Portrait and Video Policies
We are delighted that you are considering Duke Gardens as the location for your photos. The guidelines outlined below are intended for all guests, but a permit is necessary for those who wish to use Duke Gardens as a backdrop for posed or directed photography. We ask all photographers to please help us to maintain the integrity of the Gardens by honoring these policies. They are intended to ensure that Duke Gardens can fulfill its mission of creating and nurturing an environment for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture.
Photographs are a wonderful way to remember your visit. For your own enjoyment, visitors and members are welcome to take snapshot photographs of plants, individuals and subjects that capture the events of your visit. Duke Gardens defines a snapshot as an informal photograph that is shot spontaneously and quickly without artistic intent. Guests should still observe our policy under General Photography Guidelines. You may share your photos of the Gardens on social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Definition of Portrait Photography
Duke Gardens defines portrait photography as all wedding, engagement, quinceañera, family, maternity, portfolio, prom, graduation, and any other posed portraiture of individuals by professional photographers or amateur photographers, whether paid or unpaid. Duke Gardens reserves the right to further define Portrait Photography on a case-by-case basis.
Definition of Commercial Photography
Duke Gardens defines commercial photography as fashion shoots, advertisement and promotion. Please see further information on commercial photos and videos below.
Portrait Photo Policy
All portrait and commercial photography must be approved and scheduled in advance, and a reservation form must be filled out and emailed to us to in order to request a photo session date. Once we receive your request, you will be contacted by the Special Events Office for payment. Please note that we prefer that the photographer reserves the session. Photographers who do not pre-schedule may be approached by staff members during their photo session regarding scheduling and payment.
Portrait mini-sessions: In order to fulfill our mission with regard to a positive visitor experience, Duke Gardens prohibits photographers from scheduling mini-sessions.
Reservations and Permit: Please note that payment must be made in advance to reserve your session. Reservations are approved and accepted during the 4 weeks to 48 hours prior to your photo shoot. Please note that phone inquiries are accepted Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Non-member photographers must check in at the information desk to pick up a photo permit when they arrive for the shoot.
Professional Photographers: To become a member photographer, the fee is $450 for one year. Member photographers do not pay the per-session fee, but they must still schedule their sessions with the Special Events Office. In addition, members are allowed a maximum of two 2-hour sessions per day. Members will have their business name and contact information published on our Member Photographers page. Please note that a maximum of 15 members are accepted on our membership list. Photographers who wish to become a member must submit a portfolio of their work. You may send your CD to the following address: Duke Gardens Special Events, 420 Anderson St., Durham, N.C., 27708.
Artists and Nature Photographers:
When visiting on their own, artists and nature photographers need not register. But they must adhere to the guidelines listed below, avoiding damage to plants and disruption of other visitors or Gardens activities.
Artists or nature photographers seeking to bring a class for a field trip to the Gardens, or photo clubs seeking to visit, must register their groups in advance. Such groups may be asked to restrict their activities to certain places or times, depending on the Gardens' schedule and the size of the group.
The image, logo and name of Sarah P. Duke Gardens are registered trademarks and may not be used by outside parties without permission. If you plan to sell your work, please visit the Duke University Office of Trademark Licensing for information on the university's trademarks and how they may or may not be used.
Pricing & Reservation Form
Reserved One Day Permit**
$75: 1-6 people in off season (January through mid-March)
$100: 1-6 people in peak season (March-December)
$200: Groups of 7 to 14 people
A group of 15 or more, including the photographer, is considered a facility rental and a $400 photo session fee is charged. Please contact the Special Events Office at 919-668-5100 for further details.
Non-reserved One Day Permit**
Walkup sessions with no reservation
$150: 1-6 people in peak season (March-December)
$250: 7-14 people
Individual student (high school, college or university) photographers with valid IDs are subject to the same guidelines that apply to portrait and commercial photography. They must also reserve in advance. Duke students seeking to work on a school-related project, please call the Special Events Office at 919-668-5100.
Photography students, please call the Special Events Office for information about special pricing.
**One Day Permits (both reserved and non-reserved) are good for ONE photography session, with a maximum 1-1/2 hour time limit. If fewer than 1-1/2 hours, pro-rating does not apply.
COMMERCIAL PHOTOS & VIDEOS: Commercial photographers and videographers, please see Duke University's photo and video policy for filming on campus. All commercial photo shoot applications must be submitted in advance to Duke Gardens for approval by Duke Gardens and Duke University's Office of News & Communications. Artists seeking to make independent films must also apply for approval in advance.
PARKING: Our regular parking fees will apply for each vehicle within the party. To avoid congestion, vehicles may load and unload passengers in the upper parking lot. No vehicles may pull up in front of the visitor center or in front of the main gates to the Gardens.
CANCELLATION POLICY: Duke Gardens and its facilities are subject to weather variations and temporary closures. The Gardens will attempt to reschedule should a session need to be canceled, but there will be no refunds. Shooting dates may be adjusted in the event of inclement weather; any changes must be agreed upon by our Special Events office. For more information, please contact the Special Events office at 919-668-5100 or email email@example.com.
General Photography Guidelines
Balloons and kites are prohibited. Please contact the Special Events Office for the full list of props that are prohibited.
Moving or removing plants (inside or out) or structures that are part of the Gardens—such as benches, containers, displays, plant signs, fences, etc.—is strictly prohibited.
No models or photo crew members may step in flower beds, fountains or places other than on designated paths. Climbing or mounting equipment in trees or on buildings is not permitted.
All models and crew members must be fully and appropriately clothed; swimsuit photo shoots are not permitted.
Any use of electrical equipment, including additional lighting, must be approved in advance of the shoot. All cords or wires must be placed and guarded in a way that doesn’t alter the pathways and put Gardens visitors at risk.
Photographers will be held accountable for their actions and those of clients, crew members and models if they damage Gardens facilities and property.
Please see additional rules here.
Clients must arrive camera-ready, as there are no dressing room facilities.
Display your permit prominently either around your neck or on your equipment.
Set up your shoot in a manner that does not impact visitors or disrupt events and maintenance.