How to Survive Cherry Blossom Season
Tips for DC Photographers
There is no better indicator that spring has sprung in Washington, DC than when the cherry blossom trees begin to pop. The pink blooms around the city, and most famously near the Tidal Basin, are the first sign that winter is finally over.
Some of my favorite childhood photos were taken at the Cherry Blossom Festival. When I got married, my mother made a charm for my bouquet with one of those photos in remembrance of my grandmother, who came with us to see the blossoms.
For portrait photographers, this can be one of the busiest seasons. Between peak times and permits, pulling together a session with the Cherry Blossoms can seem intimidating. I've compiled all the information you need as a photographer to get the most out of Cherry Blossom season in DC!
My first tip, however, is for photography clients. If you are hoping to have professional photos done with the blooms, make sure you talk to your preferred photographer as soon as you can! Your photographer needs to get a permit to take photos at the Tidal Basin (and in many places in DC), so give them as much time as possible to apply.
Speaking of permits...
Get a Permit
Photographers, you'll need to apply for a photography permit at least 2 weeks before your session.
Use this link to start your application. Give yourself time to mail it in or fax it!
There are a few fees required for this permit. There is a $90 non-refundable application fee, as well as a $50 fee to photograph between 1-10 people.
Photographers, please make sure you add in these fees to your client invoices!
Check the Calendar
Many people want to have photos done during Peak Bloom, which changes from year to year depending on temperatures. The best way to stay on top of when Peak Bloom will happen is to keep an eye on the Cherry Blossom Festival website and tune in to this year's March 1 press conference.
Be aware that there will be crowds throughout the Cherry Blossom Festival. There are several events scheduled during the Festival as well. These include:
March 20: Opening Ceremony
March 26: Blossom Kite Festival
April 9: Parade
April 16: Petal Palooza
There is also an annual 10-Miler Run that shuts down most of the roadways around the Tidal Basin. These weekend events will add significantly to the crowds, so my advice would be to schedule your photos on a weekday at sunrise. You may still have other people around, but the crowds should be less intense.
Where to Meet
Where should you meet your clients? Stay away from the paddleboat/welcome area near the Washington Monument. The walkways are too congested for photos, and you won't get the monuments in the background.
Instead, meet at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (pictured above). From there, you can see the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. I highly recommend taking some photos on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial if you have the time!
How to Get There
I highly recommend taking an Uber and getting dropped off at the Tidal Basin, or reserving a parking spot in a nearby garage. I used SpotHero to reserve a spot in a garage and walked about 20 minutes to the Tidal Basin for each of my sessions this year. There is no way you'll find parking closer, so don't leave it up to chance! Make sure you know when the garage closes though. I almost had my car locked in overnight because I didn't realize it closed at 7pm! Thankfully, the attendant let me run down to get my car out.
If you want to take the Metro, get off at the Smithsonian stop and walk.
My final tip is not to panic if you miss peak bloom or if the crowds are just too much. There are plenty of other locations throughout DC and Virginia where you can not only see cherry blossoms, but Japanese magnolias (my personal favorite bloom). You can have photos taken at Meadowlark Botanical Garden, where they have a pond lined with cherry blossoms. There are cherry blossoms right outside the visitor center there too!
I hope these tips make your Cherry Blossom session a little easier!