Washington, DC National Mall Permits

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by lori_l|1, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. Hi everyone in the DC area,

    I have a bride that would like to do some of her formals at the US Capitol
    Building. I've run into some trouble on the National Mall in the past when
    doing personal work (security guards asked me to leave). Recently, however, I
    did an engagement shoot there and had no trouble. I'd rather play it safe on
    teh wedding day, and was wondering if any of you knew which department I should
    contact (and contact info) to get a permit for the wedding day. Any other


  2. Hi Lori!


    National park service. Last I heard, fees ranged from $50 to $250 depending on the "impact".

    Good Luck!
  3. Lori,

    Actually, like all government web sites, the national park service is clear and well organized. :)

    This is a little closer, specifically for the white house itself:

  4. 50-250 fee sounds steep. There is a park that I enjoyed taking photos at in my area and now they charge a fee. Another area college did the same thing. Now I do not shoot at either place. Too many other places to shoot for free. They both actually make the photographer get and pay the permit fee. It is good for the year but still not worth the steep fee. I could pass the fee on to the customer but that is not right and if you tell the customer the permit fee is more than the sitting fee and a little bit of photos they won't want it then anyway. Some places are nice but too many people are looking to sponge off of our little bit of profits.
  5. ray



    I have filled out and submitted these permit forms (call the number in the links above for
    a permit application) in the past for shooting on National Park Service grounds in DC
    (monuments, etc.). The permit has no fee and apart from the bother of having to fax it in,
    is very trivial to apply for.

    Provided you're not using a tripod and not setting up any lights, it's easy to get a permit.
    If nothing else it gives you the peace of mind that an overzealous security officer will not
    shoo you (and your bride) away.
  6. the white house, the capitol and the monuments are all different places.

    I would suggest calling the capitol police - (202) 228-2800.

    and from my experience, the permits are NOT free. the jefferson memorial cost me $150 or so. yikes.
  7. I'll confess some curiosity about how folks approach shooting a paying customer's work in these settings. I've lived most of my life in the DC 'burbs, and it would just NEVER occur to me to expect (permit or not!) to find good light, good weather, good parking, AND a monument/federal background that isn't polluted by people in t-shirts holding other cameras. Even the crack-o'-dawn wonder light hour isn't free of joggers and whatnot. Really... how do you pull this off, effectively, and still deliver enough Washington-ness to fit the bill?
  8. b&w


    This is mad, here in New Zealand I walk past the parlement buildings everyday, even had a picnic on the roof of one of the buildings not long ago. The world is going mad, to stop someone taking some shots of a couple getting engaged etc. is just not something I think I like in society. What is a permit going to achieve, besides generating revenue? I think if you need a permit then move some other place. Have you considered a blue background shoot and then paste in pictures you have taken of the various buildings?
  9. Matt,

    It's not so tough really. It's a frequent request for me to photograph my couples in D.C., and cutting out the tourists in my frame just requires a bit of patience and/or creative angles.


    I don't like the permits either, but because the monuments are so popular for engagement/wedding portraits around here, the photographers do have an "impact" as they say. I have literally had to wait in line at the Jefferson memorial and the north side of the capitol building for other photographers to finish up with their couples before I could get the spots I wanted. It's like golf honestly. "Mind if I play through?" :)

    I've never actually bought the permit though. I tell clients that if they really want to shoot in D.C. they have to accept the risk. I explain to my couples that there is risk of being shoo'd off by the park police, so we need to be discreet, fast, and on the move. I think that's what the parks service was after when they came up with the permit requirement anyway.

    It's been a year and a half since this crackdown on photographers without a permit, and I've only been hassled once outside Union Station. "Private Property" they tell me.
  10. Marko,
    There are 300 million or so people in the United States. Nobody is "stopping them." They are trying to moderate the commercial demand on a limited public resource. There isn't room for everybody on the steps at once. You've got tons of non-commercial tourists as well as people using public property to conduct their own businesses. Permits to do business in a publicly owned place are a fact of life in much of the well populated or popular areas.
  11. b&w


    I take the points above. Thank you.

    The capital here is not very populated so we don't have that problem. But I think even if it was you would not have engaged couples taking engagment shots near public buildings. What is the attraction of public buildings in an engagement photo?

    Can you put some photo's up to show me how these public buildings help the enhance the photo of the couple's special moment. I'm really curious.
  12. The Capitol itself, I believe, issues permits through the Cap[itol Police.


    That might be one of the complexities of the "project." Finding out who is actually in charge of the [particular site(s) under consideration.

    The way I read this, though, commercial photography may not be possible. A phone call might be needed to clarify.

    As to why one might want "engagement" pictures taken in the area? I'm not sure why not. I've seen some of people taken in commercial districts, graffitti marked alleys, or other places that the couple feel suits their relationship. But the mall area and many of the civic buildings are nicely landscaped, often have interesting architectural features, fountains, interesting steps, seats, benches, vistas, etc. Perhaps they work in the area, are politically active or connected.
  13. Hi Lori,
    You definitely need to get a permit ahead of time if you have a paying customer. I would contact the National Park Service (you need to contact the office responsible for each individual park.) For the National Mall and Monuments contact:
    For correspondence:
    National Mall and Memorial Parks
    900 Ohio Drive, SW
    Washington, DC 20024
    For Visitor Information (Phone): 202.426.6841
    Park Headquarters (Phone): 202.485.9880

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