Planning a DC Photoshoot

What is a Permit and do I need one?

First things first, what even is a permit? A permit for photography typically refers to official permission or authorization granted by relevant authorities or property owners to engage in photography in specific locations or under certain conditions. This is often necessary in places where photography may be restricted due to privacy concerns, security reasons, or the protection of the environment.

Photography permits are commonly required in various settings, such as:

  1. National Parks and Protected Areas: Many natural reserves and parks may require a photography permit to ensure that photographers adhere to rules that protect the environment and wildlife.
  2. Private Property: If you plan to take photographs on private property, especially commercial or restricted areas, the property owner may request or require a photography permit.
  3. Public Events and Spaces: Some public events or spaces may require a permit for professional photography, especially if the images will be used for commercial purposes.
  4. Commercial Photography: When photographing for commercial purposes, such as for advertising or promotional materials, some locations may require a permit to ensure compliance with regulations and to manage the impact on the area.
  5. Film and Video Production: In addition to still photography, permits may also be required for filming and video production, which often involve larger crews and more equipment.

Obtaining a photography permit typically involves contacting the relevant authorities, providing information about the planned activities, and paying any required fees. It’s important to research and comply with local regulations to avoid legal issues and ensure a respectful and responsible approach to photography.

Do I need a permit for DC national mall sessions? YES! You always need a permit for ANY session you are doing on NPS property in DC. Even if you do not need props you still need a permit. They are very strict on this, but are very good about getting permits to you in a timely manner. If you are looking into a Cherry Blossom session I suggest applying for your permit at least 2-3 in advance. That is the busiest time of year for them permit wise.

How to apply for a Permit!

Applying for a Photography permit through National Park Service is extremely easy! All you have to do is print off this permit form, fill it out, and return it. You can fax it, Mail it, or bring it in person. I personally choose to fax it using Its free depending on how many pages you send and has worked every time. If you choose to fax your application make sure you include the Credit Card Auth form as well. You can NOT email the credit card auth form. It must be brought in person or faxed. You can also complete payments with a check or money order. The application form has all the details for those steps. Again, I personally find faxing it much easier and quicker.

Where to fax: National Mall and Memorial Parks
Division of Permits Management
1100 Ohio Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20242
FAX 202-475-2216

With each application there is a $90 non-refundable application fee. Once the application is approved there is a $50 permit fee for groups of 1-10 people. If you have a group of 11-30 people the fee is $150 and then 30+ people is $250 permit fee. You do NOT have to do a different application for each session you have. If you are planning multiple sessions you can use one application and list all the dates you plan on having a session there. This way you only have to pay one application fee and then $50 for each day you have listed on the application.

Final thoughts

If you or someone you know is considering having a photoshoot in DC and using the beautiful architecture I highly recommend not forgoing the permit. It is legally required and if you fail to complete it you could face federal charges. Not only that but as a photographer you put you and your clients at risk by choosing not to complete it. It’s frustrating and an additional annoying step we have to take, but at the end of the day it’s pretty easy to do and can save you a big headache. If you have further questions my DMs and email is always open but I will link the NPS website so you can go directly there and read this info for yourself.

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