Filming and Still Photography Permits


Filming and Still Photography Permits

Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial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. Questions and answers about filming and photography are provided below.

When is a permit needed for commercial filming?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit.

What is considered commercial filming?
“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.

Does commercial filming by individuals or small groups require a permit?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, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.

Does non-commercial filming require a permit?
Individual parks 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 contact the park.

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 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), set(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  • the National Park Service 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.

What fees will I have to pay for a permit?
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 National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring the permitted activities. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application.In addition, 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 requiring a permit. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography:

Commercial Filming:
  • 1-2 people, camera & tripod only - $0/day
  • 1-10 people - $150/day
  • 11-30 people - $250/day
  • 31-49 people - $500/day
  • Over 50 people - $750/day
Still Photography:
  • 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 application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged.

What terms and conditions will the permits have?
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.

What about photography workshops?
If you are planning a photography workshop as part of a business, you may need a commercial use authorization.

How to ApplyApplying For A Permit:
  • A complete application packet must be submitted a minimum of 10 days prior to the requested date
  • A required, non-refundable application fee of $160.00 must be submitted with the application packet or you may pay by credit card through Pay.Gov by contacting the park for a Permit Number.
  • Priority will not be given to urgent requests
The application packet must include:
  • Detailed production schedule and proposed locations
  • Detailed cast and crew list including name and role
  • Detailed equipment list including model of equipment

If you have questions or would like to request a filming or still photography application, please email us at e-mail us or contact the Special Park Use Coordinator at 970-529-4612.


Please read the Filming Guidelines before contacting the Special Park Use Coordinator.

Filming and Still Photography Permit Application (docx)

Last updated: November 15, 2022

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Mesa Verde National Park, CO 81330



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