White House lifts 40-year ban on photography during public tours

by Gannon Burgett

posted Thursday, July 2, 2015 at 1:25 PM EDT

40 years ago, the White House put a ban on photography during public tours. Now, the ban has been lifted, with First Lady Michelle Obama posting a video on Instagram announcing the White House will once again allow photography during public tours.

The ban was initially implemented as a means of protecting and keeping the stream of people going during tours. Nicholas Fandos and Gardiner Harris of The New York Times write:

The photography ban was originally put in place to address a range of concerns, including the damaging effect of flash photography on artwork and delays in tours as visitors stopped to snap shots and strayed from the tour route.

In a clever — and rather literal way — of showing the ban is no longer in effect, First Lady Michelle Obama posted a short video, seen below, to her official Instagram and Twitter accounts showing her ripping up the sign that once lined the halls.

Although the ban has been lifted” there are still limitations on what imagery you can capture. Specifically, you’re not able to use video cameras, interchangeable lens cameras, tripods, selfie sticks or flash. Below is a snippet from the policy, which is already in place:

As of July 1, 2015, Smartphones and compact cameras with a lens no longer than 3 inches (stills only) are permitted on the public tour route as long as their use does not interfere with other guests’ enjoyment of the tour.

Video cameras including any action camcorders, cameras with detachable lenses, tablets, tripods, monopods and camera sticks are not permitted.

Flash photography or live stream as well as talking or texting on cellular phones is not permitted while on the tour.

As noted by Photography Bay, the limitations of the new policy are a little ambiguous. More so now than ever, camera companies are blurring the lines; most interchangeable lens cameras are now as small as most compact cameras.

Regardless of the terminology used, it’s nice to see photos are now welcomed in the White House. Just don’t forget to charge your phone or compact camera the next time you’re planning on taking a tour of the White House.