Commercial Photography and Filming Permits
Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land - The National Park Service maintains a national webpage that has the most up to date infomation:
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:
*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:
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.
When is a permit needed?
Still photographers require a permit only when:
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:
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.
Commercial Use Authorization Permits
Any commercial, noncommercial, or nonprofit groups operating in the park or using park resources must have a commercial use authorization (CUA) permit if their activities result in monetary gain for any individual, organization, or corporation. If the amount of money collected from all members of the group exceeds the actual expenses of the trip, the trip is classified as CUA. This includes educational institutions. A CUA is issued for a period of one year.
Commercial Use Authorizations
Pinnacles National Park is changing its CUA management fee structure to what is called market-price management fee. This fee will reflect the value of the business opportunity for commercial activities conducted in the park. It will be a tiered system of fee management based on gross receipts earned from CUA-authorized business here. Below is a table that details how these fees will be assessed:
For more information on permits contact us by email:
Last updated: March 27, 2023