Should you chose the iconic Stone Arch Bridge for your pictures?

Is Stone Arch Bridge a Great Location For Engagement Session in Minneapolis

While the MillCity proudly features the Stone Arch Bridge, its Twin Cities sister only offer, the Harriet and the Raspberry Island. The bridge is located between the Anthony falls, the college and university campus.

Given that probably one third of my couples asked me to capture their pictures there, I thought it would be a great idea to write an article. So, perfect location or not?

A Great Location

Located in the geographic center of the city, the historic bridge is literally a bond between the south side of the city linking the downtown area and the north side. Crossing the Mississippi River, the bridge is surrounded by many parks, that could also be used as great locations for engagement sessions.

A Famous and Iconic Construction

It is the most iconic construction of the city. In a way, I think the Stone Arch Bridge represents in Minneapolis what the Eiffel Tower is in Paris. It’s a landmark in the landscape and tourists like to take pictures of it.
On each side of the bridge offers a different point of view. The South Side of the bridge offers a direct point of view on the gorgeous skyline, which is often used in the background of tourists’ pictures. The North Side offers a more “traditional” view on trees and park.
The bridge being pretty high, anything you try to take a picture would look very small and far away. So, when taking a portrait of you, elements in the background might be very small in the image.

Great for Surprise Proposal

It’s a place of predilection to capture the proposal with a camera. Almost every professional photographer in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities area has been there at least once.

Also it’s one of the preferred places for Minnesotan people to make their proposals. That’s why it’s not rare for local pedestrians to spontaneously make some room around the couple when they see a man staging on his bended knee and holding a ring. I am impressed how most Minnesotans are very polite people. They would get out of the photographer way when they see someone performing a proposal!
A great advantage of being an iconic location means that when you share your images, the location is immediately recognizable by your family members and friends.

History

To understand why a simple bridge became so famous we need to dive into Minnesota’s history. I will make it short. The Stone Arch Bridge has been built in 1883 by James J. Hill who was a famous local railroad tycoon. Yes, it’s the same James J. Hill who gave his name to the St. Paul Library and to his house (facing the St Paul Cathedral). By the way, they both host weddings. But maybe saying that he was the protector of the Twin Cities’ lovers would be too excessive.

Anyway, the bridge was built in real stone, which is pretty noteworthy while at this time steel beams were used everywhere. Also it’s an arch bridge, a traditional antique style which contrasts with modern design. That said, even if the bridge is pretty long, it is not large compared to contemporary large bridges (with highways). Indeed, it was designed to transport only one passenger train!
Also another striking point is all the engineering required to build such a monument across the largest river of the State.
Fun fact, at that time the Union Depot was supposed to be built in the MillCity, on Nicollet Avenue. But, as you may know, that never happened, and the Union Depot was built in Saint Paul. Also people made fun of J. J. Hill’s wrong estimation, and called on the bridge, “Hill’s Folly.”

Other Immediate and Adjacent Locations in MN

Let’s be more serious, if today the stone Arch Bridge is so famous for engagement session, it’s probably because it is conveniently located. Also, it is surrounded by many parks, which are great spots for photo sessions, such as

  • The Historic Main Street Park
  • Pillsbury Park
  • Hennepin Island
  • Mill Ruins Park
  • The Guthrie Theater
  • The Gold Medal Park
  • Aster Café
  • St Anthony Theatre
  • Nicollet Island
  • The Hennepin Bridge (and its famous sign)

What to consider if you plan your engagement session at the Stone Arch Bridge.

The stone arch bridge is an outdoor location, so you must take in consideration a couple of obvious things.

The weather

You are weather-dependent. So, in case of a heavy rain fall you would need to find another option.

Parking

You can park on both sides of the bridge, and I recommend you not to forget to pay your ticket because Minneapolis Police are pretty active.

Restroom

If you need to go to the restroom, you would be happy to learn that there are some plastic public restrooms on the north side of the bridge.

But for sure they don’t offer all the comforts of a hotel or a restaurant restroom.

Red Fence

If you have never been to the bridge, check on the red barriers. You may be interested, if you want to coordinate your clothes, to know that the barrier is painted with a reddish/pink color.

The Sun Position: Sunrise and Sunset

As you know, the sun plays an important part in the pictures. So what’s the best time to take photo at the Stone arch bridge?
I would say early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. The bridge orientation being SW-NE, during the morning you would have the sun lighting your face and the city behind you. In the evening you would have the sun behind you. Those are both options that work great for photos.
But if you go there around noon, you might have the sun coming from your side, which is not the best. Indeed, lateral light is not recommended.

The Fog and the Wind

It’s a pretty high bridge; thus it is exposed to winds. Ladies who are planning to wear a light dress would be sensitive to wear some under pants. Dresses flying in the wind are the most photogenic ones, but you may not wish a Marilyn Monroe picture.
Also, the nearby Falls, more than creating noise are also expelling in the air some thin water droplets that you can feel. It’s appreciated during the hot summer’s days, but not anymore when it’s a cold winter’s day.

The pedestrians and urban cyclists

Except if you are really a successful business couple and can afford to privatize the entire bridge for your engagement session (which I hope for you), you might have to deal with other tourists.
Beware of the bike trail located at the center of the bridge while the walk tracks are located on each side. Of course, in photography I like to use symmetry. That’s why we might put you in danger, braving the urban cyclists and using the center bike trail for your engagement images.

Don’t forget that the less crowded time of the day is probably early in the morning, when most of the tourists are still sleeping. The more crowded periods of the day are, of course, in the evening.
Also, pay attention to any festival or event that could possibly take place close to the Stone Arch Bridge. I invite you to check the Park Board for information update.

Picture on the Bridge During the Night

The bridge is actually lightened by Public Lamps, which means a greenish, yellowish artificial light. If you plan to take some picture on the bridge during the night (for instance if you are planning a surprise proposal during the night), then your proposal photographer Minneapolis may need to add some extra lighting for a greater result (off camera flashes).

The Limit of the Bridge

Keep in mind that it’s “just” a bridge. Even if local wedding vendors are proud of the bridge and will recommend it to you for your images, you must understand that it does not offer a high diversity of photography options. After 5 or 6 different portraits featuring the city skyline and the river, you might have the feeling to always have the same image! Also I recommend that you pick at least another spot nearby.

Add a complementary location!

A variety of options for backdrops of your engagements sessions

From the Arboretum, to Como Park, Minnehaha Park, the city offer a lot of different lakes, parks and falls to choose from.

A simple cute park like the Lyndale Park Rose Garden

Bde Maka Ska and the Harriet Lake, the Lyndale Park Rose Garden is a great alternative to famous Minneapolis Minnehaha falls, or complementary to the Stone Arch Bridge. If you are not especially fans of roses, you would be happy to learn that this garden often a large number of other plants, such as lilac, plum trees.

You Need a Calm Location to Reveal Your Personalities

Photographers tend to recommend the most photogenic location. As an LGBT friendly photographer in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, I also take in consideration the frequentation of the location.
Indeed, if you want to reveal the lovers true relationship, they need to be at their ease. And that’s not always possible with touristic place such.

Dog Park if you invite your “best friend.”

If you live in Minneapolis and are planning a session with your dog, the Minnehaha dog Park, the Harriett Park in St. Paul but try to avoid the St. Anthony Parkway Off-Leash Dog Park. Indeed, despite the fact that it features a nice view it is a pretty small park and thus it won’t give you nice background.

I highly recommend choosing dog-friendly park, and to avoid crowded areas such as the stone arch bridge in a Sunday afternoon.

Buildings

Photographers love old and modern constructions. The advantage of the rock and stone is that it looks nice even on a bad weather day. You can choose a building with a remarkable historical architecture, or just an old post-industrial red brick wall. For instance, Stillwater, MN, offers numerous brick walls. In addition to a few historical masterpieces, such as the City Hall. But you don’t need to drive up to Stillwater, MN, to find perfect location! You might actually have all you need in the Twin Cities!

Historical

  • City Hall
  • Passport Agency (Previous United State Federal Office Building)
  • Mill City Museum area
  • Harriett Island Pavilion
  • The College and University Old Campus (Walter Library, Pillsbury Hall, Burton Hall, the Armory, Shevlin Hall)
  • Basilica of St Mary
  • Guthrie Theater
  • American Swedish Institute
  • Hennepin History Museum
  • The Bakken Museum
  • Landmark Center
  • St Paul Hotel
  • St Paul City Hall
  • Capitol
  • St Paul Cathedral

Modern architecture

  • Bell Museum
  • Walker art center
  • McNamara Alumni Center
  • Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum

Conclusion

So, yes, the Stone Arch Bridge is a good location to plan engagements sessions. But you should also consider going to other photography spots in order to have different photo shoots. You might prefer a quiet location if you need privacy to reveal you relationship.

The good news is that there are plenty of great locations in Minneapolis!
And if you don’t find what you need, remember you can still go further north of Minnesota, where you can find a myriad of beautiful natural locations for engagement sessions!