Commercial Filming & Photography

It is the policy of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to allow filming and photography when and where possible, while adhering to our mandate “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The following guidelines have been established by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore for commercial filming and photographic activities within the Lakeshore.

Generally, permits are NOT required for the following:

  • Visitors engaged in filming/photography intended for their personal use and enjoyment.
  • Filming of breaking news (an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location) by news crews.

Permits are required if the project involves any of the following:

  • Props, models, professional crews and casts or set dressings.
  • Access into areas not normally open to the public.
  • When the filming, videotaping, sound recordings or still photography could result in damage to park resources or significant disruption of normal visitor use.

Applications may be denied for any of the following reasons:

  • There is potential that resource damage or impairment of their value would occur that cannot be mitigated or restored.
  • There is potential of unreasonable disruption of/or conflict with the public’s use and enjoyment of the site(s) being requested.
  • There is likelihood that the activity poses health or safety risks to the public or crew.
  • The requested activity will violate any Federal, State, or local laws or regulations.
  • Other activities are already planned or expected to occur at the same location.
  • It involves access to areas normally designated closed or limited to administrative use for resource or safety reasons.
  • The project includes a portrayal of activities that are not permitted within a national park.
  • The requirements for supervising the project exceed the staffing capacity of the Lakeshore.
  • The production crew is unwilling or unable to provide proof of insurance or reimburse the NPS for costs.

Applying for a commercial film and photo permit

Filming Application - Short Form

Filming Application - Long Form

Costs and fees

Liability insurance
General liability insurance must be carried by the permittee naming the United States Government, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as an additional insured.

Short-term policies must show coverage on an “occurrence” basis.

Required commercial general liability for video or film productions is generally one million dollars ($1,000,000), but will vary according to project scope, risk to park resources and other relevant circumstances.

All insurance certificates must be issued by an insurance company operation in the United States.

Prohibited activities
Activities having the potential to damage or significantly impact or alter park resources are prohibited.
The following is a partial list of prohibited activities:

  1. Altering, damaging or removing vegetation
  2. Vehicle use off established road and parking areas
  3. Loud noises that exceed 60 decibels or have the potential to negatively impact park resources or visitor experience
  4. Smoking in building or vegetated areas
  5. Use fragile vegetation areas, except on trails or already disturbed areas (as determined by the NPS)
  6. Flying aircraft below FAA recommended minimum altitude (usually 2,000 feet) above noise sensitive areas (National Parks)
  7. Commercial filming in wilderness areas

Use of aircraft and helicopters is highly restricted. Sensitive wildlife habitat, expectation of solitude in wilderness areas, and safety are our primary consideration with regard to over flight activities. Therefore, aerial filming is rarely allowed.

Potential permittees should be aware that 46% of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is designated wilderness. Only educational filming is permitted within wilderness areas.

Termination of permit
All filming or photography 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 the terms of the filming permit or the 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 cause for possible prosecution.

Permits will be revoked if damage to resources or facilities is threatened, or if there is a clear danger to public health or safety.

Applications and fees should be mailed to
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Attn: Chief Ranger's Office
9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630

231-326-4740 - Voice
231-326-4719 - Fax

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

9922 Front Street
Empire, MI 49630


(231) 326-4700

Contact Us