Commercial Filming & Photography
Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks. Questions and answers about filming and photography are provided below.
When do I need a commercial filming permit?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit.
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.
Learn more about Commercial Filming & Still Photography
When do I need a still photography permit?
- The activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
- The activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
- The National Park Service would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
Filming and Photography Fees
In addition to the permit application fee, all commercial filming permits and still photography permits are statutorily subject to cost recovery and a location fee. No waivers are allowed. The location fee is calculated per day and must be based on the following schedule and is determined by the type of activity (commercial filming versus still photography) and the number of people on park lands associated with the permitted activity.
- 2-10 people $150/day
- 11-30 people $250/day
- 31-49 people $500/day
- 50 people or more $750/day
- 1-10 people $50/day
- 1-30 people $150/day
- 30 people or more $250/day
An Administrative Charge reflects the actual costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing the permit, from its inception to final approval. It also includes all our costs associated with Natural and/or Cultural compliance. This cost recovery element for basic events, subject to determination by the park's permit coordinator, is included in the above listed application charges.
Monitoring Costs cover the actual costs incurred by the park accomplishing the required monitoring or management of the permit. This cost is determined on a case-by-case basis. An estimate of the monitoring cost will be provided to the permittee before a Bill for Collection is sent.
Commercial Filming & Photography Application
If you are uncertain whether your project requires a permit or not, contact the Permits Office (301-745-5815) for additional information. If you already know that your project does not require a permit, you can call the office to check the schedule and avoid conflicts with other activities. Learn more about Commercial Filming & Still Photography.