A permit is generally not required for personal, noncommercial filming and photography activities within normal visitation areas and hours. However, filming outside normal visitation areas and hours and all commercial filming will require a special permit.
Commercial filming means filming that involves the digital or film recording of a visual image or sound recording by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience. This includes recordings such as those used for a documentary, educational program, television or feature film, advertisement, or similar project.
For the purposes of NPS policy, filming and photography encompass any technology that may be used for recording images or the sound tracks associated with them.
Still photography and audio recording (whether commercial or noncommercial), in accordance with Public Law 106-206, and 36 CFR 5.5 a permit is required if the following occur:
- it takes place at a location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed, or
- it uses model(s) or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities, or
- it uses equipment that requires mechanical transport
- it uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a batter pack;or
- the National Park Service would incur additional administrative costs to manage and oversee the permitted activity to: avoid unacceptable impacts and impairment to resources or values;or minimize health or safety risks to the visiting public.
Commercial media coverage of breaking news may require a permit if the activities are of such size and scope that a permit would help manage the activity to minimize possible damage to park resources and visitor use conflicts or authorize entrance to a closed area.
Filming and Photography permit applications will generally be approved provided that the requested activities:
- are appropriate to the purpose for which the park was established;and
- can be sustained without causing unacceptable impacts to park resources or values.
- be inconsistent with a park's purposes or values, or
- impede the attainment of a park's desired future conditions for natural and cultural resources as identified through the park's planning process, or
- create an unsafe or unhealthful environment for visitors or employees, or
- diminish opportunities for current or future generations to enjoy, learn about, or be inspired by park resources or values, or
- unreasonably interfere with:
park programs or activities, an appropriate use, other atmosphere of peace and tranquility, or the natural soundscape maintained in historic or commemorative locations within the park.
Permission to film or videotape in a historic park building or structure can be granted by the Superintendent only when:
- the activity has a meaningful and accurate association with the historic resource or
- the production would contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of the historic resource.
The same considerations as those which apply to building interiors will be applied by the Superintendent in granting permission for exterior motion picture or television productions. The Superintendent may choose not to apply the criteria of a meaningful association with the historic resource or that it would contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of the historic resource to video production in other areas of the park. Unless co-sponsored by the NPS
Performance bond and liability insurance requirements must be met, and all costs incurred by the National Park Service in writing the permit, monitoring, providing protection services, or otherwise supporting filming or photography activities will be reimbursed by the permittee as a condition of the permit.
If you're unsure if you need a permit for filming or any other special use, please feel free to contact our Special Park Uses Office: