Only commercial filming and photography require a permit, the visiting public photographing or recording their visit do not require a permit.
The 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.
A permit is generally required under the following circumstances:
• Filming, videotaping, or still photography is intended for immediate or eventual sale.
• Filming, videotaping, or still photography involves the use of a model (or any on-camera talent), set, or prop.
• Filming, videotaping, or still photography/filming has potential to result in damage to park resources or significant disruption of normal visitor use.
• The photographer/videographer wants to go into areas not open to the public or before or after normal visitation hours.
• The National Park Service and/or US Park Police incur costs for providing on-site management and oversight to protect agency resources or minimize visitor use conflicts.
When in doubt, contact the Division of Permits Management prior to going to the park to shoot photos or video.
The Division of Permits Management issues filming and photography permits for all National Park Service parkland managed by:
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park from DC to the Great Falls District
George Washington Memorial Parkway
Manassas National Battlefield Park
National Capital Parks-East (Fort Washington Park, Piscataway Park, Oxon Cove Park/Oxon Hill Farm)
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Presidents Park (White House and Ellipse)
Rock Creek Park
Prince William Forest Park
Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
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.
Applying for a Permit
Submit a Commercial Filming & Photography Application to the Division of Permits Management in person or via mail or FAX:
National Mall and Memorial Parks
Applications can be delivered Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, except federal holidays or other National Mall and Memorial Parks office closures. Commercial Filming and Photography Applications are not accepted via email. Applications are accepted up to one year in advance and a minimum of four days from the activity.
Application Processing CostA non-refundable application processing cost of $90 is required with the submission of the Commercial Filming and Photography Application. Follow the instructions on the application form for submitting a payment by credit card, check, or money order.
Location FeesLocation fees directly benefit park visitors and permittees through park beautification, interpretation, and maintenance projects. Commercial Filming & Photography permits are issued for a specific location or locations. Blanket permits for the entire National Mall & Memorial Parks are not issued. Please the list exact locations of the park in your application. (For example: not “on the Mall”, instead "National Mall between 3rd-4th Streets or "Washington Monument Grounds".
A location fee is also required to process a permit application and is usually paid with the application. Use the following charts and examples to assist with determining your location fees, or contact the Division of Permits Management for assistance. Number of people includes cast, production crew, and models.
Motion Pictures/Videos Location Fees
Still Photography Location Fees
A permits specialist will contact you if additional meetings, discussions, or documents are required and continue to walk you through the permit process. Commercial Filming & Photography permits must be issued prior to holding the activity in the park.
Additional Required Documents and Steps
Larger or more complex photography and filming activities may require additional meetings and more in-depth plans prior to approving the permit, such as site layout, setup/cleanup schedule, equipment lists, etc.
Additional Associated Costs
A refundable cost recovery deposit may be required to pay for costs incurred by the National Park Service resulting from the activity, such as administrative cost (permit monitoring, utilities, management of activity), restoration and/or rehabilitation, or cleanup of parkland. Cost recovery is based on the size and scope of the event and can range from $500 to $500,000 or more.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
As a rule, student filming is not producing a product that is intended to generate income, so it does not fit the definition of commercial filming. However, the National Park Service can issue a permit for student filming in order to manage the activity to minimize damage to park resources and potential conflict with other park users. In order to confirm that the project is for a class requirement, parks may require a confirmation letter from the school as part of the permitting process.
News-gathering activities involving filming, videography, or still photography do not require a permit unless:
(1) The National Park Service determines a permit is necessary to protect natural and cultural resources, to avoid visitor use conflicts, to ensure public safety, or to authorize entrance into a closed area; and
(2) Obtaining a permit will not interfere with the ability to gather news.
(b) Terms and conditions. All permits issued under this section will include only terms and conditions necessary to maintain order, ensure the safety of the public and the media, and protect natural and cultural resources.
(c) Exemptions. A permit issued for news-gathering activities is not subject to location fees or cost recovery charges.
(d) If a setup is more than a tripod and sound mic, such as a studio setup, and more than a total of five people.
There are no cost recovery charges or location fees for permits issued for news gathering activities.
For specific questions concerning the media please contact the National Mall and Memorial Parks Public Affairs Office.
No, filming documentaries is not considered news gathering and requires a permit.
Application costs may be waived by the superintendent, however location fees cannot be waived.
Yes, if approved by the superintendent and the subject of the film/photography must directly relate to the theme or subject of the park.
Last updated: February 13, 2021