Thou Shalt Smile for the Camera

Washington National Cathedral is one the capital’s most visually striking buildings, and we encourage you to remember your visit by taking photos. And don’t forget to tag us on social media using @WNCathedral or #nationalcathedral.

That said, we have a few rules to make sure everyone has an enjoyable visit to the Cathedral and its lush gardens and grounds.

Thou Shalt Follow the Rules

Please remember that the Cathedral and the 57 acres of the Cathedral Close are private property. The Cathedral reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to withhold or withdraw permission to photograph or video on its premises, and to restrict the commercial use of photographs taken on Cathedral grounds.

  • Personal photography: If you’re wandering the grounds and snapping photos with your cellphone or personal point-and-shoot, snap away. Just be sure to follow the Do’s and Dont’s of Personal Courtesy. And remember to smile.
  • Commercial photography: If you’re a professional photographer (i.e., you charge for your services) or if you’re hiring a professional photographer (i.e., you’re paying someone for their services), you’ll need to obtain a photography permit. Keep on reading.
  • Commercial video: Are you looking to film the Cathedral in a professional or commercial video project? Awesome. Just contact our Communications Office to get started. Video permit fees and applications will apply.

Thou Shalt Obtain a Permit

Let’s say you want to take your wedding or engagement photos in the Bishop’s Garden. Or maybe you want to get everyone together for a family reunion photo, prom photos or graduation photos. Fantastic! If you’re a professional photographer (i.e., you charge for your services) or if you’re hiring a professional photographer (i.e., you’re paying someone for their services), you’ll need to obtain a photography permit. Here’s how:

  • Still Photography: $250/day
  • Commercial Filming/Videos: $500/day

Click here to apply for a video or film permit. Please note that permits are issued based on availability, and you will receive a follow-up email asking for additional information, including your preferred date.

A couple important notes:

  • A permit will not be issued until the date and time has been cleared with the Cathedral calendar. All permits are subject to the discretion of, and approval by, the Cathedral’s Office of Communications.
  • Photography permits apply only to the Cathedral exterior, gardens and grounds. Interior wedding photography is only allowed for couples who are married inside the Cathedral. The Cathedral interior may only be used for photography to commemorate ceremonies or life events that occur within the Cathedral.
  • This policy applies only to Washington National Cathedral, and not St. Alban’s Church, Church House of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, or Beauvoir—the National Cathedral Elementary School.

Thou Shalt Not Use the Cathedral as a Commercial Backdrop*

The mass-production and sale of merchandise using Cathedral images is forbidden. The publication, public distribution or public display of Cathedral images in any way that might imply Cathedral endorsement is subject to prior written approval.

The Cathedral does not typically pay for images, artistic depictions or reproductions that it has not commissioned, but it welcomes new Cathedral images and will gladly consider them for editorial use. Please contact our Communications Office for more information.

Sorry, but the Cathedral is not available as a backdrop for modeling shoots, glamour shots or in any other way that can help you sell your product. If you still have questions, contact our Communications Office.

*unless we work out something in advance

Thou Shalt Read the Fine Print

  • Cancellations: At its sole discretion, the Cathedral’s Office of Communications and/or the Cathedral Police reserve the right to cancel any reservation. In such cases, all permit fees for the canceled day will be fully refunded.
  • Failure to Abide by Terms and Conditions: Cancellation of the filming and denial of future filming privileges may result if the following terms and conditions are not fully adhered to. Purchase of a film or video permit constitutes agreement with these rules and conditions.
  • Operating Hours: The Cathedral grounds are available 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prior approval is required for visitation or photography outside these hours.

Film and video permits are applicable only to the Cathedral grounds and the Bishop’s Garden. Cathedral film and video permits do not apply to the buildings and grounds of St. Albans School, National Cathedral School or Beauvoir School.

No services, parties, or receptions are permitted. Only the immediate wedding party and photographer are allowed. Changing rooms and access to electrical outlets are not available.

Under no circumstances will nudity or indecently/scantily clad persons be permitted on the grounds of the Cathedral. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed on the grounds, and observation of the presence of such by a permit holder or photographer will result in cancellation of the shoot without any refund.

Visitors are not allowed to climb on structures, trees, other plantings or walls. The gardens are a living, breathing space and the restrictions are needed to protect the flora and fauna as well as the safety of our visitors. Failure to abide by these rules will result in cancellation of the shoot without any refund, and guests will be escorted off the grounds.

No photographer/photography or videographer/video may expressly or implicitly convey the endorsement of the Cathedral. No commercial enterprise may expressly or implicitly convey the endorsement of the Cathedral for any product or service.

The following are expressly prohibited on the Cathedral grounds: live bands, disc jockeys or amplified music; raffles or gambling; helium-filled balloons or banners.

All photographers and visitors to the Cathedral grounds must abide by the direction of Cathedral staff and/or Cathedral Police. If a tripod is being used, all photographers must remain with their equipment at all times.

Visitors to the grounds may not be prevented from viewing an area being used by a photographer. They may be asked, politely, not to approach during filming, but once the shot has been completed, the visitors may proceed. No public area may be closed to visitor access.

No materials of any kind may be attached to historic structures, plant materials, grounds or facilities. Equipment may not be set up within garden beds without Cathedral approval.

The Cathedral is not responsible for lost or damaged personal property. Please do not leave valuables in your car.

Parking is allowed only in designated areas, and all roads must be kept open at all times for vehicle traffic. All vehicles and equipment must be kept off the lawn and planted areas.

Contact Information

Still have questions? Contact the Cathedral’s Communications Department: 202-537-2238 or communications@cathedral.org

Last Updated: June 2018

photography do's and dont's

When taking photos inside the Cathedral, please follow the Holy Trinity of common courtesy:

  • No photography or video during worship services or concerts
  • Follow the guidance of Cathedral staff and signage. Visitors may be limited in the use of photo equipment such as tripods or selfie sticks
  • Don’t make another person the primary subject of a photo without their express permission. Many people visit the Cathedral for private prayer; please respect their personal space and privacy.

special photo access tours

Capture the grandeur and splendor of the world’s sixth-largest cathedral, or discover intimate, dimly lit corners that showcase spectacular gothic architecture.

Click here to see upcoming availability or email our Visitors Program Department to inquire about solo or group options.

want to make it super special?

Need an amazing place to pop the question? How about a wedding in the Bishop’s Garden?

Our Department of Events Management can take your idea and make it real. Contact Angela Wilson to get started.