Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations. This tradition started with explorers who traveled with paint and canvas or primitive photo apparatus before the areas were designated as a national park. Visitors to national parks continue to memorialize their visits through videos and photographs.
When is a permit needed?
All commercial filming activities taking place within a unit of the National Park system require a permit. Commercial filming means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income.
Still photographers require a permit only when
- the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
- the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
- park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
How do I apply for a permit?
Permit applications are available through each park's administrative office or website. Contact information for parks can be found on their websites; visit Find a Park to locate the park where you would like to film. You should submit a completed application along with the application fee to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date at possible. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the application in a timely manner once it is submitted.
What fees will I have to pay?
The National Park Service is authorized to collect two fees: cost recovery and a location fee. Cost recovery includes an application fee which must be submitted with your application and well as a charge to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring your permit. This amount will vary depending on the size and complexity of your permit.
In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedule:
- 1–2 people, camera & tripod only - $0/day
- 1–10 people - $150/day
- 11–30 people - $250/day
- 31–49 people - $500/day
- Over 50 people - $750/day
- 1–10 people - $50/day
- 11–30 people - $150/day
- Over 30 people - $250/day