One of the most popular options for DC engagement photos or family portrait sessions is the Tidal Basin and the Cherry Blossom trees. When blooming, the Cherry Blossoms are absolutely beautiful and make a wonderful backdrop for those iconic DC photos. However, there are also a few challenges in scheduling a Cherry Blossom engagement session or family portraits.
If you are planning a Cherry Blossom photo session, you must keep a close eye on the peak bloom forecasts. The peak bloom date changes every year and is dependent on the weather conditions in the weeks and months before the bloom. The National Park Service just issued their first peak bloom prediction for 2017. They predict that the cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom sometime between March 14 and 17, which would be one of the earliest on record. Keep in mind, predicting peak bloom is almost impossible more than 10 days out because of changing weather conditions.
The second challenge is that the flowers don’t last very long. Peak bloom is determined when 70% of the Yoshino Cherry blossoms are open. There will still be plenty of flowers in the days leading up to peak bloom, and for a few days afterwards, but they only last about a week to 10 days. Heavy rains or wind during that time can affect their longevity as well.
Lastly, while the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms is what makes them such a popular place for portraits, that same reason also attracts huge crowds of tourists. Be prepared for lots of people around the Tidal Basin area during the Cherry Blossom Festival. One way to minimize the crowds during your shoot is to consider a sunrise session. It may sound painful, but sunrise photo shoots will be your best bet to avoid the largest crowds. And as a bonus, the light at sunrise is really beautiful and that makes photographers happy! Having said all that, there will be people walking around at all hours during Cherry Blossom season, and a professional photographer should be able to identify the best angles, lenses and techniques to minimize tourists in your photos (or use them creatively). If you can’t make a sunrise photo session, the next best time for natural light portraits is generally late afternoon, about 1-2 hours before sunset.
Here are a few resources I use when planning Cherry Blossom photo sessions at the Tidal Basin:
Cherry Blossom Watch – a really comprehensive site with information about visiting the cherry blossoms, peak bloom forecasts, and up-to-date photos. You can also follow Cherry Blossom Watch on Facebook.
National Park Service Bloom Watch – the official bloom watch of the National Park Service.
I hope these tips are helpful. Have any others to share? Leave a comment below! And if you’re considering a Cherry Blossom engagement session or family portraits, feel free to contact me with any questions.