It goes without saying that the Washington, DC cherry blossoms are a force to be reckoned with… In their beauty, of course, but also in their ability to bring tourists to the Tidal Basin region of the district. In the past few years as a Washington, DC wedding photographer, I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of requests to use this as a backdrop for engagement photos — last year alone, I received over 20 inquiries for sessions here! With the rise in popularity, I thought it would be beneficial to share tips with future couples looking for a session here so they know exactly what to expect!
BEFORE YOUR SESSION
1. Book Early
Last year my sessions filled up before it even hit February! Unfortunately, the peak bloom of these gorgeous blossoms is so fleeting that I have to limit my number of sessions available in order to be able to serve my clients best. Peak bloom is a very short window (I believe 4-7 days depending on the weather that year), so I want to ensure everyone has a session while these beauties are at their best!
2. To Permit or Not To Permit, That Is the Question
In Washington, DC a photography permit is required to shoot at all of the monuments on the National Mall, including the Jefferson Memorial and the surrounding Tidal Basin. The enforcement of this policy varies which is why I always leave it up to my clients to choose what is best for them — I heavily suggest one, especially during cherry blossoms season as they do tend to check quite a bit more but ultimately the choice is theirs! If you are without a permit, you may be asked to leave the monument without any further photos. Last year I saw a photographer being fined; the next day I showed up with my clients and their permit and the officer on duty told me he didn’t even need to see it — so this is what I mean when I say it’s a bit inconsistent and depends who is working!
3. Sunrise ONLY!
Normally, I photograph all of my sessions at either sunrise or sunset to ensure we have the best light for your session. But during cherry blossom season? SUNRISE ONLY! Trust me, the early wake up call is essential! Yes, the Tidal Basin will still be very crowded, but not nearly so much as in the evening! I’ve also found that the walkway is very full right as the sun comes up, but within 30 minutes or so, most of the landscape photographers have moved out and there is much more space!
4. Have a Flexible Schedule
When you reserve your session, we will put a rough date on my calendar but be prepared that the date is likely to change — sometimes more than once! Actual peak bloom is nearly impossible to predict more than 10 days in advance, sometimes even less. So it goes without saying that selecting a date in January/February is unlikely to be correct as peak bloom is determined by the weather each season. I use two websites that help me track the forecast (HERE and HERE) and it’s typically not until the trees hit “Peduncle Elongation” that the prediction date is valid.
5. Patience is Key
This is a shout out to all my Type A sisters… hand in hand with the above, I know how hard it can be not having a firm date more than 7-10 days before your session. Heck, your original session date may pass and we may not have anything on the calendar! But trust that I have been doing this for a long time and as long as you have a flexible schedule, we will make it work! THIS is the reason I take on such a limited number of sessions… I don’t want anyone getting stuck with bare trees or fallen petals!
THE DAY OF YOUR SESSION
1. Arrive Early
Seriously, just do it. It will be so worth having 30 minutes less of sleep to arrive before your scheduled shooting time, knowing you have a place to park and won’t miss that gorgeous golden light of sunrise — once it’s gone, it’s gone! Parking is INCREDIBLY limited, especially considering the overwhelming number of tourists also there to see the blooms. And traffic on Ohio Drive is one way, so you’ll also experience road closures/detours. I provide all of my clients suggestions on where to park and what time to arrive, so rest easy ALP couples!
2. Get Ready for the Gauntlet!
I loving refer to the early morning session at the Tidal Basin “the gauntlet” because it’s truly packed wall to wall — you’ll see dozens of sessions, hundreds of tripods, and thousands of tourists. I believe it’s estimated that over 1.5 MILLION people visit the blooms each year and considering peak bloom is a window of 4-7 days, well, you get the picture. But if you take a look at my past sessions, it looks as if no one is in sight. Again, trust your photographer that they know the best angles and will get you beautiful photographs… and, for heavens sake, don’t be late!!!! =P And if you don’t believe me, here is what it looked like at sunrise last year!
3. Watch Your Bags
I think I tend to be a little too trusting being in the city multiple times a week, but DC is still a major metropolitan area with a ton of tourists. Last year a fellow photographer’s client had her purse stolen during their shoot. I always recommend my clients bring as LITTLE as possible for this very reason!
4. Prepare for COLD
I do not say that lightly — the wind coming off of the basin is something fierce. For the past three years in a row, my coldest session of the entire YEAR has been at the cherry blossoms! it’s typically early spring (late March/early April) so of course you sometimes… sometimes!… get a warm morning! But in my experience, that is more the exception than the rule. Luckily, I’ve already prepared tips to help you stay warm during your session!
5. Pack Flats
I love, love, love a dressed up portrait session — nothing makes me happier than pretty dresses or skirts with lots of movement! I’ve even created a full guide that helps my couples put together outfits for the shoot! But you’ll want to throw a pair of easy slip on flats/flip flops/boots (depending on weather) for in between shots. We will cover quite a bit of ground during your session and if you’ve never visited the Tidal Basin, it’s actually VERY muddy. In fact, most of the ground surrounding the entire area is washed out due to flooding, so you won’t find a ton of grass except in a few secret pockets!
I know this may all seem a little intimidating and even a bit overwhelming — again, if you’re working with me, I will guide you throughout the ENTIRE process! We will make it seamless so you can enjoy those beautiful blooms and have some of the most sought after photos!