When planning your Madison, Wisconsin engagement or family session, there are several factors to consider. For us at Twig, our favorite locations change all the time, sometimes day to day! Weather, light, location and texture are all key factors that we consider in choosing the perfect spot for our couples and families.
Keep in mind that permit requirements can change at any given moment. It’s always best to double-check and be sure that requirements have not changed from season to season.
Token Creek County Park
6200 Williamsburg Way
DeForest, WI 53532
This 427-acre park is best known (photography wise) for its wide variety of trails, fields, textures and an elevated boardwalk through a sedge meadow marsh.
Twig & Olive Tip: If you are unfamiliar with the park, plan on arriving 10-15 minutes early to scout the best locations. The park is constantly changing as different plants and flowers bloom and turn!
State Street is a pedestrian zone located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, near the Wisconsin State Capitol. It specifically links the State Capitol Square with the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. There are so many alcoves and side streets, it’s perfect for the couple who wants a more urban feel to their photos.
Twig & Olive Tip: Have your couple park on the square and meet them outside of Coopers Tavern (they have a great whiskey selection). When you get done shooting their engagement session, grab a drink or head next door to Rare Steakhouse for a great dinner!
Downtown Sun Prairie
Sun Prairie, Wisconsin
Equally as cute and urban is the small main street located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. There are little shops and eateries, plenty of side streets and some really wonderful old buildings! This is a great location just outside of Madison to shoot an engagement or small family session.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens
3330 Atwood Avenue
Madison, WI 53704
No Pets Allowed (strict)
Olbrich’s outdoor gardens feature 16 acres of stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants. You need a permit to shoot a photography session at Olbrich ($40). The Photo Permit is for a one-hour session and needs to be sent in at a minimum a week in advance. Download the application and instructions on the website.
Twig & Olive Tip: Don’t be shady and think you can shoot without a permit. The staff actively enforce the photography policy and you will be asked to leave if you do not have a permit!
Among the tallgrass prairies, savannas, wetlands and several forest types, the Arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Like Olbrich Botanical Garden, a photography permit is also required. The permit fee for one session is $35. A yearly permit can be purchased for $350. Download the application and instructions on the website.
Twig & Olive Tip: Although beautiful all year round, May is the best month to shoot at the UW-Arboretum! Early May yields gorgeous flowering crab apple and magnolia trees. Towards the end of the month, the lilac bushes bloom.
Allen Centennial Garden is the artful living laboratory and public botanical garden of the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This multi-colored garden full of florals and greenery surrounds a historic house nestled in the center of the well-manicured property. A photography permit is required. The permit fee for one session is $40. A yearly permit can be purchased for $150. Download the application and instructions on the website. Twig & Olive Tip: A trip to Allen Centennial Garden isn’t complete without a visit to The Daily Scoop in Babcock Hall (a short walk) for ice cream!
McCarthy Youth and Conservation park is a 180-acre park located just outside of Madison. Groomed trails, taller prairie grass and smatterings of wildflowers make this park a great location all year round.
Twig & Olive Tip: This a wildly popular location for shoots. Expect to run into other photographer’s sessions, props, or setups. That said, the park is large and there are multiple great locations!
Cherokee Marsh North Unit 6098 N Sherman Ave Madison, WI 53704 Pet Friendly South Unit 5002 School Rd Madison, WI 53704 Pet Friendly
Low prairie & wetlands cover 2,000 acres at this preserve with a trail & boardwalk. These two locations are one of Madison’s hidden gems… natural dirt paths, prairie grass and wildflowers paired with great sunset light!
Lake Kegonsa State Park is a state park of Wisconsin, on the northeast shore of Lake Kegonsa. It is located in Dane County southeast of Madison, Wisconsin. The park consists of forest, prairie, and wetlands. You will need a state park sticker to enter the park but a photography permit is not required.
Governor Nelson State Park is a 422-acre Wisconsin state park located outside of Waunakee, Wisconsin in the town of Westport on the north shore of Lake Mendota (fancy description for just outside of Madison). Walking trails, forest and prairie make this location another great option all year round! State park sticker required for entrance.
Six different Prairie Restoration projects and seven different crops including a field of sunflowers round out this beautiful piece of 100 acres.
Twig & Olive Tip: This location shoots best an hour prior to sunset as it is a more open area. Keep up to date on the website for Sunflower Days (the week the sunflowers bloom). Although beautiful, be prepared for thousands of people viewing and shooting the sunflowers. During Sunflower Days, expect long waits to park in the parking lot. The fields rotate each year and you could have a 20-minute walk or longer to get to the blooms!
This is a great location for anyone wanting a lakeshore or water! There is a cute little dock, greenery and tree overhangs as well.
Twig & Olive Tip: Plan on getting a little wet at the end of the session! Prep your clients so that they come prepared with a few extra towels or clothes.
Willy Street Madison, Wisconsin Williamson Street (or “Willy Street” as it is locally known as) is a great little area in Madison, Wisconsin, near the Wisconsin State Capitol. It is an older area of the city and home to many great hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants. It’s less populated than State Street while providing that older urban look and feel to your sessions. We recommend meeting clients outside of the Roman Candle and working your way down the road! Lapacek’s is a family-owned apple orchard located just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. The farm is open most of the year and is at peak beauty in the fall. A permit is required and can be purchased for $30 per session.
Twig & Olive Tip: Use the hashtag #lapaceksorchard on Instagram and other forms of social media. We are huge advocates of supporting other small businesses!
Our list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the power of knocking on doors and asking permission to shoot on private property. Whether it be a beautiful barn in the country or an amazing flower garden in the city, the best locations are always off of the beaten path!