10 Cherry Blossom Festival pictures you should take

An establishing shot taken during the PhotoTour DC Cherry Blossom Photo Tour.

Use this shot list for great photos around the Tidal Basin

There's a picture that almost everyone takes at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

You know it when you see it, and if you ever journeyed to the Tidal Basin for the annual celebration, you likely attempted it yourself. It's a classic, and that's why it endures. What is it? It's the first of 10 potentially great shots on my Cherry Blossom Shot List.

1. Establishing Shot -- One of the first shots you take in a travel photography setting is the picture that establishes your location. Videographers call this the establishing shot. At the Tidal Basin, a great establishing shot frames the Jefferson Memorial with the Cherry Blossoms. This is so classic, I call it the “official shot” of the festival. You’ve seen it a million times, yet every year we feel compelled to take it. Why shouldn't we? It works.

2. Detail/Close ups - Most photographers look for the wide shot, but another important approach is to focus on the details. Fill the frame with one flower or get even closer than that. Alternatively, you can showcase the weathered trunks. The closer you get to your subject, the more you encourage your viewer to marvel at the texture without the distractions of the background.

3. Art - photographers won't have the Tidal Basin to ourselves. Artists also punctuate the landscape. Dabbing into pink and green splotches of paint, they take an empty canvas and recreate the beauty of the flowers. Let life imitate art by documenting them during their process. Get close ups of the paint and brushes or the intense expressions as the artist focuses. Also try over the shoulder with the painting and Tidal Basin in the same frame.

4. Color - fill the frame with a single color for an easy theme. How many ways can you say pink with your camera? How about green?

5. Contrasts - A centennial celebration is bound to celebrate the old and the new. Colors work well in contrast. Families arrive with the old and young. How can you combine contrasts to create an interesting story?

6. Water/reflections - Right around sunset, you can capture some spectacular reflections in the Tidal Basin. The mirror effect is a classic approach. You can be even more creative by focusing exclusively on the reflection and cropping out the source of the reflection.

7. Icons - We all know Washington is a city of icons, but there are other icons around the Tidal Basin that tell the story of the festival. Find the markers of the Cherry Blossom gift. How might you use them to tell your own story?

8. History - What can you find to showcase the historical nature of the Cherry Blossom Festival? This might take some creativity. I might try to recreate a historic Cherry Blossom photo and display my update side by side with the original. Could you find a person who remembers the festival from years gone by? Photograph them at a location on the Tidal Basin where they can recall an old anecdote.

9. People - In any event, the best stories feature people. Each person you pass represents an opportunity to document the event from a different angle. Newspaper and magazine editors call this the human interest. Look for interesting individuals, and pay attention to the interactions of two or more people. When you feature people, you will find the most compelling stories.

10. Souvenirs & Crafts - I love photographing the trinkets on display at festivals. That tells its own story about the event. What are people buying this year? What will they use to remember this year? Weave that into your story.

Remember there are no shortage of approaches to capture your own unique view of the Cherry Blossom Festival. You can work the whole list as a scavenger hunt or pick just one tip and use it as a theme for a day’s shoot. Either way, you might find that a focused approach could lead to more creative pictures.


Download your pdf copy of the Cherry Blossom Shot List to photograph on your own or share with your friends.

Work this shot list with a professional photographer during the PhotoTour DC Cherry Blossom Photo Tour. Learn more.