Filming and Still Photography Permits
National parks conserve and protect areas of untold beauty, grandeur and historical importance for current and future generations. The tradition of capturing images of these special places started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive cameras. Sharing these images helped inspire the creations of national parks. Visitors to national parks today continue to memorialize their visits through filming and photography.
Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial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.
"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. 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 and personnel 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.
Non-commercial filming may require a permit if a permit is 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. In most cases, a permit is not necessary for visitors engaging in casual filming for personal enjoyment.
In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:
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
park 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.
Contact Daphne Yun at Daphne_Yun@nps.gov or (917) 282-9393 for permits throughout Gateway National Recreation Area.
Federal law requires the NPS 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 NPS in processing your request and monitoring your permit. The application fee of $100 must be submitted with your application.
In addition, Federal law also requires the NPS 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 NPS uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography:
Permits issued for non-commercial filming may be subject to cost recovery charges, and you may be required to obtain insurance naming the United States as additionally insured.
You will be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park Servicerequires a permit. This includes all areas of Gateway National Recreation Area.
When is a permit needed?
Still photographers require a permit only when:
- 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
- a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
How do I apply for a permit?
Permit applications are handled by each unit. There are links below for Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook, and Staten Island.
What fees will I have to pay?
The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. 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 your permit. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following still photography fee schedule:
- 1–10 people - $50/day
- 11–30 people - $150/day
- Over 30 people - $250/day
Are there other permit requirements?
You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
What about photography workshops?
If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. See the commercial use authorization page for more information. You can also contact each unit with the links below.
Guidelines for Special Park Uses
Gateway National Recreation Area's mission is that of the National Park Service (NPS) as written in the Organic Act of 1916, which states in part: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations.” In Gateway, opportunities for special park uses exist for visitor and organizational uses including personal, family, educational and program cultural uses, as well as filming and photography projects with areas of Gateway as the location. There are many cultural, scientific, and educational institutions that conduct research and programs by special park use permit.
Gateway receives requests from individuals and groups seeking to use the park for various private uses. Each unit manages these requests. “It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow special uses that are not in conflict with law or policy; will not result in derogation of the values and purposes for which the park was established; do not present a threat to public safety or property and do not unduly interfere with normal park operations, resource protection, or visitor use.”
Gateway has the authority and responsibility to evaluate applicant requests, permit, manage, and/or deny all special uses within the park. Therefore, before any permit will be granted, consideration will be given to potential park resource impacts, as well as impacts to visitor use, access to park sites, or park administration. There are cost recovery fees associated with the administration and management of special use permits for costs incurred by the park. It states in the special park use guidelines that “it is the policy of the NPS to charge permit fees for special uses. Permit fees should reflect the fair market value of a benefit provided the permittee. The fair market value of a special use is the value of the lands or facilities used and the NPS cost incurred in managing, facilitating, or supporting the use.”
A special park use is defined as an activity that takes place in a park area and that:
provides a benefit to an individual, group or organization rather than the public at large;
requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the National Park Service in order to protect park resources and the public interest;
is not prohibited by law or regulation;
is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the National Park Service (NPS); and
is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease;
is a short term activity.
The National Park Service may permit a special park use if the proposed activity will not:
cause injury, damage or impairments to park resources;
be contrary to the park’s purpose for which the park was established and the mission of the NPS;
unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic, or commemorative locations within the park; or
interfere with visitor use, access, and programs
interfere with park management or administration;
interfere with concession operations or other public facilities;
present a clear and present danger to public health and safety.
Requesting a Special Use Permit For a Special Event
Applications for Special Use Permits should be submitted no less than 90 days prior to the proposed start date of any planned activity to allow sufficient time for review of potential impacts. Applications for Special Use Permits involving complex activities may take longer to review.
There is a non-refundable fee for processing your application for a special use permit. Please return the application form to request a permit as soon as possible. All questions should be answered as accurately and completely as possible. This will assist the park in determining the appropriateness of the planned activities and help to estimate NPS costs that may be incurred in managing, facilitating, or supporting the use. Submission of the application form and fee payment does not imply permission for any special use or event. Please see below for information to apply for each unit.
Special events are activities, such as organizational special events, religious gatherings, ceremonies, large group activity camps or rendezvous, and encampments.
Regulations authorize the conducting of special events provided:
There is a meaningful association between park and the event;
The observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park; and
A permit has been issued by the superintendent.
The NPS will not permit the public staging of special events that are conducted primarily for the material or financial benefit of the organizers or participants, or which involve commercialization of in-park advertising or publicity.
A special use permit requires proof of valid general commercial liability insurance. The insurance protects the park from liability, injury, or damages resulting from the action or inaction of the permittee. General liability insurance must be carried by the permittee showing the U. S. Government as additionally insured. Certificates of Insurance must show coverage on "occurrence" basis. If required by the park, the minimum amount of commercial liability insurance is $1,000,000 per occurrence, and $3,000,000 aggregate. Additional amounts may be required for high-risk activities and events. The United States of America, Department of Interior must be listed as "additional-insured" or "certificate holder" on the Certificate of Liability Insurance.
- Permitees who enter the park for recreational purposes are subject to the same fees as the general public. At Gateway there are parking fees between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day at Jacob Riis and Sandy Hook.
- The NPS will recover costs incurred in administering permits and monitoring the activities it authorizes.
- Allow at least 30 days for the permit process. Each unit may have different requirements.
Fees charged for administering a permit may include the following:
- Personnel (staffing) costs
- Materials and supplies
- Official travel
- Utilities and overhead
- Compliance requirements
- Vehicle and equipment use
All permit activities must meet both National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 (National Historic Preservation Act) requirements and go through an environmental screening process. Compliance may add extra time to processing the permit.
Scientific Research Project
Please visit https://irma.nps.gov/rprs/ to access the National Park Service Research Permit and Reporting System.