Permits for Filming and Photography


Who needs a permit?

Most filming and still photography activities require a permit or commercial use authorization. The exceptions are for news coverage and the average park visitor recording their trip — these activities do not require a permit.

Things to know

  • The National Park Service is once again charging for commercial filming in National Parks. Previous laws and regulations governing commercial filming are once again in effect that were temporarily suspended in 2021.
  • Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment.
  • Commercial Use Authorizations for still photography portrait sessions are used to manage congestion in iconic areas and reduce conflicts with park operations in historic zones.

  • Commercial Use Authorizations will be valid from the date of issue until December 31st of the application year.
  • A permit or authorization for filming and still photography does not grant exclusive use of any area, all areas will remain open to the public. Multiple photo groups may be in one area at a time.
  • Feel free to attach additional pages to your application that could help provide more information on the details of your request. The more details you provide up front can reduce the time it will take to provide you with an initial decision on your request.
  • Authorizations will permit photo sessions to be held in areas open to the public with the following restrictions for 2023:
    • The Washington’s Headquarters area and Muhlenberg Huts areas are not available during the hours of 9:00 am and 4:30 pm each day.
    • The grounds surrounding the PC Knox Estate are not available between April 1, 2023 and October 31, 2023
    • Due to construction the parking and grounds surrounding the Maurice Stephens House will not be available for special park uses in 2023
    • Use of the Betzwood area is not authorized on Saturdays and Sundays unless participants park in an alternative location (such as the Visitor Center lot) and walk over
    • The Washington Memorial Chapel is private property, the park cannot permit any uses on their grounds.
  • Permits issued for commercial filming and photography (advertising) may not imply or state endorsement by the National Park Service. Identifiable NPS equipment, uniforms, signs, buildings or insignia may not be portrayed in any way that would imply NPS endorsement.
  • Please include in the list of equipment anything that you are planning to bring to the park to support your project including but not limited to photography / video equipment, tripods, lighting, sound equipment, tracks, props, tents for changing or pop up’s for cover, RV’s, trailers and other support equipment.

When will filming not be permitted?

  • Damage to natural, cultural, and/or recreational resources, which cannot be mitigated is expected.

  • Other activities are planned or expected to occur at the same time and place.

  • The request involves access to areas normally closed for reasons of resource protection or visitor safety.

  • The level of activity within the park is already so high that staff would be unavailable to work with or monitor the film crew.

  • The project includes a portrayal of activities that are not permitted within a national park.

How to apply for a permit?

Depending on the complexity of your commercial still photo shoot or filming plan, you will need to choose between two forms, the Short Filming/Photography Form and the Long Filming/Photography Form.

The Short Filming/Photography Form is acceptable for most uses.

The Long Filming/Photography Form should be used in cases where a large infrastructure is required (major motion picture filming, etc.)

For photographers requesting to schedule portrait sessions in the park please submit a Commercial Use Authorization application for authorization to conduct your business in the park for the year.

Applications must be submitted by mail with the application fee check or money order to the address at the top of the first page of the applications. The park does not have a way to process electronic payments including by credit card, venmo or other electronic payment platform. Once your application is mailed the first time the rest of the process can be managed by email to complete and issue your permit or authorization.

What does it cost to get a permit or authorization?

Commercial filming and still photography permit applications and the commercial use authorization application require a $75 application fee paid by check or money order made out to the National Park Service. Additional location and cost recovery fees may apply for commercial filming and commercial still photography permits. Contact for details.

Last updated: February 14, 2023

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