Permits for Filming and Photography

What is Commercial Filming?
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.

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.

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
Still photography and audio recording (whether commercial or noncommercial), in accordance with Public Law 106-206, and 36 CFR 5.5 will not require a permit unless:

  • 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 battery 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.

Breaking News
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.

Permit Guidelines
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.

Unacceptable impacts are impacts that, individually or cumulatively, would:

  • 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, or an appropriate use, or other atmosphere of peace and tranquility, or the natural soundscape maintained in historic or commemorative locations within the park, or NPS concessioner or contractor operations or services.

The Appreciation of the Resource
Permission to film or videotape in a historic park building 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 on Independence Square. 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, video production on Washington Square is limited to productions involving no more than 15 cast and crew on site at any one time.

Fees Schedule and Insurance
Before applying, please review our Commercial Filming Fee Schedule.

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. A location fee will also be required as a condition of the permit. The amount of the fee will be based on the fee schedule current at the time the permit is approved. Neither the location fee nor the cost recovery charges may be waived.

Information on this page concerning special use permits only pertains to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you are looking for information about obtaining a permit at a different park, you should contact that park directly for their park specific application, applicable fees, location availability etc

We require a minimum of fourteen days (14) notice for processing of all commercial filming permit applications.


Need Help?
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 staff:

Our Special Park Uses Office can also provide guidance to help you complete this form:


Last updated: December 8, 2020

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143 S. 3rd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106



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