Photography & Film

Photography is an important part of the National Park Service's history. Photographers used imagery to show that special places need to be preserved. Today, photography continues to be a popular activity at National Park Service sites across the country, including Hampton National Historic Site. On this page visitors can find information and policies surrounding photographing and filming in the park.

The use of photography and filming for personal enjoyment is permitted in all areas of public access at Hampton National Historic Site, including inside the mansion. Visitors who take photographs or film portions of their visit for personal consumption are welcome to do so without prior notice or submitting an application. In some cases, a special use permit or commercial use authorization is required to film or take photographs in the park. These instances include activities that extend beyond the general uses of the park, or commercial activities that result in compensation and/or marketing. This page includes additional information about special use permits (SPU) and commercial use authorizations (CUA).


Photography & Filming

The following cases do not require a special use permit or commercial use authorization:

  • Visitors filming or taking pictures intended for their personal use and enjoyment. Special requests or use of large or unusual equipment may require permitting even if it is for personal use. Novice filmmakers should call the park office at 410-823-1309 for more information.

  • Credentialed news organizations documenting an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location.

Wedding and Special Occasion Photography

Engagement, wedding, portrait, prom, and family photography is permitted in the park without a permit unless conditions exist that categorizes the activity as commercial in nature. Individuals posing for special occasion photographs are not considered models, unless the photographs are taken for purpose(s) of financial compensation, marketing, or advertising. Please refer to the outlined conditions of professional photography under the special use permits section of this page.

Standard Conditions for Photography and Filmography Within the Park

  1. Parking at Hampton NHS is available to the public on a first come, first served basis. Parking in the upper mansion lot is limited. Shuttles and busses are not permitted to park in the upper lot and must drop off passengers in the upper lot and park in available bus parking in the main visitor center lot. For additional information about parking, including accessing the park after 5:00 pm, please refer to the park hours of operation.

  2. Vehicles are not permitted on gravel roads.

  3. The launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft (such as a drone) from or on lands within the boundaries of Hampton National Historic Site is prohibited except as approved in writing by the Superintendent.

  4. No alcoholic beverages are permitted outside of the picnic areas. The possession of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the historic areas including the mansion, farmhouse, gardens, walkways, and slave quarters. Alcoholic beverages may not be used as props for photos.

  5. Posed photographs may not be taken inside of the historic mansion.

  6. The porches of the mansion and farmhouse may be used for photographs as long as the activity does not limit access of other visitors or disrupt public programs. Pets are not permitted on the historic structures, including porches and stairs.

  7. Visitors are not permitted to sit and pose on windowsills or other historic structures.

  8. Climbing and sitting on trees is prohibited due to the sensitivity of the resources.

  9. Photography activities cannot in any way interfere with or impede on the experience or access of visitors to the site. This includes access to parking, walkways, entrances, and exhibits.

  10. No alteration of the buildings or natural setting can be made for the purpose of “setting up” a scene. This includes placing or holding props, opening/closing fence gates and doors, and relocating and/or removing plants and wildlife.

  11. It is against the law to exchange funds for goods and services on federal property. Photographers cannot be paid for their services while within the boundaries of the park.

Additional federal laws and policies are outlined in the Superintendent’s Compendium. If you have any questions about park policies, please contact Hampton National Historic Site by calling 410-823-1309.


Photography & Filming Special Use Permits

Generally, permits are not required for still photography unless the activity is categorized as a commercial project, or beyond the uses of the park by the general public. If use of the park beyond what is generally allowed for the public is anticipated, photographers must apply for a special use permit ) through the Superintendent of the park prior to the activity being carried out. For more information about Special Use Permits please visit the Permits and Reservations page. Hampton’s permits applications are processed at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore, MD.

Who Needs a Permit?

A special use permit is required for any individual, business, or organization (including nonprofit groups and educational institutions) photographing, filming, or recording for a market audience or receiving compensation associated with images, footage, or recordings made in the park. The following list outlines specific situations that require permits:

Still Photography

  • Commercial still photography using props, models, costumes, sets, lighting, crews/staff, or other specialized equipment
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes
  • If activities warrant oversight by park staff would incur costs for providing on-site management and oversight to protect agency resources or minimize visitor use conflicts
  • Some wedding and/or portrait photography (please inquire with park staff for more information.
  • The activity goes beyond the uses of the park by the general public
  • The individual/organization/corporation conducting the activity is professional and seeks to make a profit.


  • Commercial advertisements, feature films, entertainment broadcasts, documentaries, promotional or educational films (including non-profit and student projects)
  • Filming for stock footage (regardless of equipment)
  • Time-lapse photography if the final sequence will be used in a motion picture format for commercial purposes
  • Sound recording projects that use more than handheld equipment or require oversight by park staff
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff
  • The individual/organization/corporation conducting the activity is professional and seeks to make a profit.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I take photos and record videos while I am on a tour?
Visitors are welcome to take photos and film for personal consumption while on a guided tour of the park, including inside the mansion. Equipment is limited to one personal camera/device and a tripod (in most areas - tripods are not permitted inside the mansion). Professional photography (posed, the use of props, professional equipment, etc.) is not permitted without an approved special use permit.

2. Can I use props, costumes, or models during a photo session?
The use of professional equipment such as props of any kind, costumes, and models is only permitted through an approved special use permit.

3. My nonprofit group wants to take some photographs and film footage at Hampton to promote our organization. Do I need to apply for a special use permit?
Yes. Individuals and organizations must apply for and receive an approved special use permit before engaging in any professional or commercial photography or filming within the boundaries of Hampton National Historic Site.

4. I want to take photographs or film a product at Hampton with the intent of advertising a good or service. Do I need a special use permit?
Yes. Any commercial activity or activity that would result in monetary or commercial gain requires an approved special use permit. This includes advertising goods and services on social media.

5. Can I have my family or wedding portraits taken at Hampton by a professional photographer?
Generally, yes. Still photography is permitted without a permit but all of the policies of the park must be followed during the photo session. The photographer can only use a camera and a tripod, but other professional equipment is not permitted. Filming of any type requires an approved special use permit.

6. Can I bring props to my photo session at Hampton?
No. The use of props is prohibited without obtaining an approved special use permit. Props include signs, balloons, flowers, furniture, banners, seasonal and holiday decor, flags, etc.

7. Am I allowed to block off a section of the park so that I can take photographs uninterupted by other visitors?
Generally, no. Activities performed within the boundaries of the park cannot disrupt enjoyment or limit access of other visitors.

8. I want to take photographs in an area of the park that is normally closed to visitation. Would I need a special use permit to do that?
An approved special use permit would be needed in order to access areas of the park that are normally closed to regular visitation. Please note that permits are approved on a case by case basis and may be denied if the requested activity poses a threat to the park resources and/or does not align with the mission of Hampton and the National Park Service.

We encourage anyone with questions about filiming and photographing at Hampton to reach out to a staff member by calling 410-823-1309.

Last updated: April 27, 2020

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