Northern Virginia Photography Spotlight with Erin Thompson Photography

Location Guides

Hey friend, Erin here! As a military spouse photographer, I know first hand how challenging it is to pick up your business and move every few years. To start over in a place where you don’t know anyone. To have to figure out your new go-to locations. And don’t even get me started on the legal and tax rules that vary from place to place! It’s HARD. But you know what makes it a little easier? Being in community with those who get it. That’s at the heart of what I do and why I created this blog series.

In this series, I am sharing contributions from fellow military spouse photographers who have been stationed around the globe. They’ll share inside tips and local insight from their experiences at different assignments. When you get orders to a new location, I hope you’ll check in to see what you can learn from someone else who’s already been there. And if we don’t have a blog post for that spot yet, I’d love for you to become our local expert!

Without further ado, let’s kick this off with my family’s current assignment at Joint Base Andrews. Here is your first Northern Virginia Photography Spotlight!

What are your top three favorite locations for sessions? Briefly share about each.

Green Spring Gardens

This park is beautiful just about all year round. From spring blooms, to summer greens to beautiful fall colors, it’s a great location for photos. The gazebo and historic house make for nice backdrops, as do the ponds down the hill from the parking lot. There is just so much variety here!

Family at Green Spring Gardens in a photo in Erin Thompson Photography's Northern Virginia Photography spotlight
Green Spring Gardens, Erin Thompson Photography

Old Town Alexandria

This is a great spot if you’re looking for somewhere that doesn’t require a permit! The waterfront parks are beautiful, though I also love just walking the streets of Old Town with clients. Once you get a few blocks away from the center of town, you basically have the place to yourself. Some of my favorite spots are Founders Park, Windmill Hill Park, and S Fairfax St/Prince St.

Family walking in Old Town Alexandria in Erin Thompson Photography's Northern Virginia Photography spotlight
Old Town Alexandria, Erin Thompson Photography

National Mall

Getting downtown might take some work, but the landscape of the National Mall is just so epic! Be sure to check for any construction going on ahead of time, but I personally love the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Tidal Basin. Weekdays at sunrise are ideal from a crowd perspective, but weekend mornings are okay too. While the light is beautiful in the evenings, you’ll just have to work around more people.

Mother and son at the Jefferson Memorial in Erin Thompson Photography's Northern Virginia Photography spotlight
Jefferson Memorial, Erin Thompson Photography

Are there any particularly busy seasons for photographers in this area? Any events an incoming photographer should know about?

Yes, cherry blossoms!! This is by far my busiest time of year and unfortunately also the most challenging to schedule because we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. While the trees around the Tidal Basin are the most iconic, there are lots of beautiful blooms around town, so don’t think you’re limited to the Tidal Basin. If you’re interested in more details on cherry blossom sessions, check out this blog post!

What should an incoming photographer know about permits in this area?

So. Many. Permits. It’s best to get into the habit of checking every location before you schedule a session there to see if a permit is required. All shoots on National Park grounds require a permit through the National Park Service. This includes most of the mall, except for the Capitol. If you want to shoot near the Capitol, that permit must be obtained through the Capitol Police. Even the public parks in Fairfax County require permits, so again, do your research here!

What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give to an incoming photographer?

Take advantage of all this assignment has to offer. If you’re like me, driving downtown, dealing with parking in unfamiliar places, navigating the Metro, etc. can be stressful. But, the iconic landscapes in this part of the country are so worth it. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to photograph families here.

Any other local expertise you’d like to share?

The Military Spouse Photographers – NOVA Edition Facebook group has been SO helpful! I highly recommend joining this group for local connections and additional insights.

Where can other milspouse photographers connect with you?

This website is home base for me, so feel free to look around at the other resources here that were built to help you. You can also follow along on Instagram to see more of my work and everyday life!

Are you a milspouse photographer interested in contributing? I’d love to have your insight! Please send me an email at and I’ll be in touch with the details!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out other featured location guides and tips for moving your business!


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more about me

I've been navigating military life with my family since 2008. In that time, I went from a full-time classroom teacher to an online course designer to a photographer. Actually, I still teach a little math on the side because I just love it too much!

Through it all, I've discovered how passionate I am about connecting with military families. Whether it's taking photos at a retirement ceremony, coaching a fellow milspouse photographer, or just grabbing coffee with a new squadron friend, I love this community. And as a teacher at heart, I'm excited to use this space to share what I've learned about business and life with you.


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