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?
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 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.
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:
Requests that may require permits include but are not limited to:
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 Workshops and Tours
A Commercial Use Authorization is required for photography workshops, tours, or portrait photographers.
Audio recording does not require a permit unless:
The following cases do not require a commercial film permit:
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.
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.
Open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (MT)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last updated: April 7, 2021