Filming and Photography

Filming at North Cascades National Park

Effective October 28, 2022 and following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on October 21, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) functionally reinstated previous laws and regulations related to commercial filming in national parks. The NPS has rescinded the interim guidance that was in place during litigation and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.

This means that all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. "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. Individual parks may require a permit for non-commercial filming 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. More details about filming and permits in parks are available online: Filming & Still Photography Permits (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Frequently Asked Questions

When do you need a permit to film in parks?

Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. 423 units make up the National Park System, and includes National Parks, National Monuments, National Preserves, National Battlefield Parks, and more. A full list of parks in the National Park System is available online: National Park System (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

If you believe that your filming or photography activity may require a permit, you should submit a completed application to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible.

What is 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.

Do I need a permit for still photography?

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

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. 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
  3. the NPS 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 I’m a social media influencer, do I need 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.

How do I apply for a permit?

Permit applications are available through each park's administrative office or website. Contact information for parks can be found on their websites; Find a park where you would like to film or take photographs. If you believe that your filming or photography activity may require a permit, you should submit a completed application to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible.

Some parks may require that you provide advance notice a certain amount of days before filming or photography begins. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.

How much does a filming permit cost?

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 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 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:

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 an application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged.

I received a filming permit before October 28, but I have not started filming yet. Are the terms of my permit going to change?

No. You may film consistent with the terms of the permit that has already issued.

 

Filming in Wilderness Areas

North Cascades National Park is comprised of 94% Wilderness. Wilderness 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 the map webpage for a map of North Cascades National Park Service Complex, including Wilderness boundaries.

 

Still Photography

Photography of scenery has traditionally been part of a visit to a national park. Photography does not require a permit if it involves only hand-carried equipment (tripod, interchangeable lenses or flash), and does not involve professional crews, product or service advertisement, or use of models, props or sets.

A still photography permit is required when:

  • Product or service advertisement is involved.
  • Talent/models, props, crews or sets are involved.
  • The project has the potential to disrupt other park activities or visitors.
  • More than just hand carried equipment is utilized.
  • Project requires access to an area normally closed or restricted to general public use.
  • Access into an area outside of normal public use hours is required.
  • Project carries a potential risk to park resources.
  • Activity raises safety concerns that can be mitigated through issuance of permit with restrictions.

Activities having the potential to significantly impact, alter, or damage park resources are prohibited and include:

  • Altering, damaging, or removing vegetation for filming projects.
  • Vehicle use off established roads and parking areas.
  • Use of insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides.
  • Loud noises (60 decibels or higher) between 10 pm and 6 am.
  • Anything involving public nudity.
  • Night filming with artificial lighting.
  • Smoking in buildings, on boardwalks, or in vegetated areas.
  • Harassment of wildlife or introduction of wildlife captured elsewhere.
  • Pyrotechnics.
  • Use of equipment that inhibits public views of popular scenic vistas.
  • Digging, scraping, chiseling, or defacing natural features for filming purposes.How do I apply for a Still Photography permit?Email to request an application. Submit a completed application with the application fee at least 30 day prior to your planned Still Photography event. Early consultation with park staff will help process the submitted application in a timely manner.
 

How do I apply for a Still Photography permit?

Email to request an application. Submit a completed application with the application fee at least 30 day prior to your planned Still Photography event. Early consultation with park staff will help process the submitted application in a timely manner.

Still Photography Fees

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.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

The Park accepts payment for SUP and CUA fees through Pay.gov for EFT, credit or debit payment methods. A copy of your payment confirmation receipt from pay.gov must be forwarded to the Commercial Services Office.

Photography Workshop and Portrait Photography Services require a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA).

Last updated: November 9, 2022

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