In order to monitor and regulate the use of park areas while still conserving the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife within park boundaries, all National Park Service areas require special use permits for certain activities. This may include the filming or still photography. Continue reading to learn if you should obtain a permit for your activity.
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit.
"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.
All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.
Individual parks may require a permit for non-commercial filming if necessary to manage the activity, to protect park resources and values, minimize conflict between user groups, or to ensure public safety. Examples of non-commercial filming include, but are not limited to, filming for tourism bureaus, convention and visitor bureaus, student filming, and filming for personal use and enjoyment. If you have questions about whether a non-commercial film project requires a permit, please contact our permit office:
Email: e-mail us
In most cases, a permit is not necessary for visitors filming for personal enjoyment.
The still photography permit is used as a management tool so photography does not interfere with other permitted activities or park visitors. Any payment is cost recovery or goes to projects that keep the park scenic for the benefit of visitors and permittees.
Still photographers require a permit only when:
Federal law requires the National Park Service to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring the permitted activities. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
In addition, Federal law also requires the National Park Service to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography requires a permit. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography:
Permits issued for non-commercial filming may be subject to cost recovery charges, including an application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged.
36 CFR 5.5 governs how the National Park Service manages audio recording in parks. Audio recording generally does not require a permit unless any of the following situations apply:
• It takes place at a location where or when members of the public are generally not allowed.
• It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport, such as dollies and cranks.
• It uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a battery pack.
• The National Park Service determines staff is required to monitor the recording activity for safety or to minimize potential impacts to park resources and other park visitors and permittees.
For special restrictions please see the following page regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) including, but not limited to drones.
Last updated: November 16, 2022