(last updated Aug 08 2017)
Who Requires a Permit?
Most parks and venues call any photography that involves money at any point “commercial photography”. They are not aware that there is a photography industry specialty called “commercial photography” and this has led to a lot of confusion over terms.
Locally it is customary that all photographers who accept payment for their services (whether they are a registered legal business or not) are considered to be holding an event, or providing a commercial service. Even though we think of “commercial photography” as a big movie set or studio production, the park managers and organizations who manage the parks consider us businesses the moment money changes hands.
Once money changes hands you are a business using public space for your operations. Your level of experience, the amount you charge, years in business, size of your equipment or the speed that you are working have no impact on the need for a permit in most DC locations. Many locations also restrict personal photography and enforce it by escorting you off the grounds.
Retail photographers (weddings, portraits etc) are not protected by law in the same way that photojournalists are. Retail photographers do not have the same access that individual citizens have, or that journalists have. You can find more information about your legal rights as a photographer here.
George Washington Memorial Parkway – There is a $90 nonrefundable application fee for filming and photography permits. Approved permittees must pay an additional fee that is based on the number of crew and cast members for approved permits. Applications must be received at least four business days before filming or photography begins.
Fees for Filming
$150 for 3-10 people
$250 for 11-30 people
$500 for 31-49 people
$750 for more than 50 people
Fees for Photography
$50 for 1-10 people
$150 for 11-30 people
$250 for more than 30
Arlington County, Virginia
County Parks: no permit required for family photography. This permit is required for Weddings. The fee is $50 for residents to host a wedding in a park or for wedding photography.
Professional photography may be considered a business venture in a park however, depending on who you speak to, so you may be interested in contacting the Facilities Use Office at email@example.com to verify before using your preferred park.
County Parks: do not require a permit fee
Carlyle House As of January 2014 they now require a $25 fee for professional photography. Their website isn’t very helpful yet, but you will be approached if you are using the grounds of the Carlyle House for a professional shoot. Please contact Helen Wirka, the Historic Site Specialist, if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-549-2997
Culpeper County, Virginia
County Parks: No permit or photography fees.
Fauquier County, Virginia
County Parks: No permit or fees for family photography.
Loudoun County, Virginia
This county’s park code does not specifically mention a photography permit requirement at this time. Contact individual local parks to confirm.
Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg, VA. The permit is $75 and it gives you access to all of the grounds, vines, and buildings with little to no restriction. There are two large tasting rooms, tastefully decorated with large windows for indoor shots. The permit fee allows you to enter the gated area with the vines, pond, and large wooden doors, and access to the barrel room. Contact the winery (I used the sites contact form and had a response within 24 hrs.) to reserve your date, and when you arrive for your session, ask for a manager in one of the tasting rooms. They will collect the $75 fee (cash or credit).
Fairfax County, Virginia
As of July 2015, all Fairfax County VA requires a permit for ANY public park use, even a tiny dog park. You can pay a $25 annual permit for use of any public parks.
Read more about the year-long effort to create a logical, photographer friendly permit process in Fairfax County here.
From one Photographer April 27, 2013: “they are now requiring all photographers to fill out a form to register with them, provide proof of insurance, and you are only allowed to photograph no more than 2 clients there in the same day and for a max of 2 hours combined… fee is now $25 plus per person…”
From one photographer October 30, 2014: “if you want to do “engagement” photos at Meadowlark, it’s $25. But if they wear their wedding clothes, it’s $250, the justification is that they only let in one bride at a time and you have more exclusive useof the park.”
Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Military Parks – has begun enforcing the National Park Service’s regulations
Chatham Manor has begun enforcing the National Park Service’s regulations
Manassas Battlefield Park photography is no longer permitted as of November 1, 2014, due to the park being overwhelmed and abused. This information has been reported independently from four photographers during the Fall of 2014. This park is governed under National Park Service regulations Steve Horowitz at Manassas Battlefield has said that they have no problems with photographers shooting family and senior type of photography. They don’t want production companies or photographers with paid staff photographing there. Unobtrusive is what they are looking for.
Orange County, Virginia
County Parks: No permit or fee for photography.
Prince William County, Virginia
County Parks no photography permit required
County Libraries: No permit or fees for photography. Policy and rules document can be found here. Staff will terminate any photography, videotaping, or recording session that appears to compromise public safety or security, or which blocks access to library materials or services.