I used to work at the White House and once in a while I would volunteer to conduct weekend East Wing tours — I remember how delighted I was to visit the White House for the first time as a tourist and there was something special about introducing others to the White House for the first time. Problem was you had to absorb it in your mind, for no photography was permitted. That has now changed — for the first time in four decades, photos are now permitted and encouraged.
The White House tour takes you through the diplomatic rooms on two floors and is a relatively short self-guided tour — you’re done in 10-15 minutes — but each room is quite photogenic and worthy of a snapshot. As long as you’re not lugging in professional photography equipment, you are free to snap away. White House tours must be requested from your Member of Congress.
Here’s a hint: White House tours are like airline award ticket availability — they follow a pattern of being more available when you book really far out or really close in. It is always better to book as far out as possible, for there is no guarantee of last-minute space, but even if you planned the trip late and are told repeatedly by the office of your Member of Congress that there is no space, it does not hurt to ask two or three days before. People do cancel and the clearance process is relatively quick. No Congressional website will mention this and many, in fact, will state that that 3-6 months of notice is required, but this is not necessarily the case. It never hurts to ask.
Never plan a trip to DC around a White House tour, though, because tours are always subject to cancellation in case of an unexpected event or visitor — when I was in the White House tours were cancelled all the time.