Changes to Commercial Filming Permits in Yosemite National Park
On January 22, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Price v. Barr determining the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CFR Part 5 are unconstitutional. The National Park Service is currently determining how this decision will be implemented.
Following the recent court decision, the National Park Service will not be implementing or enforcing the commercial filming portions of 43 CFR Part 5 until further notice, including accepting applications, issuing permits, enforcing the terms and conditions of permits, issuing citations related to permits, or collecting cost recovery and location fees for commercial filming activities.
As regulations regarding commercial filming permits are being reassessed, those interested in commercial filming activities on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.
Do I need a permit to film?
Currently, the National Park Service is not issuing commercial filming permits, but is in the process of evaluating how best to regulate filming activities that affect visitors and park resources. 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, and other staff associated with commercial 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.
Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?
As of January 22, 2021, the National Park Service is no longer collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming.
When is a permit needed?
Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:
What about photography workshops?
If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization. See the commercial use authorization page for more information.
Permit Application Process
To apply for all types of special use permits, submit an application.
For a commercial photography permit, download the commercial photography permit application [855 kb DOCX]. and mail the original application with payment (check or money order payable to National Park Service) to:
(print, complete application, sign, date, scan and attach application to an email).
In the subject line indicate you're inquiring about a commercial photography permit along with your last name.
Please submit applications as far in advance as possible. Documents can be faxed to: 209/379-1853. For commercial photography permit information contact Catherine by email or by phone 209/379-1858.
Permits cannot be processed until we receive your original application and any required payments.
There is a non-refundable permit cost that must be submitted with your application. The cost is is as follows:
Commercial photographers, with crews of up to two people, with no talent or sound and minimal equipment,(i.e. camera and tripod), working in non-wilderness areas, that are open to the public.
Commercial photographers with crews of three or more, involving one or more of the following: sound recording, interviews, NPS staff research, compliance, sensitive locations, commercial photography in wilderness areas, commercial vehicles, props and additional equipment (i.e. monitors, lights, etc).
We cannot accept credit cards at this time. Money orders, cash or checks payable to "National Park Service" are accepted.
Your request will be evaluated on the basis of the information in your application. If substantial staff resources are expended in the evaluation of the request, applicant will be billed for the additional costs. Therefore you are encouraged to attach maps, diagrams, vehicle and equipment lists, crew lists, etc. with your application to assist park staff in evaluating your request. Upon receiving your application, requests typically take a minimum of 30 days to process, if the application is complete and without alteration. Requests that involve multiple locations, complex logistics, visitor activities, or special projects will require additional time to process. Projects that require environmental evaluation, cultural resource review, or Native American consultation must be submitted no less than 90 days before the start of proposed activities, and may require additional time, dependent upon project complexity. In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, applicants must submit their social security number or Federal Tax ID number when filling out the application for permit. Park managers will not sign location releases supplied by applicants.
Applicants should read the summary of commercial photography guidelines to facilitate an understanding of the permit process. If site scouting is planned prior to application period, contact National Park Service coordinator for guidance and restriction for specific locations.
It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow commercial photography when it is consistent with the protection and public enjoyment of park resources, and avoid conflict with the public's normal use and enjoyment of the park. Aesthetic values such as scenic vistas, natural quiet and dark night skies are resources that we value. We are also sensitive to the environments around our park sites. There are restrictions associated with group size, the use of commercial vehicles, generators, artificial lighting, props, and sets. Commercial photography activity that requires a permit is strictly prohibited on weekends and holidays. Commercial vehicles must be in compliance with all federal and state laws and local ordinances. Inclement weather imposes road restrictions and limited access, in addition to tire chain controls in specific park areas.
Call in advance and obtain latest road conditions and restrictions in addition to weather advisories and forecasts at: 209/372-0200 (press 1).
The National Park Service cannot accommodate a project if:
A permit is required when the commercial still photography involve the use of talent, professional crews, set dressings, or props; when they involve product or service advertisement; or when the activity could result in damage to park resources or disruption of visitor use. A permit is also required if the photographer wants to photograph in areas not open to the public, or before or after normal visitation hours. If you are uncertain whether your project requires a permit or not, contact the park for additional information. If you already know that your project does not require a permit, you can call the office to check the schedule and avoid conflicts with other activities. Generally, permits are not issued for commercial photography on weekends or holidays.
Proof of insurance is required and documentation must carry a commercial liability (minimum of $1 million) issued by a U.S. company. Insurance certificate must identify the production company by name and business address. If permittee uses a different name than listed on insurance policy, the relationship between insured company and permittee's company must be identified. The United States of America will be named "additional insured" on the insurance certificate. The address should also include, National Park Service, Yosemite National Park, Office of Special Park Uses, P. 0. Box 700, El Portal, CA 95318.
Generally the minimum acceptable amount of liability insurance is $1 million each occurrence. High-risk activities or activities which may have the potential for resource impact require higher liability amounts. Smaller, low-risk projects or still photography may be eligible for a reduction to $500,000. Contact our office for details. A request for a permit may be denied if there is no proof of adequate insurance. Personal or homeowners liability is not acceptable. Certificate should be generated by the insurance company. Hand written "certificate holder" information is unacceptable. We will accept a faxed copy of the certificate until your insurance company can mail us the original.
A refundable damage bond, drawn as a separate payment, may be required for those projects that have a high potential for resource damage or potential for site restoration. The bond amount is determined by estimating the cost of monitoring and site restoration, should you fail to adequately care for or complete clean up of the site. This amount will be specified in the permit. The permittee is responsible for removal of equipment, props, and trash, and restoration of the site to original condition, or in a condition satisfactory to the National Park Service. If this is not done, all or part of the damage bond will be retained to offset clean-up/recovery expenses. If it is not needed, the bond is released when the on-site National Park Service representative signs off that site restoration is complete and all site use charges have been paid. If a surplus remains after the costs have been reimbursed, the surplus is returned to the permittee. If the bond does not cover all the costs, you will be billed for the difference.
Pre-Commercial Photography Conference
The permitting process provides the park and the applicant an opportunity to discuss the proposed project and to establish reasonable conditions to protect National Park Service and Yosemite National Park interests. If the impacts of the project can be mitigated to the Superintendent's satisfaction, a project request may be approved, but only using a National Park Service monitor.
After the approval of an application, and before the activity begins, the permittee, will meet with the permit coordinator for a pre-photography conference. A visit to potential photography sites in the park will usually be made at this time. The permit coordinator will determine the need to scout each site or alternatively hold a pre-permit conference via telephone or in our field office.
The conference is intended to accomplish the following:
By the end of the meeting, the permit coordinator should have enough information to prepare the permit and request approval from Superintendent or designate.
Important: Any activities not specified in the permit will not be allowed. No activities on National Park Service property may begin until the permit has been approved by the park and agreed to by the permittee. All permits include the requirement that the site be cleaned and restored at the end of your use. Permits will not be issued for commercial photography on weekends and holidays. Normal visitor use patterns should not be interrupted for longer than five minutes, and only as specified in the approved permit.
Remember to include us in your plans for tech scout of the site. That will be the time to further discuss details with those directly involved. A National Park Service representative will indicate the staging areas, scenic vistas, environmentally sensitive areas closed to commercial photography, etc. If you need assistance with site scouting, a ranger can be made available to assist.
Normally in a national park, you cannot cut brush, dig in the ground, or move natural features. Digging in the ground of a national park usually involves environmental review and monitoring by an archeologist and/or vegetative specialist. Working in environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, sequoia groves, meadows, and wilderness areas is restricted. We have created the project clearance review process to efficiently evaluate requests for complex projects which may include extended use of a site (more than a week), or potential to impact the resource. All projects involving project clearance review require the posting of a refundable damage bond. For more information call or email the permit coordinator at 209/379-1858.
Park Entrance Fees
Commercial photographers and crews that obtain a commercial photography permit from the National Park Service, are recognized as using the park for business purposes for the duration and purpose of that permit, and as such, are exempted from paying entrance fees. All vehicles entering the park must show a copy of the approved commercial photography permit at entrance stations.
A minimum cancellation fee of $100 per scheduled monitor will be charged to permittee if permit coordinator is not notified within 48 hours. In addition, you are responsible for all National Park Service costs up to the time of cancellation. If the cancellation is weather related, we will attempt to make accommodations. Administrative costs are mandatory and non-refundable. You can leave a voice mail message with the Office of Special Park Uses (SPU) if you are canceling on a weekday (209/379-1858). On evenings and weekends, leave a message with SPU and the monitor assigned to your project.These costs will be estimated and half of this amount must be paid before photography begins, with the balance to be billed to the commercial photography company. All other costs incurred by the National Park Service for management of commercial photography activity will be recovered. If park personnel is utilized to assist in identifying locations, then permittee will be charged for that monitoring or scouting cost. You can leave a voice mail message with the Office of Special Park Uses if you are canceling on a weekday (209/379-1858). On evenings and weekends, leave a message with the monitor assigned to your project.
Denial of Permit
Commercial photography permits may be denied for any of the following reasons:
As noted in permit conditions, non-compliance with any of the permit conditions could result in revocation of the permit. In addition, the permit contains other conditions or factors relating to revocation:
Weather or seasonal limitations
For commercial photography activities which are perceived to interfere with visitor use or, further congest highly visited areas, or have the potential to impact park resources without proper supervision and care, at least one employee of the National Park Service will be assigned to the crew. Degree of monitoring is based on crew size, equipment, props, scope of the project, location(s), time of day, and time of year:
Before initiating any location set-ups or dispersal of equipment, a National Park Service representative MUST be on site. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in the revocation of the permit.
Breaking news is an event that cannot be covered at any other time or at any other location. For additional Information contact the Public Affairs Office at: 209/372-0248.
A still photography permit is required when:
Activities having the potential to significantly impact, alter, or damage park resources are prohibited. The following are also prohibited:
The use of domestic animals is permitted if humane treatment is accorded the animal at all times and park regulations related to domestic animal use are strictly observed. For example, dogs, cats, and other animals must be under physical restraint at all times. Wildlife captured elsewhere may not be used in any in-park commercial photography, whether trained or not.
Permit Fees and Monitoring
The National Park Service is required to recover all costs associated with permits for commercial photography. All administrative costs involving permit application and processing are nonrefundable and will be charged to permittee. We may require that charges be paid before work can begin on National Park Service property. Any additional costs will be posted as they occur. Charges must be paid within 14 days of the invoicing.
Note: Since our costs are based on the services we provide, we do not differentiate between profit and nonprofit documentary projects. By law, the National Park Service may not waive recovery of costs for projects that are produced to promote an industry, influence Congressional initiatives, or influence the outcomes of elections.
Location Fees for Still Photography
Note: Since our costs are based on the services we provide, we do not differentiate between profit and nonprofit documentary projects. By law the National Park Service may not waive recovery of costs for projects that are produced to promote an industry, influence Congressional initiatives, or influence the outcomes of elections.
Depending on the nature of a project and the potential hazards associated with it, permittee may be required to have on-site medical, water safety and/or fire personnel.
Restricted activities and conditions will be enumerated in the permit. The following activities are restricted and must be approved on a case-by-case basis:
Special conditions and restrictions will be noted on the permit and we will specify the number of people and the exact types of equipment allowed. All federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply to the operation of vehicles, and equipment. The monitor on duty will not allow equipment, vehicles and activities not specifically stated in the permit. No posting of signs park roads is allowed.
Last updated: February 5, 2021