindre Cut for a few photos with Abby and Alkin’s dog, Ollie. What a good boy! Also, are you sensing a trend that I attract a lot of dog lovers? Why, yes, I do. If you are a cat lover, it’s no problem, promise. We won’t hold it against you — that much. Just kidding!
We shifted to Greektown, which is a fun yet underused part of town. Alkin is a pro poker player and a casino lover. Though you can’t photograph inside the casinos, we did dip in for a clothes change and to warm up.
After being foiled by the People Mover (which I usually NEVER take), we walked down to the Riverfront to use Hart Plaza. Being February and rather chilly, we had the place to ourselves. You can’t tell in the photos, but these two were rather cold (remember it’s way colder by the water) but were definitely troopers for this downtown Detroit winter engagement session. Anything for the photo, right?
Can’t wait to (hopefully) celebrate these two in November at their wedding!
Getting married? These top Detroit engagement session locations are perfect for photos that announce the big day. With the renaissance of the city, Detroit has become a popular spot for an engagement session. With a sprawling city like Detroit, there are so many places you could visit. Here’s my top Detroit engagement session locations you’ll want to check out before your session.
1. The Belt
An iconic downtown Detroit engagement session location is The Belt, an alley filled with art, market lighting, and some cool bars you can duck into for an after session date. The Belt is a really popular spot to end a Detroit engagement session because the lights photograph so beautifully. Located just steps away from Woodward Avenue, The Belt is a quick stop and great for those who love art and bright colors.
2. Eastern Market
Heading away from downtown Detroit, just up Gratiot is Eastern Market, one of the best spots in the city to spent a Saturday morning. There are so many murals that make for excellent Detroit engagement session backdrops. If you’re a fan of eating or drinking, Eastern Market is a perfect Detroit engagement session location. Check out Eastern Market Brewing for a good beer.
3. The Dequindre Cut
This hidden gem, the Dequindre Cut is a bike and walking path leading from the Riverfront in the Warehouse District to Eastern Market. You could spend an entire engagement session on the cut, but I suggest pairing it with Eastern Market to give you some variety. The Dequindre Cut is great for a grungier, more graffiti loving couple. It’s not highly trafficked with photographers, making it a hidden Detroit engagement session location gem (shhhh don’t tell everyone, okay?)!
4. Belle Isle
Everyone in Detroit knows about the magical island Belle Isle, with is stunning conservatory and perfect sunset skyline views. Belle Isle is truly a gorgeous Detroit engagement session location. Requiring a permit for use, I think it’s 100% worth it because the island gives you so much to explore. From a large marble fountain to the conservatory to a historic casino to willow trees and Japanese-style bridges to beaches, you have so many options.
5. The Warehouse District
Much overlooked, the Warehouse District is still gentrifying and still has a little bit of the old, rundown, rough and tumble Detroit. I can’t tell you exact locations to use, but the Warehouse District runs along the riverfront. With cobblestone streets, a perfect shot of the Renaissance Center, and lots of rundown buildings with ivy, its not-polished nature is perfect for casual couples. Atwater Brewery is also a great stop if you’re into their beers. The Vanilla Java Porter is famously my favorite.
6. The Detroit Institute of Arts & Detroit Public Library
Heading up to mid-town, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Public Library are across the street from each other. One is more popular than the other (take a wild guess), but both are marble buildings with lots of character. I happen to enjoy using the blossoming trees around them in the spring and summer. Though you can’t head inside the DIA (you can at the library with prior permission), outdoors is perfect for a more elegant Detroit engagement session location. There are some ground rules about the steps at the DIA, but plan to come in the morning before opening (preferably on a Sunday) and you’ll find the entire place deserted.
7. Palmer Park
Another hidden gem (in my opinion) for those that want to use two Detroit engagement session locations but want nature and don’t want to head all the way to Belle Isle is Palmer Park. Located in the north side of town, closer to the Ferndale border and the Detroit Golf Club, Palmer Park offers a large field, an abandoned fountain, and honestly a beautiful golden hour. Almost no one bothers to use Palmer Park for engagement photos and I can’t figure out why. The tall grass, trees, and look of a field are highly sought after in the suburbs.
Corktown has changed in recent years, especially with Ford Motor Company’s purchase of the old Michigan Central Station. There once was a time where photographing the abandoned station seemed edgy but not anymore. Either way, Corktown’s cobblestone street, fun restaurants and bars, and neighborhood vibes are perfect for laid back couples. Corktown isn’t as popular as downtown or Eastern Market when it comes to Detroit engagement session locations, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing. Head down to the West Riverfront Park at the end of your session for a perfect view of the Ambassador Bridge.
9. The Riverfront
The Detroit Riverfront is very long and the Riverwalk functions as a bike, walking and running path. It can get a little busy during the summer. But along the way, you can get beautiful views of the Renaissance Center, the Detroit Princess riverboat, and the Ambassador Bridge. If you make a quick stop at Hart Plaza, you can grab some engagement photos with the art in that area or head right up Woodward Avenue for more photos.
Greektown, adjacent to downtown, is a fun, colorful place for engagement photos in Detroit. The market lights are similar to the Belt but hang over a road filled with colorful shops and restaurants.
11. Capitol Park
As many head to Campus Martias, instead sneak over to Capitol Park, which is a small little park off of Griswold with beautiful lights, a Christmas tree lot during the holidays, and perfect views down Griswold of the Guardian Building. It’s usually less crowded than Campus Martias during the busy holiday season, making it perfect for a winter downtown Detroit engagement session.
12. Campus Martias
I know, I have to mention it, but Campus Martias is really a picturesque Detroit engagement session location during the holidays. All of the light displays, the huge Christmas tree, and the skating rink really do make it so beautiful for a winter engagement session. It can get crowded so if you are nervous around people, it’s not recommended or try for a weekday session.
13. Parker’s Alley
Behind the new Shinola Hotel lies Parker’s Alley, similar to The Belt but more modern. You won’t find a ton of murals here, but lots of brick and a modern feel. Stop in at Madcap Coffee if you two are coffee lovers for a drink during your engagement session.
14. Cass Avenue Viaduct
For art lovers, visit the Cass Avenue Viaduct for a bright backdrop and beautiful golden hour light. Location on Cass Avenue in New Center, just down the street from the Fisher Building, the viaduct is a great stop but try not to park illegally (parking is a little weird in this location). As for Detroit engagement session locations, this is a great spot for rainy day engagement sessions since indoor locations in Detroit are dwindling.
Deciding between Detroit Engagement Session Locations?
When you have so many options, it’s hard to decide where to go! The important thing is to choose not the “coolest” location but the location that you identify with the most. If you’re planning a Detroit engagement session, get in touch with me!
One of my favorite parts of owning a photography business is being able to connect with clients, especially welcoming clients who are old friends of mine. I’ve been able to photograph engagements, weddings, and newborn sessions for friends from all stages of my life. For this Detroit brewery engagement session, I met up with Alison and Tom, both of whom I’ve known since middle and elementary school, respectively. When Alison reached out to me last summer about photographing their 2020 wedding, I was excited to see both of them again and catch up after ten years (wow, we’re old yikes!).
When we were talking about potential engagement session locations and ideas, these two let me know that they love trying new brews, so a Detroit brewery engagement session seemed like the perfect fit. We started at Eastern Market Brewing, which has the perfect vibe (plants, wood tables, cute glasses, big windows, yes!). The key to shooting indoors is to have that big window light. It makes all the difference in the world! I didn’t try the beer (but heard it was good).
After finishing the brews, we headed downtown to catch some of the holiday decor. I’m glad we split the session because going downtown during the holidays on weekends is always tough, especially when there’s beautiful weather. I think these two got the last beautiful day of the year…you can’t tell that winter was on its way!
I do love shooting with the lights and decor in Campus Martias and Capitol Park. There’s really nothing like that time of year downtown.
Before we finished, I asked if they wanted to run up to the Z Lot’s top floor just for a few sunset photos. It was too beautiful to pass up. We quickly ran up there and finished our session with the most beautiful November sunset. Little did I know that these would be the last photos before they put up a fence at that lot. I’m so glad to have these!
More Detroit brewery engagement sessions please! Bringing me to your favorite places is encouraged!
Can’t wait to celebrate Alison and Tom in November!
Late fall is always my favorite time to photograph engagement sessions. November is actually my favorite month to do sessions, even though it’s a little chilly, but the sun is always on point and the fall color has just begun to fade. This November, Lisa and John’s Belle Isle engagement session fell on a beautiful day with the perfect golden hour sunset.
When we were talking about possible engagement session locations, Lisa kept coming back to Belle Isle’s Anna Scripps Holcomb Conservatory. The Conservatory is absolutely beautiful and highly recommended for any cold weather session (get your permit first of course!). We had to start there and I’m glad we did because I love photographing in greenhouses and conservatories.
Lisa and John have one of the coolest how-they-met stories. They met in a kickball league! How cool is that? I don’t think I’ve ever had a couple meet in a sports league at all!
Another Belle Isle landmark is the James E. Scott Fountain. In November it’s not operational, but it’s one of the prettiest spots on the island during golden hour. The marble really reflects the light and gives this beautiful, light colored image. Though it was super windy, Lisa and John prevailed and didn’t complain! They really had fun with it, as you can tell from the images of this Belle Isle engagement session.
To finish our session, we headed to the Belt and the Z Lot, another favorite spot of Lisa’s! We had the perfect sunset from the Z Lot (and lots of laughs). These are some of the last photos without the fence that has now gone up around the parking lot, which is also where Josh and I had our wedding photos taken.
To finish, we used the ambient light of the market lighting in the Belt, as it was getting dark FAST! But as I tell everyone, I’m prepared to make photos anywhere, so I got creative and I still love how they all turned out. I know Lisa and John did too because they printed a bunch to decorate their home!
It’s always fun to spend time with a couple at an engagement session before the wedding. Not only do you get some bomb photos, but this is a chapter you just never get back (speaking from experience). That anticipation before you’re married is something really special. I’m so excited for Lisa and John’s August wedding!
Fall is always my busiest time for engagement sessions and I can’t wait to share all of them with you! This Detroit Historical Museum engagement session with Keri and Darin was so fun! I am a huge history buff (I minored in it in college) so when Keri asked if I though the Detroit Historical Museum would be a good place for part of their session, I was so excited! Darin is actually a docent there and though I had visited before, it was fun to hear some facts from him as we did the session.
For part two, Keri and Darin wanted to include their pup Callie, so we headed to nearby Palmer Park to finish out the session with the most gorgeous golden hour! Palmer Park is seriously underrated and almost ignored by most photographers, but I would love to go back! I love Detroit so much but sometimes it’s nice to use different spots.
Callie was an absolute doll and one of the best behaved dogs I had the pleasure of photographing this year. Keri and Darin went with all my crazy ideas, including visiting the non-operational fountain that I just thought was perfect for the end of their session. We had so much fun that we went right until the sun went down.