The Arboretum is a popular, much-loved landscape for photographers. Photography for personal noncommercial use is allowed without a permit.

Posed photography

Professional and amateur photographers taking posed or formal pictures (e.g., engagement, wedding, senior year, family) must obtain a permit and carry it while at the Arboretum.

You may purchase a one-session permit for $35. This is ideal for a one-time photo shoot of an individual or family. You must have a permit for each session with each client.

You may purchase an annual permit for $350 per year. The annual permit allows multiple sessions for one year starting from the permit purchase date. This is ideal for professional photographers and others who regularly use the Arboretum as a photo shoot location. An annual permit covers one photographer. A business with multiple photographers shooting different clients concurrently need permits for each photographer. Please contact us for conditions before purchasing an annual permit.

Rules for photo sessions

  • Pets are not allowed anywhere at the Arboretum.
  • Photographers and clients must stay on trails or lawn areas at all times. No walking into garden beds, climbing rock walls, climbing trees, or going off trail.
  • Do not stop or stand in the road or impede traffic for photography.
  • Mini shoots are not permitted. A maximum of three photo sessions per photographer is allowed in one day.
  • No trampling, picking, or collecting flowers, leaves, or boughs. No disturbing animals.
  • Photographers must stay with their props at all times. Allowable props may only be placed on lawns and trails.You may not use props that are not allowed at the Arboretum or could cause ecological harm. Examples of props not allowed include no pets or sports equipment, smoke bombs, glitter, and confetti. (Please see visitor etiquette.)
  • Vehicles must be parked in designated parking spaces. Lock your vehicle for security reasons.
  • All photographers and clients must follow visitor etiquette.

If you fail to follow our policies you risk losing your photography privileges at the Arboretum and forfeiting the permit fee.

Please note:

  • Arboretum staff will check your permit
  • Areas cannot be reserved, and photography does not take priority over other visitor activities. Visitors are free to use any area at any time.
  • The Arboretum reserves the right not to issue permits for certain dates when photography sessions would interfere with scheduled events.

Commercial photography and video

Stock and commercial photography requires advance arrangements. Projects involving commercial or stock photography (such as photos taken for publications, catalog shoots, commercials, professional videos, and the like) should contact Tricia Nolan, (608) 265-9005, at University Communications and Marketing to review campus commercial use policies and location agreements. She will work with the Arboretum to set guidelines for your project.


Recreational or hobby use of drones/unmanned aircraft are not allowed at the Arboretum per the UW–Madison Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drone) Hobbyist Policy.

For research and instructional drone use, see Research Vehicle Safety Oversight (Autonomous Vehicles) in the UW–Madison Policy Library.