Film, Photography, and Sound Recording Permits

On This Page Navigation

 

When filming, photography, and sound recording activities occur in national parks, they must be consistent with the protection of park resources and avoid conflict with public use and enjoyment of the park.

Note on Monitoring

Yellowstone National Park staff may be required to monitor certain activities including large crews, extraneous equipment, or activities occurring in thermal areas. Due to short staffing at this time, monitoring availability is extremely limited; filming activities may not be permitted if monitors are unavailable to provide for visitor use management or resource protection.

 
 
 

Who Needs a Permit?

Filming

Under the interim guidance, the National Park Service is not distinguishing between types of filming, such as commercial, non-commercial, or news gathering. Low-impact filming activities will not require a special use permit, but non-low-impact filming may require a permit to consider its potential impacts on park resources and visitor activities.

Low-Impact Filming

Low-impact filming is defined as outdoor filming activities in areas open to the public, except in thermal areas or areas managed as wilderness (generally greater than ½ mile from the road), involving five people or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.

Those participating in low-impact filming activities do not need a permit and are not required to contact the park in advance. Individuals participating in low-impact filming activities should contact the permitting office if they have questions about areas where they want to film.

All applicable laws and regulations governing activities and public use in parks still apply, including park hours and areas open and closed to the public. Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, news and other staff associated with filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips.

Non-Low-Impact Filming

Filming activities that do not meet the description of low-impact filming require at least 2-4 weeks advance notice to the National Park Service by submitting an application. The park’s permitting office will determine whether the filming activity will require a special use permit for filming.

A permit may be required to:

  • maintain public health and safety;
  • protect environmental or scenic values;
  • protect natural or cultural resources;
  • allow for equitable allocation or use of facilities; or
  • avoid conflict among visitor use activities.

Requests that may require permits include but are not limited to:

  • Filming in a sensitive resource area such as a thermal areas (except casual filming by visitors);
  • Filming in areas that require special access to enter such as campgrounds or visitor centers;
  • Filming overnight or underwater;
  • Crews with more than five people;
  • Using equipment that cannot be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras;
  • Filming or interviews with NPS staff;
  • Filming in areas managed as wilderness (except casual filming by visitors)

The decision to require a permit rests with the park based on the threat to resources, values, or the visitor experience. Contact the permitting office in writing with at least 10 business days advanced notice if unsure whether or not a filming activity is considered low-impact or will require a permit. Please note, permits may take up to 4 weeks to process.

Still Photography

  • Commercial still photography using models, props, sets, lighting, or other specialized equipment
  • Use of large or unusual equipment, even for non-commercial purposes if activities warrant oversight by park staff
  • All compensated photographers hired to photograph weddings or other ceremonies/events, or portraits (weddings, family, senior, pets, engagement, etc.) in the park are required to obtain a Commercial Use Authorization.

Still Photography Workshops and Tours

A Commercial Use Authorization is required for photography workshops, tours, or portrait photographers.

Sound Recording

Audio recording does not require a permit unless:

  • It takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed;
  • It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport or an external power source other than a battery pack;
  • The agency would incur additional administrative costs to provide management and oversight of the permitted activity
 

Exemptions

The following cases do not require a commercial film permit:

  • Low-impact filming activities (outdoor filming activities in areas open to the public, except in thermal areas and areas managed as wilderness, involving five people or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras).
  • Casual filming by visitors.
  • Low-impact filming activities by credentialed news organizations. For more information contact the Public Affairs Office for more information on news media requests.

Definitions

Model: a person or object that serves as the subject for commercial filming or still photography for the purposes of promoting sales 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.

Thermal Area: any area where surface manifestations of hot springs, geysers, mud springs, fumaroles or warm ground are present.

Unmanned Aircraft (Drone): device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links). This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, and drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.

 
 
A graphic showing that drone use is prohibited.
Drone use is prohibited in Yellowstone.

Restrictions

  • From May 15 to September 30, filming is prohibited in thermal areas between the hours of 9:00 am and 7:00 pm in an effort to reduce congestion.
  • Filming is prohibited at the Boiling River year-round.
  • Drone use is prohibited year-round.

How to Apply

Special Use Permits for filming, photography, and sound recording activities are considered in the order they are received. All applications must be completed in detail and returned with the permit application and non-refundable application fee when applicable. A minimum of 2-4 weeks (depending on project type and volume of requests) is required to process an application and issue a permit. Please review the following applications and determine which version suits your request. If you are unsure of which application to use, contact the permitting office.

Contact Us

Open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (MT)
Closed federal holidays
(307) 344-2722
yell_film_permits@nps.gov

Application Fees

The application fee, when applicable, includes three hours of administrative time; including phone calls, correspondence, application review, and project consultation, scheduling park staff, permit issuance, follow-up, and billing. Additional administrative time will be billed at a rate of $65/hour.

  • Film Permit: January 22, 2021, and under the interim guidance the National Park Service is not collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming activities.
  • Still Photography Permit: $300
  • Student Still Photography Permit: $200
  • Sound Recording Permit: $300
  • Expediting Fee: $50

Interviews and Filming with Employees

Interviews with National Park Service employees may be available based on project content and staff availability. Please request interviews with park staff through the permitting office by submitting an Employee Interview Request Form. Do not reach out to staff directly. One-hour interviews at the employee's duty station will be scheduled through the Film Office. Additional time may be approved by park leadership, however, please note that while staff may demonstrate aspects of their job, they will not "act" or spend time on multiple "takes". Filming of employees will be scheduled in advance and take place in a controlled environment. Film crews are not permitted to shadow NPS employees on the job and placing body cameras on staff is prohibited. NPS employees will not participate in reality-style productions.

NPS Monitors

Yellowstone National Park staff may be required to monitor certain filming, photography and sound recording activities. Filming activities may not be permitted if monitors are unavailable to provide for visitor use management or resource protection.

Activities that require a monitor may include (but are not limited to): filming or photography in thermal areas, filming with large crews, projects with extensive equipment, or when there may be a greater potential for resource damage or impacts to visitor use.

Marketing

When it comes time to market your products, please consider the public’s perception of how you obtained your footage. Don’t promote tactics that were prohibited by your special use permit (such as the use of drones or remote cameras). If you used these tactics on private lands outside the park, don’t lead the public to believe that you captured that footage inside Yellowstone National Park. The park will refute these claims publicly (or confirm that you violated your permit) when asked on social media and in news media interviews. We are happy to review your promotional materials prior to release, if requested.

 

Yellowstone Pledge

Join the growing community of people committed to the preservation of this national treasure by taking the pledge and tagging #YellowstonePledge.

Take the pledge. Tell a friend.
 
A camera mounted to a sliding apparatus resting on a wooden boardwalk.

Special Use Permits

The National Park Service may require a special use permit (SUP) for certain activities to occur in Yellowstone. Learn more about SUPs.

A person photographing the colors of hot springs from a boardwalk.

Photos & Multimedia

Virtually tour the park through photographs, sounds, videos, and interactive maps.

A person looks through a camera with a large zoom lens at a bear in the distance

Watch Wildlife

Bring binoculars or a spotting scope and enjoy watching animals from a safe distance.

Last updated: April 7, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

Contact Us