The Visitor Center will be closed and Arboretum events are cancelled until further notice. Arboretum COVID-19 updates»

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.

Guidelines for photography sessions during coronavirus

The Arboretum has made photography permits available again and will allow photography sessions. However, due to coronavirus, there are some restrictions on sessions. 

  • Photographers and clients should follow public health guidelines—avoid crowded areas, and maintain at least six feet from people you don’t live with. 
  • Photographers should wear masks at all times, and clients should wear masks except during the photography.
  • The people being photographed should be from the same household. Sessions should remain contactless between anyone not sharing a household. Group photography of people not in the same household, including sessions for engagement and wedding parties that involve people from multiple households, is not allowed.
  • Photographers may not provide or use any props. Photo sessions should be postponed if anyone is feeling unwell; permit dates can be rescheduled.

As the public health landscape changes, the Arboretum may again suspend photo permits and sessions based on recommendations from public health officials and UW–Madison. Should this happen, we will notify any permit-holders that might be affected.

Rules for photo sessions

  • Mini shoots are not permitted. A maximum of three photo sessions per photographer is allowed in one day.
  • 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.
  • Pets are not allowed anywhere at the Arboretum.
  • Photographers must stay with their props at all times.
  • No trampling, picking, or collecting flowers, leaves, or boughs. No disturbing animals.
  • 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, rangers, and stewards 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.
  • You may not use props that are otherwise not allowed at the Arboretum—for example, no pets or sports equipment. Allowable props may only be placed on lawns and trails. Props may not be left unattended.
  • 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.