National Arboretum guests are welcome to take photographs as they explore the public gardens, exhibits, and other natural and cultural resources of the grounds. Permits are required for all photo and video shoots.

Do I need a permit?

  • Is the primary purpose of your visit capturing photos of your family or group?
  • Will you be wearing formal or wedding attire or costumes?
  • Will a photographer, whether professional or hobbyist, be accompanying your group?
  • Do you plan to use props of any kind?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you must have a permit. For frequently asked questions, click here.

Special Occasion and Family Portraits

Are you looking for an ideal and picturesque location to shoot a special moment in your life … a proposal/engagement, wedding, maternity or milestone birthday? Do you want a beautiful and natural backdrop for your family portrait? Our gardens and plant collections are a perfect place for you to do so.

Commercial and Promotional

Photographers for promotional or commercial photo and video shoots (for inclusion in a book, magazine, catalog, model portfolio, TV commercial, social media, motion picture, etc.) are welcome to request a permit for their work or project. Live and taped interviews, movies, news reports and more have all been filmed at the National Arboretum.

The National Arboretum cannot endorse or be made to appear to endorse a product or political view.

Where to shoot?

Historic, one-of-a-kind structures; mysterious and exotic gardens and collections; calm, cool old-wood forests; rare and beautiful trees, shrubs, and flowers—the National Arboretum has them all. You can check out the gardens and plant collections to determine the best location for your session.

The National Capitol Columns is one of the most popular sites to photograph at the arboretum. The 22 Corinthian columns from the U.S. Capitol bore witness to presidential inaugurations from Andrew Jackson to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Situated adjacent to the National Herb Garden and Ellipse Meadow, in the heart of the National Arboretum, the Columns now preside gracefully over the sweep of space, creating an elegant and unique setting to capture your memories.

Scheduling a Photography or Video Shoot

Permits are available for Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays between 8:00am and 4:30pm. Sessions must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. No walk-up permits are granted. Permit applications may be found here.


Photography and video shoots are charged on an hourly basis and include a nonrefundable base fee of $30. If for any reason the session is cancelled this fee is will not be refunded. Please contact us for full details on current rates and payment procedures.


The U.S. National Arboretum is a collections-based research facility and public garden administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Our mission is to enhance the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and exhibits. In accordance with these objectives, the U.S. National Arboretum grounds are open to the public. All visitors are subject to general rules and regulations for Federal property and specific ones for the U.S. National Arboretum. It is the policy of the U.S. National Arboretum to permit and encourage photography within the U.S. National Arboretum to the fullest extent possible consistent with the protection of its gardens and plant collections and the enjoyment of visitors. Photographic exercises may not disrupt the flow of vehicles and pedestrians on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum or impede visitor experience. All photography and videography require a permit and a may incur a fee. If the request is approved and a fee is assigned, the fee must be received prior to the permit being issued. All requests for photography must be submitted as far in advance as possible (at least two weeks) and must include a detailed statement of the purpose of the photography. Permits are issued for photography or videography only. No services, parties, or receptions are permitted in conjunction with the photo shoot without prior approval.

View the complete rules from the Federal Register.

If you need more information, have any questions or concerns, please contact us at:

Special Events
U.S. National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002