How to Apply for a Washington DC Photography Permit

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How to Apply for a Washington DC Photography Permit

You’ve probably thought about how to obtain a DC photography permit if you’re planning a wedding in the district. A permit is required when shooting at any of monuments on the National Mall, as well as most other parks and public locations in DC. In this post, I’ll be explaining why permits are important, who needs one, how to obtain it, and additionally how to handle it during your session.

Couple with a photography permit at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

You should always obtain a permit if you are paying a professional photographer for their time. The National Park Service (NPS) owns most public land in DC and patrols it regularly. You’re likely to be stopped and asked to show your permit to a patrol officer if they see your photographer working. Furthermore, if you don’t have one, you’ll be asked to leave or even fined. Not a great way to spend your paid session if you ask me!

Be sure you apply for the permit at least 2-3 weeks before the session date. For a wedding, I’d even apply sooner! The NPS accepts photography permit applications via snail mail, but the process is very efficient. Here are the steps you need to take:

How to Apply for a DC Photography Permit

  1. Fill out the application for your permit here: NPS Application for Still Photography Permit (You could also print it and handwrite your information. Make sure you use your information, not your photographer’s!)
    • Tip: In the location schedule portion of the application, be sure to put all locations you are considering with approximate times of arrival by recommendations from your photographer. (E.g. Lincoln Memorial, 3:00-3:30 PM.) It’s better to be over prepared with a permit in hand rather than show up to new spot without one!
    • Under equipment, fill in my gear setup as follows: “One (1) handheld DSLR camera & lens”
  2. Mail the application to the address at the top of the form with your payment. You can pay by personal check or input your credit/debit card information on the form.
  3. A representative from NPS will reach out to you via email for signature after they receive your application and process your payment.
  4. Sign the attached PDF and mail/email it back. The final permit will be issued back to you via email after they sign.
  5. Bring the printed permit to keep with you on the date of your session.

Additional Tips

The permit itself costs $50, but there is a $90 fee you’ll need to send in with your application. In total, you’ll pay $140 each time you apply for a permit. If you expect rain or bad weather on your session date, contact the representative who issued your permit ASAP to change the date. Make sure your backup date is confirmed with your photographer before doing this!

For more information about photography permits in DC, visit the NPS website. My industry colleague Kat Forder also has great information and tips about DC permitted locations here.

To conclude, I hope this post has successfully explained the permit application process for anyone planning to have photos taken in the district. Don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below if you have questions, I’m here to help!

Thank you for reading! See more Washington DC weddings on the blog here.

See Nelle & Jay’s full Lincoln Memorial & District Winery wedding here!

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