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Photography & Filmmaking

Eastern State Penitentiary may be the most picturesque place you’ve seen in years. We encourage you to bring a camera when visiting the historic site. There are two ways for visitors to photograph and film at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Non-Commercial / Personal Photography

Visitors wishing to photograph the building only (no props or models) can do so during regular public hours. However, we ask that you honor the following policies:

  • Do not block any pathways or exhibits, or leave backpacks or tripods in these areas.
  • Refrain from loud conversations, and avoid gathering along the main audio tour route.
  • Do not touch or move any objects or artifacts.
  • Models (professional or amateur), costumes and props are not permitted during public hours.
  • There can be no nudity, semi-nudity, or sexually explicit images filmed at Eastern State Penitentiary.
  • No portrait photography is permitted during public hours. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site defines portraiture as any posed photography of an individual or group taken by a professional, amateur, or student photographer. This includes but is not limited to wedding photography, engagement photography, headshots, band photos and family portraits.
  • No videography is allowed during the public hours.
  • No equipment, other than a single tripod, monopod or easel, is permitted during public hours.
  • Eastern State does not allow third parties to conduct fee based photography workshops or classes on site during public hours.  Any persons conducting unauthorized events will be asked to leave the site without a refund.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site requires the location credit "Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Philadelphia, PA" in all uses of penitentiary photos in print, on the web, in broadcast, and in any other public medium.

In addition to the general admission fee, non-members must purchase an “equipment pass” if they wish to use a tripod, monopod, or easel. Equipment passes are $15 per person and are valid for an entire tour season.


Private Photo or Film Shoots

Private site rentals are available for filmmakers or photographers (professional, amateur, or student), ad agency, or other commercial entities that would like exclusive access to the historic site before or after hours. Site rentals are required for any shoot that utilizes photography/filmmaking equipment (except for a single tripod or monopod), models and actors, costumes, or props. This includes engagement and wedding photography and all commercial photography. Rentals are also available for private, pre-existing photography clubs, groups and classes. Tickets cannot be sold to the general public. Unauthorized classes or workshops that are not affiliated with the museum are prohibited. If it is determined tickets are being sold for an existing rental, it will be immediately canceled without a refund.  

Private rentals are available for film or photography projects that use the building as a ruinous backdrop. Any rental in conflict with the mission of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (ESPHS) is prohibited. Projects that use or depict the building as a prison or horror/gore setting, as a backdrop for a music video, that feature paranormal investigation, or that include or depict violence, weapons, nudity, semi-nudity, or sexually explicit content are not permitted. Respect for the people who lived and worked at the Penitentiary must be exercised at all times. Therefore, the use of costuming that includes prison uniforms or props such as handcuffs, straightjackets, etc. is prohibited.

Filmmakers who wish to depict the site as a prison will be considered on a case by case basis if the content of the project supports the mission of the Historic Site.

Our daytime historic tours are always our first priority. Therefore, all private film/photo shoots must take place before or after our daytime public hours (10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily).

About Your Rental:

The Film and Photography map has the approved areas which are licensed by the City of Philadelphia for film and photo shoots. This map illustrates the spaces available before 10:00 am or after 5:30 pm. Staff are not able to grant access to additional locations. There are no additional areas that are exclusive for private rentals.

Our staff will supervise your private rental and will help you navigate the building. You must stay with them at all times.

Some areas may be periodically closed for maintenance, construction, repairs, or other reasons. There are no refunds or credits if areas are closed the day of your shoot. Closures are for safety reasons and beyond control of management. Currently, Death Row Courtyard and Cellblock 14 are not available.

Models and actors can only be filmed or photographed during private hours. They are included in the number of attendees in the pricing. There can be no nudity, semi-nudity, or sexually explicit images photographed or filmed at ESPHS. There is no filming or photography with models allowed in the Synagogue or with artist installations.

During your shoot your group will be the only site rental in the building. However, staff members or contractors may be working in the building.

ESPHS does not provide programming for film and photography site rentals. You are responsible for creating a shoot list. Your rental includes two complimentary admissions to ESPHS to scout the site during public hours. Location requests must be submitted for approval no later than one week prior to your shoot. All available areas are at the discretion of management. 

During the site rental, staff members will be with your group to help you navigate the spaces you have selected. You will have to stay with these staff members at all times.


Limited electricity is available and the accessible electric outlets are noted on the Film and Photography map. You are welcome to use any open outlets as shown on this map. No ESPHS equipment may be unplugged from any outlet. Due to their location, breaker boxes are not accessible; therefore, any tripped breakers will remain off.

Technical Support:

You may decide to have a site technician ($45/hour) present for your shoot who is able to turn off and on ESPHS lights and reset trip breakers. Our staff members who are guiding you around the site can only turn on or off lights that are controlled by a switch (Center, Cellblock 4, South Corridor, and Baseball). Other lights, including those that are controlled by timers, cannot be turned on or off. Please note that the technician is not able to help with load-in or striking or provide equipment.


All date requests must be made at least 3 - 4 weeks in advance. All private film and photo site rentals must take place before 10:00 am or after 5:30 pm. Shoots may be booked up to 6 months in advance, based on availability, and cannot take place during scheduled Eastern State events, private group tours, corporate event rentals, or during Terror Behind the Walls, which runs from the end of August until the middle of November.



These rates are for shoots ending at 10:00 am or starting at 5:30 pm. There is an additional surcharge for before or after hour shoots that do not correspond with these start and end times.

Contributor, Ambassador, and Visionary Members receive a one-time 20% discount (up to $250) on private photo and film shoots.

A deposit of $400 or 50% (whichever is greater) is due to confirm your rental. The final balance is due one week before the date of your rental.

Refund and Rescheduling Policy:

A 100% refund will be issued for any shoot cancelled more than three weeks in advance for Monday - Thursday rentals. Rentals scheduled for Friday - Sunday must be canceled six weeks in advance for a full refund. There are no refunds for cancellations after these time periods. 

Three weeks' notice must be given to reschedule a rental on Monday - Thursday and six weeks' notice for Friday - Sunday. Shoots rescheduled without the proper notice will incur a 25% rescheduling fee (50% rescheduling fee for Friday - Sunday) of the total fee. Dates and times available for rescheduled shoots are subject to availability and management approval. If you arrive late for your shoot, any time that has passed from your original start time will be forfeited. You may shoot for the remainder of the time you have booked, but no discount or refund will be issued. If you fail to appear for your scheduled shoot, no refund will be issued. There are no refunds or rescheduling available due to weather.


To request a shoot, please fill out the Film and Photo Rental Inquiry Form and submit via email to [email protected]. We will respond to all private photo and film requests via phone or email within 3 business days.

2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner