Filming and Photography

When Do I Need a Permit?

 

Permit Requirements

All commercial filming* requires a permit (36 CFR 5.5 referencing 43 CFR 5.2).


*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, television broadcast, or documentary, or other similar projects. Commercial filming activities may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props (43 CFR 5.12). 

Still photography does not require a permit unless:  

  1. It uses a model*, set, or prop  
  2. The agency determines a permit is necessary because:  
    1. It takes place at a location where or when members of the public are not allowed; or  
    2. The agency would incur costs for providing on-site management and oversight to protect agency resources or minimize visitor use conflicts  

(36 CFR 5.5 referencing 43 CFR 5.2) 


*Model means a person or object that serves as the subject for commercial filming or 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, placed on agency lands so that they may be filmed or photographed to promote the sale or use of a product or service. For the purposes of this part, portrait subjects such as wedding parties and high school graduates are not considered models, if the image will not be used to promote or sell a product or service (43 CFR 5.12). 

Wedding ceremonies require a Special Use Permit

Audio Recording does not require a permit unless: 

  1. It takes places at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed 
  2. It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport 
  3. It uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a battery pack 
  4. The agency would incur additional administrative costs to provide management and oversight of the permitted activity  

(36 CFR 5.5) 

News-gathering activities involving filming, videography, or still photography do not require a permit unless:  

  1. We determine a permit is necessary to protect natural and cultural resources, to avoid visitor use conflicts, to ensure public safety or authorize entrance into a closed area; and  
  2. Obtaining a permit will not interfere with the ability to gather the news.  

A permit issued for news-gathering activities is not subject to location fees or cost recovery charges. 

(43 CFR 5.4)  

 

My Activity Does Need a Permit

 

Before Applying

Due to the volume of permit requests received by Death Valley National Park, applications are handled in the order they are received. Priority will not be given to URGENT requests.  

We require at least 30 days from your date of application to issue a permit – please plan accordingly!  

See “How do I apply for a permit?” for contact information.

Commercial filming and still photography are prohibited in designated Wilderness.

On this Wilderness map, designated Wilderness is shaded purple, non-wilderness is white. You can type “Death Valley National Park” or specific locations (ie “Zabriskie Point”) into the search bar or zoom in manually. Roughly 93% of Death Valley National Park is Wilderness

Areas outside of Wilderness where commercial filming and still photography are generally permitted include: 

  • Zabriskie Point 
  • Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch
  • 20 Mule Team Canyon (dirt road) 
  • Harmony Borax Works 
  • Mustard Canyon (dirt road) 
  • Campgrounds
  • Roads: 
    • Within 300’ from centerline of road along Highway 190 
    • Within 200’ from centerline of road along any paved park road  
    • Within 50’ from centerline of road along unpaved park roads 

After reviewing the Wilderness map, contact the Office of Special Park Uses at DEVA_Permits@nps.gov or 760-786-3241 with additional questions. 

When filming or photographing in Death Valley with a permit, you are subject to all the laws and regulations that apply inside the park. Please read all regulations carefully as your permit application will be denied if it contains any activities prohibited by regulation.

Examples of frequently requested activities that are not permitted in a National Park: 

  • Use of drones or other unmanned aircraft. 

  • Nudity in public areas. 

  • Smoking inside buildings, on boardwalks, and in vegetated areas.  

  • Loud noises (exceeding 60 decibels at 50 feet in distance). 

  • Use of public address systems and sound amplification equipment unless otherwise specified in your permit.  

  • Driving any vehicle (including motorcycles and bicycles) off designated paved or dirt roads. 

  • Driving any off-road vehicle on a park road (including, but not limited to, OHV’s, ATV’s, dirt bikes, golf cards, Rhino or Polaris multiple passenger vehicles). 

  • Operating a motor vehicle in a manner that causes unreasonable damage to the surface of a park road or route. 

  • Operating a vehicle so slowly as to interfere with the normal flow of traffic is prohibited. 

  • Stunt or high-speed driving. 

  • Standing in a roadway as part of a film or photography shoot unless otherwise specified in your permit with approved traffic control. 

  • Removing, moving, or obscuring park road signs, speed limit signs, or wayside signs. 

  • Ground disturbance (including digging or driving posts and installing temporary signs or structures). 

  • Attaching props, equipment, signs, or banners to NPS facilities, structures, rocks, or vegetation. 

  • Contributing to erosion or otherwise unduly disturbing the ground or landscape, including running, walking, or other activity on fragile areas. 

  • Walking on soft areas following a rain and leaving footprints or lasting damage (for example, on the Racetrack playa). 

  • Collecting, moving, damaging, or otherwise disturbing any animal, plant, rock or any other natural, historical, or archeological resource. 

  • Walking on, climbing, entering, ascending, descending, or traversing any archaeological or cultural resource (including all mine structures, features, and ruins). 

  • Cutting or removal of branches or any vegetation. 

  • Feeding, touching, harassing, frightening, hunting, trapping, or disturbing wildlife. 

  • Viewing wildlife with artificial light (including infrared and black lights). 

  • Introducing wildlife, fish or plants, including their reproductive bodies, into the park’s ecosystem. 

  • Using a mineral or metal detector. 

  • Releasing Mylar or helium balloons, doves, butterflies, flower petals, or other living objects.  

  • Interviewing park employees unless otherwise specified in your permit.  

  • Brandishing or discharging a firearm, real or prop, unless use of a firearm prop has been specifically authorized in your permit.   

  • Unduly interfering or conflicting with visitors’ normal use and enjoyment of the park, including blocking visitor access to an area.  

You must also comply with the following: 

  • Observe park policies and principles related to ethical and responsible treatment of culturally sensitive sites and resources.   

Your permit may require full-time or intermittent monitoring for the protection of resources and visitor experience. This will be determined by the Office of Special Park Uses based on your application.

If full-time monitors are required:

  1. Your permit will only be issued subject to availability of monitors on the dates and at the locations requested.

  2. Your activity may not occur unless the assigned monitor is present.

See below for fees associated with monitoring.

 

Applying for a Permit

  1. Download NPS Form 10-932 Application for Special Use Permit: Filming and Still Photography and fill out completely. Please be thorough in your descriptions. Once a permit is completed, additional locations, times, people, equipment, etc. may not be able to be included. Other things to consider:
    • There are location restrictions. Please see above before requesting use of certain locations.
    • Group size may be restricted in certain locations for protection of park resources and/or visitor experience.
    • Consider attaching maps, diagrams, script pages, or storyboards. The National Park Service does not evaluate content, but these materials can assist park staff in understanding the potential impacts on resources and visitor experience.
  2. Email DEVA_Permits@nps.gov the completed application at least 30 days in advance of your requested dates. See below for additional documents required with your application.
  3. After the Office of Special Park Uses receives your application, we will send you information on paying the non-refundable application fee online.
  4. After you pay your fee, the Office of Special Park Uses will review your application materials and determine if a permit can be issued.  

  5. If your activity is approved, a permit containing applicable terms and conditions will be sent you. The permit must be signed by the responsible person and returned to the park for final approval by the Park Superintendent. A fully executed permit containing both signatures is required before the permitted activity may begin.

  6. After your permitted activity, the Office of Special Park Uses will send information on paying the remaining costs, if applicable. See below for more information.

Please note:

If there is no contact from an applicant for 30 days after the application is submitted, the file will be closed. Any future contact with that applicant will require initiating the process from the beginning.

All costs of evaluating the request will be billed to the applicant, whether a permit is issued or not. In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the applicant must submit their social security number or Federal tax ID number when filling out the application for permit. Applications will not be processed if submitted incomplete or without payment. 

  1. A Certificate of Insurance (COI) must be submitted to the Office of Special Park Uses naming the United States of America as additionally insured in the amount of $1,000,000US. 
  2. Filming/photography along State Highway 190 may require a Caltrans Encroachment Permit and/or CHP (California Highway Patrol) officers for traffic control. Additional information on California State filming requirements can be found at the California Film Commission website.  
  3. For filming or photography in or along any roadway, intermittent traffic control (ITC) must be provided by certified ITC staff. A park approved, professionally developed, traffic control plan must be on file with the Office of Special Park Uses prior to any activity.

In addition to the standard cost recovery fees for Special Use Permits, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a location fee for filming, still photography and audio recording permits to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands.

Still Photography and Audio Recording Location Fee Schedule:

1-10 people: $50/day
11-30 people: $150/day
Over 30 people: $250/day

Motion Picture/Video Location Fee Schedule:

1-2 people: $0/day
3-10 people: $150/day
11-30 people: $250/day
31-50 people: $500/day
Over 50 people: $750/day

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can't find the answer to your question? Contact the Office of Special Park Uses at DEVA_Permits@nps.gov or 760-786-3241.

 

Other FAQs and Useful Information

The party getting married or conducting a ceremony must have a Special Use Permit. The photographer or videographer does not need a separate permit.  

Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent. 

The term “unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, and drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce. 

Weather

Make sure to check the weather forecast before your arrival! From May to October, temperatures average over 100o F. All times of the year, temperatures can vary by nearly 40oF depending on your location in the park. The park may average less than 2 inches of rain per year but even a small amount of rain can cause significant damage including road closures. High wind events (30 – 50 mph) are extremely common and will impact what equipment can be used effectively and safely. High winds also cause dust storms that impact visibility and views, as well as power and cell-phone service outages. 

Internet and Cell Service

Cellphone access within the park is limited. Visitors with certain major carriers find service (though slow and limited) can be found in Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Phones typically need to be set to allow for roaming, as the cellphone towers are third-party operated. WiFi is not available at any NPS facility. WiFi can be purchased at The Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek and the Death Valley Lodging Company in Stovepipe Wells. 

Other helpful links

Photography Workshops at Death Valley National Park require a Commercial Use Authorization.  

Last updated: November 14, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley , CA 92328

Phone:

760 786-3200

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