Film, Photography, and Sound Recording Permits

 
Ranger and television host being filmed by cameraman with waterfall in the background

NPS Photo/J. Bonney

When film, photography, and sound recording activities occur in national parks, they must be consistent with the protection of park resources and avoid conflict with public use and enjoyment of the park.

 
 

When do you need a permit to film in Grand Teton?

Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park Service requires a permit.

The term “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, and 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. 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 must comply with all rules that apply in park areas.

*Closed areas: Check Temporary & Wildlife Closures  and the Superintendent’s Compendium for area closures, additional restrictions, and laws.

*Wilderness areas: By National Park Service policy, recommended, potential, and eligible wilderness is managed the same as designated wilderness. Grand Teton's recommended and proposed wilderness areas are shown on this map. Learn more about Wilderness.

The National Park Service manages and protects more than 67 million acres of park lands and waters as wilderness areas. These areas have additional laws and policies to preserve their wilderness character for future generations. Filming activities in wilderness areas must follow all applicable laws and regulations that govern wilderness areas in the park, including prohibitions on structures, installations, motor vehicles, mechanical transport, motorized equipment, motorboats, or landing of aircrafts. 

Except for casual filming by visitors, special use permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, no matter the group size or equipment used. Visit Wilderness in National Parks and Grand Teton National Park Wilderness for more information.

The applicable laws and regulations include the Wilderness Act of 1964, National Park Service Management Policies 2006 (Chapter 6)Director's Order 41 Wilderness Stewardship (specifically 7.3 Commercial Services), and Reference Manual 41 Wilderness Stewardship.

Director's Order 41 Wilderness Stewardship (specifically 7.3 Commercial Services) states that commercial filming in wilderness has two legal requirements:

  1. Is it necessary, why does the commercial filming need to take place in park wilderness?
  2. If necessary, what wilderness purposes (recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical) will be realized from this use?

“In most cases, park managers should work with the applicant to find locations outside of wilderness that can accommodate this use.  If wilderness locations are justified, then the activities should minimize impacts to other visitors’ enjoyment of wilderness and only use the minimum amount of wilderness needed for the activity for the shortest possible period of time.”

Grand Teton may require a permit for non-commercial filming if 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. If you have questions about whether a non-commercial film project requires a permit, please e-mail us or call 307-739-3616 in advance.

In most cases a permit is not necessary for visitors filming for personal enjoyment.

 

When is a permit needed for still photography?

In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography when:

  • The activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed.
  • 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.
  • A 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, if the image will not be used to promote or sell a product or service.

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. See Commercial Use Authorization for more information.

 

When is a permit needed for sound recording?

Audio recording does not require a permit unless:

  • It takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed.

  • It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport.

  • It uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a battery pack.

  • The agency would incur additional administrative costs to provide management and oversight of the permitted activity to:
    • Avoid unacceptable impacts and impairment to resources or values.
    • Minimize health or safety risks to the visiting public.
 

Fees & How to Apply

Federal law requires the National Park Service 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 park in processing your request and monitoring your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

Application Fee
An application fee of $325 mush be paid through Pay.gov at the time of submitting the application and is non-refundable.

Location Fee
Federal law also requires the National Park Service 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 permits. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedules:

Commercial Filming Location Fees

  • 1–2 people, camera & tripod only - $0/day
  • 1–10 people - $150/day
  • 11–30 people - $250/day
  • 31–49 peopla - $500/day
  • Over 50 people - $750/day
Still Photography Location Fees
  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

Permits issued for non-commercial filming may be subject to cost recovery charges, including an application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged. 

Monitoring Fee
Grand Teton National Park staff will be required to monitor certain filming, photography and sound recording activities. Activities that require a monitor include (but are not limited to): filming or photography along roadways or in developed areas, projects with large crews or extensive equipment, or when there is potential for resource damage or impacts to visitor use.

Upon approval of the application, if it is deemed that a monitor is to be assigned to your project, there will be a cost recovery rate of $200.00 per monitor for the first two hours and $50.00 per monitor per hour thereafter. 

Park Entrance Fees are Exepemt
Photographers and crews that obtain a film or photography permit from the National Park Service, are recognized as using the park for business purposes, non-recreational, for the duration and purpose of that permit, and as such, are exempted from paying entrance fees. All vehicles entering the park must show a copy of the approved film or photography permit at entrance stations. 

Film, photography, and sound recording permits are considered in the order they are received. All applications must be completed in detail and returned with the non-refundable application fee a minimum of 30 days before the requested activity date.

Most requests should be processed within 30 days of receipt of a complete application without alteration, with the exception of:

  • Requests involving multiple locations, complex logistics, or coordination with other visitor activities.
  • Projects that require environmental or cultural resource evaluation must be submitted no less than 45 days before the start of proposed activities and may require additional time dependent upon project complexity.

Your request will be evaluated on the basis of the information in your application. If substantial staff resources are expended in the evaluation of the request, the applicant will be billed for the additional costs. In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, applicants must submit their social security number or Federal Tax ID number when filling out the application for permit. Park managers will not sign location releases supplied by applicants.

Step 1

Download and complete the appropriate application.

Step 2

Pay fees through Pay.gov. 
The application, location, and monitoring fees must be paid online through Pay.gov using the Grand Teton National Park Special Use Permit Application Fee form.

The application fee must be paid at the time of submitting the application and is not refundable. The location fee and monitoring fee (if applicable) must be paid before the permit is finalized and issued.

Step 3

Email completed application(s) to GRTE_Visitor_Services@nps.gov.

 

What else do I need to know about film, photography, and sound recording permits?

Breaking news is an event that cannot be covered at any other time or at any other location. For additional information, visit News or contact the Public Affairs Office at 307-739-3393 or e-mail us.

Filming and photography permits will contain terms and conditions that are necessary to protect park resources and visitors. They will specify the location and time of the activity and the number of personnel and equipment that may be used. The permits also may require you 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 also may be required to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area, if necessary.

For filming and photography activities which are perceived to interfere with visitor use, further congest highly visited areas, or have the potential to impact park resources without proper supervision and care, at least one employee of the Grand Teton National Park will be assigned to the crew. Degree of monitoring is based on crew size, equipment, props, scope of the project, location(s), time of day, and time of year:

  • When a project involves substantial numbers of people and equipment, or if it involves a location that is environmentally sensitive or heavily visited, supervision will be on-site and continual.
  • A ranger or representative may spot check during the photography to assure compliance when the operations involve only a few people or minimal amounts of equipment, or take place in areas where there is little, if any possibility of resource impact, inconvenience to visitors, or violation of permit conditions.
  • The park may bring in other employees to assist in those instances when the scope of the project exceeds the park's ability to properly manage the activity. The resulting staff costs will be recovered from the permittee.
  • Before initiating any location set-ups or dispersal of equipment, a National Park Service representative MUST be on site. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in the revocation of the permit.

Proof of insurance is required, and documentation must carry a commercial liability (minimum of $1 million) issued by a U.S. company. Insurance certificate must identify the production company by name and business address. If permittee uses a different name than listed on insurance policy, the relationship between insured company and permittee's company must be identified. The United States of America will be named "additional insured" on the insurance certificate. The address should also include United States of America, Grand Teton National Park, Office of Special Park Uses, P. O. Box 170 Moose, WY 83012.

Generally, the minimum acceptable amount of liability insurance is $1 million each occurrence. High-risk activities or activities which may have the potential for resource impact require higher liability amounts. Smaller, low-risk projects or still photography may be eligible for a reduction to $500,000. Contact our office for details. A request for a permit may be denied if there is no proof of adequate insurance.

Personal or homeowners’ liability is not acceptable. Certificate should be generated by the insurance company. Handwritten "certificate holder" information is unacceptable. We will accept a faxed copy of the certificate until your insurance company can mail us the original.

A refundable damage bond, drawn as a separate payment, may be required for those projects that have a high potential for resource damage or potential for site restoration. The bond amount is determined by estimating the cost of monitoring and site restoration, should you fail to adequately care for or complete cleanup of the site. This amount will be specified in the permit. The permittee is responsible for removal of equipment, props, and trash, and restoration of the site to original condition, or in a condition satisfactory to the National Park Service. If this is not done, all or part of the damage bond will be retained to offset clean-up/recovery expenses. If it is not needed, the bond is released when the on-site National Park Service representative signs off that site restoration is complete, and all site use charges have been paid. If a surplus remains after the costs have been reimbursed, the surplus is returned to the permittee. If the bond does not cover all the costs, you will be billed for the difference.

Applications for permits may be denied for any of the following reasons:

  • Resource damage: If it is determined by the Superintendent or his/her designee, that the photography activity represents a threat to the resource, including wildlife.
  • Supervisory requirements: If supervisory requirements for the proposed photography project will place unreasonable burdens on staff capacity, irrespective of the permittee's willingness to pay supervisory costs.
  • Disruption of visitor activities: If the proposed photography would conflict with the visitors' normal use of the park.
  • Prohibited or restricted activities: Permits will not be issued which would allow photographers to enter areas closed to the general visiting public, or which would allow activities not permitted to the visitor except for cooperative activities as an agent of the National Park Service.

All permits issued by the National Park Service are “revocable” on 24-hours’ notice or without notice if the terms of the permit are violated. Deliberate infractions of terms contained in permit or deliberate making of false or misleading statements concerning intended actions in order to obtain a permit are causes for immediate termination of the permit and for possible prosecution. 

Interviews and on-camera appearances by employees are allowed and may be available based on project content and staff availability under the following conditions:

  • The employee is selected and/or approved by park management and is depicted performing his or her normal duties or serving as a subject matter expert. Do not reach out to staff directly, contact Grand Teton's public affairs office at 307-739-3393 or e-mail us.

  • The employee’s appearance supports National Park Service goals and has a beneficial effect for the Service.

  • The role is not scripted.

  • The employee is paid by the park as part of his or her regular working hours. The permittee will reimburse the park for this cost as part of the monitoring cost recovery.

  • If the filming requires overtime or backfilling of positions, the National Park Service will be reimbursed for any such additional costs through the permitting process.

  • The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees apply. Generally, employees are forbidden from accepting gratuities from prohibited sources. However, there are exceptions that allow employees to accept modest items of food and refreshment.

  • Off duty government employees may work for filming companies only if they do not perform or appear to perform official duties. Personnel engaged in actual supervision of permittee are not allowed to engage in off-duty employment with the filmmaker under any circumstances. The park superintendent must approve off-duty employee requests.

Government property, including the uniform, will not be used, loaned or rented to a film company, or diverted from its normal use, for filming purposes except as stated in 43 C.F.R. 20.735.15 -Rental of NPS equipment on a reimbursable basis pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1.

Government symbols: use of the NPS Arrowhead in titles, credits, or other deliberate disclosures requires the permission of the NPS Director (36 C.F.R. 11.2 and Special Directive 93-7).

Special Directive 93-7 declares that the use of the Arrowhead is controlled through law and regulation. Hence, under 36 C.F.R. 11.2, the Director may authorize the use of the Arrowhead “for uses that will contribute to the purposes of education and conservation as they relate to the program of the National Park Service.” The NPS may actively assist filming and photography activities that promote public understanding and appreciation of the National Park Service and the Director may authorize use of the arrowhead symbol for such filming projects. All other uses are prohibited, such as advertising, promotional or directly commercial purposes.

Incidental filming of the symbol which may include the shoulder patch of a uniformed employee, an NPS vehicle, or entrance or similar sign is prohibited.

 

Contact Us

For more information call 307-739-3616 or e-mail us.

Last updated: November 17, 2022

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P.O. Box 170
Moose , WY 83012

Phone:

307-739-3399
Talk to a Ranger? To speak to a Grand Teton National Park ranger call 307–739–3399 for visitor information Monday-Friday during business hours.

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