See our hours & parking page for information on required use of PayByPhone for parking payment.

Duke Gardens Photography 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.

If you have landed on this page via a Google search, please see our main page to submit a application form.

All portrait photography must be approved and scheduled in advance, and the application form must be filled out in order to request a photo session date. Once we receive your request, you will be contacted by the special events office for availability and payment. 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 for all, Duke Gardens prohibits photographers from scheduling more than one portrait session in one day. Mini-sessions are not permitted.


Photographs are a wonderful way for visitors to remember their Duke Gardens experience. For your own enjoyment, you are welcome as a visitor to take in-the-moment photographs of plants, individuals and subjects that capture the events of your visit. These are informal photographs shot spontaneously and quickly without artistic intent.


Duke Gardens defines still portrait photography as all wedding, engagement, proposal, quinceañera, family, maternity, portfolio, prom, graduation and any other posed portraiture of individuals by professional photographers, as well as semi-pro, pro-am or amateur photographers, whether the photographer is being paid or not. Duke Gardens reserves the right to further define portrait photography on a case-by-case basis.

Commercial or independent videographers, please see Duke University's photo and video policies regarding filming on campus. All videography applications — including proposed Duke student video projects — must be submitted at least two weeks in advance to Duke Gardens for approval by Duke Gardens and Duke University.  To submit a videography request, please email marketing & communications director Orla Swift. Please note that drones are not permitted.


Commercial photographers, please see Duke University's photo and video policies regarding filming on campus. All commercial photo shoot applications must be submitted to Duke Gardens for approval by Duke Gardens and Duke University at least 30 days in advance of your proposed date. To submit a commercial photography request, please email marketing & communications director Orla Swift. Please note that drones are not permitted.  


  • Balloons, glitter, confetti, rice, flower petals and flying lanterns — or any other materials that leave waste or residue —are strictly prohibited. 
  • Props such as a table, chair, mirror, environmentally unfriendly materials that may harm wildlife, or any unusual props that may be dangerous or disruptive to other visitors, are strictly prohibited. Please contact the special events office for the full list of props that are not permitted.
  • Do not hang drapes or leave items on trees, benches or walls.
  • Do not climb trees or stand on walls, rails or fountains.
  • Moving or removing potted 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 photographers, assistants or subjects may step in plant beds, fountains or places other than on designated paths. Climbing or mounting equipment in trees or on buildings or other structures is not permitted. Tripods must also stay on paths.
  • Do not place equipment or subjects where they will block pathways or restrict visitor access.
  • All photo subjects must be fully and appropriately clothed. Swimsuit, underwear and boudoir photo shoots are not permitted.
  • Please be advised that some areas of Duke Gardens may not be accessible or available at times due to restoration, programs, event rentals or unforeseen circumstances.

Drone photography is prohibited, in order to ensure Gardens visitors' safety and privacy, as well as the safety of Life Flight helicopters flying to and from Duke University Hospital. Please see Duke University's drone policy for more information.

Artists and Nature Photographers: When visiting on their own, artists and nature photographers do not need a permit. But they must adhere to the guidelines and not damage plants or disrupt 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.

Artists may enter their Duke Gardens images in photography competitions, but any sales of images may be restricted, as noted in the trademarks section below.

Trademarks: The imagery, 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.

If you do not comply with these rules, you may be asked to leave Duke Gardens’ premises and forfeit your payment.



  • Photographers and their clients gain access to Duke Gardens only when the gardens are open to the public.
  • The photographer is responsible for the conduct of their party. Photographers who do not abide by these guidelines (including members of their party) will be subject to permanent loss of privileges. Duke Gardens reserves the right to cancel a photography session without a refund and to remove any party from the premises for violations of any of our policies.
  • Clients must arrive camera-ready, as there are no dressing room facilities.
  • Photographers must display their permits visibly on their clothing or equipment.
  • You must set up your shoot in a manner that does not impact visitors or disrupt events or garden maintenance.
  • Please keep your confirmation email or payment receipt (as proof of payment), your personal items and equipment with you at all times. If you do not have proof of purchase, you and your party may be asked to leave the property.
  • Duke Gardens staff reserves the right to determine when a photographer and/or their party meet the requirements for purchasing a photography permit and may deny entry or remove them from the grounds if a permit is not available or acquired. 
  • Duke Gardens staff has the authorization to intervene in any photo shoot that is violating any stated policies.

PARKING: Our regular parking fees will apply for each vehicle within a 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 Gothic Gate or information kiosk.

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.


  • Photo inquiries: please fill out the application form first. If you have further questions, please email or call 919-668-5679.
  • News media and videography requests only, please email communications director Orla Swift