Photography, Location Fees, and the Wisconsin DNR: What You Need to Know!


This post could probably win an award for most boring blog post ever, but hopefully my clients and my photographer colleagues in Wisconsin find it to be somewhat helpful!  Clients, keep reading.  Photogs – more info for you at the bottom!

For my Madison-area clients:

Have a popular location in mind?  Make sure you schedule your session in advance so that I can obtain the proper permit!  (City parks do not require permits – huzzah!)

Here are a few guidelines for minimum booking times and fees:

Olbricht Botanical Gardens – $31.65/session, book two weeks in advance.  Does not allow shooting indoors unless part of a wedding.

UW Arboretum – $35/session, book 48-72 hours in advance (minimum) 

UW Allen Centenial Garden – $35/session  

UW Union Terrace – no fee but pre-registration required – book one week in advance

State Parks and State Recreation Areas – $50 fee, plus daily parking pass ($8-13) unless you have an annual pass.  ($50 fee is required even if you have an annual pass.) Book 3 weeks in advance and know specifically which park or area you would like.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. 🙂

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. While you will need to cover the cost of the permit in addition to your session fee, I make it easy for you (unlike the DNR!) and it will simply be added to your session proposal.  I will even obtain the permit for you!
  2. No matter which outdoor location you choose, remember to #leavenotrace! Being good stewards of the beauty that God created is so important!  For more information about Leave No Trace Principles, click here: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles.
couple at the UW Arboretum just as the magnolias started to bloom in the spring

FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

(NOTE: Photographers, this information is meant to be a compilation of my local research.  It is your responsibility to double check to make sure that fees and policies have not changed!  I am not responsible for errors in this blog post!  To my knowledge, all of this information is accurate as of May 2019.)

BTW: City parks are a great option for sessions – no fee!

Many privately owned properties that are open to the public charge a fee for a professional photography permit.  (botanical gardens and touristy destinations in particular.)  Most of the time, these permits must be acquired in advance.  Be sure to check this out ahead of time and do follow the rules. It’s the right thing to do, and if you get caught, unprofessional much???!!!  (Also yes, I have been reprimanded or kicked out of locations – yikes!  When I first started my business I didn’t do my research!  SOOOO unprofessional!)

Here is a list of Madison, WI area locations that I know require a paid photography permit, along with their websites.  Policies vary as far as how far in advance you need them, etc. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list 😉  When in doubt, ask!

Olbricht Botanical Gardens – $31.65/one hour session  http://www.olbrich.org/visit/photopolicy.cfm 

UW Arboretum – $35/session ($350 annual pass available) https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/facility-use/photography-policy/

UW Allen Centenial Garden – $35/session  https://charge.wisc.edu/AllenCentennialGardens/sales.aspx 

UW Union Terrace – no fee but registration required ahead of time!!!  https://union.wisc.edu/about/contact/photovideo-approval-request/ 

Overture Center – $50/for most regular sessions in the lobby.  http://files-overturecenter.s3.amazonaws.com/8e3b8b4ef3db8390f0d850e07e9c5b88/photoguidelinesupdated72016.pdf 

Jensen Trees (Christmas tree farm – find them on Facebook) – $20/session or $100 for a full day of mini sessions.  Email them in advance to arrange a session reservation.  They do allow sessions before they are officially open for the Christmas season.

State Parks & State Recreation Areas

https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/rules/commercialuse.html

  1. So fun.  I literally drove to a DNR (Department of Natural Resources) office and asked questions in person as their website is not particularly helpful.
  2. The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) requires a commercial photography permit for any commercial photography (sessions paid or free/styled shoots).  
  3. Permit currently is $50/park/session.  As far as I know, there is no annual option.
  4. To obtain the permit, you must download the form from their website, fill it out, add a check or money order for the fee, and snail mail it to the specific state park   you want to shoot a session at.  It must arrive at their office at least 2 weeks before the session!  Addresses can be found on the DNR website by searching the name of each park and most parks have an email address that you can use to follow up and make sure they receive it!
  5. Remember that you AND your client will also need either daily state park passes OR an annual one (the better deal).  Those can be purchased with cash at the parks or obtained in advance from the DNR.
  6. No matter which outdoor location you choose, remember to #leavenotrace! Being good stewards of the beauty that God created is so important!  For more information about Leave No Trace Principles, click here: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/

<3 Amy