UW Arboretum Photography Policy

The Arboretum is a teaching and research center of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Our mission is to conserve and restore Arboretum lands, advance restoration ecology, and foster the Land Ethic. Simply, we care for the land, make discoveries about nature, teach varied audiences, and help create beneficial relationships between people and land.
Because of its natural beauty, the Arboretum is a popular, much-loved landscape in the middle of Madison. We have close to one million visitors a year, including you and your clients. Our policies allow public uses of the Arboretum when they do not interfere with our teaching, research, outreach or land management work.

Like other visitors, all photographers at the Arboretum must follow these rules:

  • You and your 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 into restoration areas or plantings.
  • No pets are allowed anywhere at the Arboretum.
  • No trampling, picking or collecting flowers, leaves, or boughs. No disturbing animals.
  • Vehicles must be parked in designated parking spaces. Please lock your vehicle for security reasons.
  • You must follow all Arboretum rules as posted or as related by staff, ranger unit or UW Police.

Posed photography:

Photographers taking posed or formal photos (such as family, wedding, engagement, senior photos and the like) are required to purchase a permit for each client's photo shoot, and must carry it while at the Arboretum. There are two options for purchasing a permit:

  • You may purchase a one-time permit for $30 for one session. This is ideal for a one-time photo shoot of an individual or families. You must have a permit for each client.
  • You may purchase an annual permit for $300 per year for multiple sessions during the year starting from the permit purchase date. This is ideal for professional photographers and others who are using the Arboretum regularly as a photo shoot location.

While on Arboretum grounds:

  • Arboretum staff, rangers, and stewards will check your permit;
  • You can expect visitors in any area at any time. Areas cannot be reserved, and photography does not take priority over other visitor activities;
  • You may not use props that are not allowed at the Arboretum (for example, no pets or sports equipment). Props (if acceptable) can only be placed on lawns and trails;
  • If you fail to follow our policies, you risk losing your photography privileges at the Arboretum, and forfeiting the permit fee.

Download Photography Permit Application

Stock and Commercial Photography:
Projects involving commercial or stock photography (such as photos taken for publications, catalog shoots, commercials, professional videos and the like) should contact Tricia Dickinson (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.


Non-commercial photography for personal or class project use (not posed or formal photography):
No permit is required, but all photographers must follow Arboretum photography rules listed above.  For example, you must stay on trails or lawn areas. We welcome you to submit photos on the “your turn” page of our interactive map at uwarboretum.org