Skip to content
headshots dc
Washington DC Photography

washington dc photography

do i need a permit for photography at washington dc monuments?

When is a Permit Needed for photography at  Washington DC  monuments?
Washington DC is filled with monuments and many make perfect backdrops for headshots or a myriad of other photo shoots. Many of Washington DC’s most iconic monuments are actually National Parks. That means the National Park Police look after the monuments and they have rules about what can and cannot take place on the grounds. If you plan to have a professional photographer and want to use the monuments as a backdrop, you may find yourself in a bit of trouble if you don’t have the proper documentation. Here are a few guidelines to consider.

Professional Photographer

If a professional photographer or video crew are involved and the location falls under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service, a good rule of thumb is no permit.. no photo! Whilst Mr. Lincoln, Jefferson, etc. might be thrilled that you’d like to take your group shot, engagement portraits, wedding party portraits, etc. with their beautiful monuments, the National Park Police will certainly disagree with you UNLESS you’ve purchased the required permit.
“But people take their pictures there all the time” I hear you, and yes that’s true. For sure there’s the option of flying under the radar. But if you are using a professional photographer then you may well need a permit. Washington DC’s monuments are part of the National Parks Service and so are subject to rules!
“Oh they won’t know the difference” – well if you’re wearing a wedding dress, sporting a tuxedo, or have a ‘crew’ believe me they’ll know alright. And there’s no talking them round, nope, no sense of humor there! By the end of the summer, their normally polite manner is wearing a wee bit thin.

Planning is Important

There is good news. Getting a permit is not very complicated. Permit processing does require a few days so plan ahead. The cost will vary from 50.00 on up. 

There are a few monuments where no permit will be issued ever. The most notable is the FDR memorial. It’s a pity because it’s a wonderful memorial. It’s also subject to copyright and therefore completely out of bounds for professional photography shoots.

Photography Permits: What you should know

Permits issued does not give you unrestricted access to a location. Read the fine print. Here are a few helpful nuggets.
Lincoln Memorial: Filming/photography is prohibited above the white marble steps and the interior chamber of the Lincoln Memorial.
Washington Monument: Filming/photography is prohibited within the circle of flags surrounding the base of the Washington Monument
FDR Memorial: Due to copyright restrictions, commercial filming/photography is prohibited within the FDR Memorial.
George Mason Memorial: Allows for Weddings with a 1-hour time limit. Filming/photography permitted.

DC War Memorial: Allows for Weddings with a 1-hour time limit. Filming/photography permitted. Tripod usage is strictly prohibited. Avoid if you can.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post with more detail about other locations around Washington DC that need planning for professional photography. Amongst the notable Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington Virginia, the George Washington Memorial Parkway area (see below), and the Smithsonian locations.

George Washington Memorial Parkway

The GW Parkway area covers a pretty large area: Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, Arlington Memorial Bridge & Memorial Avenue, Belle Haven Marina, Belle Haven Park, Clara Barton National Historic Site, Collingwood Park, Columbia Island Marina, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, Dangerfield Island, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fort Hunt Park, Fort Marcy, Glen Echo Park, Gravelly Point, Great Falls Park, Jones Point Park, Lady Bird Johnson Park, Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove-on-the-Potomac, Mount Vernon Trail, Netherlands Carillon, Potomac Heritage Trail, Riverside Park, Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Turkey Run Park, U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial ( Iwo Jima Memorial), Washington Sailing Marina, and Women in Military Service For America Memorial.