Portrait & Special Occasion Photography Policies

bridal portrait

Flowers by Eclectic Sage. Photo by Live View Studios.


COVID-19 Update:  Read about pandemic-related policies here.


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.

In the Moment Photography

Photographs are a wonderful way to remember your visit. For your own enjoyment, visitors and members are welcome 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. Guests should still observe our policy under General Photography Policies. 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, 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 photographers and commercial or independent videographers, please see Duke University's photo and video policy for filming on campus. All commercial photo shoot and commercial or independent video shoot applications -- including proposed Duke student video projects -- must be submitted in advance to Duke Gardens for approval by Duke Gardens and Duke University.  To submit a request, please email marketing & communications director Orla Swift. Please note that drone photography and videography are not permitted.

Portrait Photo Policy

All portrait photography must be approved and scheduled in advance, and the reservation form (see below) 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 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, Duke Gardens prohibits photographers from scheduling mini-sessions.

Reservations: 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. 

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

Please fill out this reservation form to request a photo session date. Please note that reservations are only accepted Mondays-Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

Reserved 2-Hour Session Permit**

$100: 1-6 people 
$200: 7-10 people

Golden Hour Photo Shoot ($50 surcharge)

Between 8 and 10 a.m. or  4 and 8 p.m.

Student Photography

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.

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. No vehicles may pull up in front of the visitor center or in front of the main Gothic 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.

General Photography Policies

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

Duke Gardens may photograph visitors and program participants on occasion for Duke-related promotional purposes. By entering Duke Gardens, visitors are granting their permission to be included in such photographs. 

Balloons, kites and flying lanterns 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 photographers, assistants or subjects 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. Tripods must also stay on paths.

All photo subjects must be fully and appropriately clothed. Swimsuit, underwear and boudouir photo shoots are not permitted.

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 subjects if they damage Duke Gardens facilities and property.

Please see additional Duke Gardens rules here.

Related Rules

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.

More information

Reservation form

Photo reservation inquiries (please fill out the above reservation form first): please email or call 919-668-5679.

News media and videography requests only: email Orla Swift, director of marketing and communications

Updated 8/26/19