I highly recommend locking in a permit as soon as the peak blossom prediction is released as permits are in high demand and mailing the application can take up to two weeks to process.
If we stick to the Tidal Basin, I would strongly recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before sunrise. We may not be able to take very many photos without the sun, but it will give us plenty of time to park and find a quieter space to begin your session so that we can roll right into taking photos as the sun slips over the horizon for that really glowy soft light.
I’ve heard that it’s best to park behind the MLK Jr Monument and walk, as it has 3 hour metered parking and a 24 hour bathroom in case you two want to change outfits but during my last trip to DC I noticed that parking garage was closed for construction so be sure to have a back up parking location in mind!
If you’re feeling a little wary about the permit turnaround timing or the Tidal Basin drawing big crowds, you may want to consider another location. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions for cherry blossom photos in Washington DC!
Not a lot of information online regarding permits, but as a National Park I would assume that it follows the same guidelines as the monuments. Parking and admission are free, but no information about public restrooms was available on their website. The trail itself is almost 4.5 miles long and has a variety of cherry trees as well as water front views. (From my IG research, the trail appears to be across the water from several monuments, but Google Maps is giving me mixed answers!)
Rumor has it that the cherry blossoms bloom a tad bit later here than in the Tidal Basin which may give us a safety net if we need to reschedule! A permit is required through the National Arboretum itself, and currently photography sessions are only permitted for Tuesdays, Thursday, and Sundays between 8:00am to 4:30pm. Sessions must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance and no walk-up permits are granted, but they seem to have a flexible rescheduling policy for inclement weather.
Another photographer suggested this neighborhood as a secluded option. It appears to be a hot spot on warm weekends with families and folks following a biking trail, but mornings are said to be very quiet with lots of trees. Parking sounds potentially difficult and you would likely be changing in your car (if you choose to do multiple outfits!) as there are no public restrooms nearby.
I’m seeing a lot of mixed information for this property that permits may be required and/or professional photography may not be allowed at all, but I wanted to include it because it is truly beautiful! My current understanding is that there is a park named Dumbarton Oaks that touches property lines with privately owned Dumbarton Oaks and the privately owned property does not allow professional photography but the park does allow professional photographers.
If you’re open to other types of pink-blooming-trees, we can consider these locations!
While not cherry trees, these gardens do have pink magnolia blooms that will flower. The gardens are open dawn to dusk, restroom access is limited but no permits are required. Pets are not allowed within this particular garden, but seem to be allowed within the other Smithsonian Gardens.
DAR will also have a pop of pink magnolia blooms! There is a marble patio with a magnolia tree and a glimpse of the distant Washington Monument. They have parking garages nearby, and their website makes it sound like permission is needed for photos but not a paid permit. No information online about restrooms for changing!
If Magnolia blooms don’t do it for ya, we can find apple blossoms within walking distance of the Library of Congress about a week after peak cherry blossoms! It does not appear that photos are permitted inside of the Library, but once open you should be able to change in their restrooms indoors if you wish.