Keep Safety In The Picture

A park ranger and a group of visitors take a safe selfie at Yellowstone.  Bison are seen in the background at least 25 yards away.
A group of visitors and a park ranger take a safe selfie at Yellowstone

NPS/Matt Ludin

We want your trip to a national park to be a fun and memorable experience for the whole family!

When capturing precious moments, be a smart photographer and follow these picture-perfect tips.

Keep Your Distance From Wildlife

Going to a national park is not like going to the zoo. There are very few safety barriers or fences that separate you from real wild animals. These animals are in their natural habitats---you are a guest in their home.

Animals may appear to be calm and docile but are unpredictable and can easily be startled. Remember that you, the visitor, are responsible for your safety and for the safety of the animals, too.

When photographing or watching wildlife in a park: .

-- Follow park rules and regulations on how far away you should stay from wildlife.
-- Stay on the safe side of barriers and railings.
-- If you want to take a picture of the animals, use a zoom lens on your camera. If you are close enough to take a selfie, you are wayyyy too close.
-- If you see an animal, you are responsible for backing up to a safe distance, even if the animal moves toward you.

Location, Location, Location

We get it---national parks have some pretty photogenic scenery. The views are truly magnificent. While we want you to capture all of the splendor of our amazing parks, do not put your life at risk for a picture.

Check park alerts for information on closures and other hazards in the park. Obey park rules and safety signs. They provide important information about potential hazards that you may encounter.

To avoid slips, trips, and falls:

-- Stick to the trails and boardwalks.
-- Use extra caution and watch your step. Keep your eyes on the trail and not your camera while walking.
-- Wear hiking shoes or boots with sturdy, rubber soles for stability and traction for the different terrains and walking surfaces you might encounter in a park.
-- Stay on the safe side of barriers and safety railings.

Take Your Time and Share the View

Our parks are pretty popular, especially during the summertime. High visitation means that you may encounter traffic, and trails and scenic views could get crowded. You might have to wait to get an unobstructed photo.

Consider leaving earlier in the day and avoiding the afternoons when it may be busy. Check the park’s website for guidance on when to plan your visit and how to best avoid the crowds. Don’t take any unnecessary risks for that photo -- it is not worth your life!

If a photo opportunity catches your eye while driving, pull over to a safe location to capture the shot. Distracted driving puts you and others at risk. Remember to look both ways for oncoming traffic before crossing the road.

When you arrive at your location, and find that it is crowded:

-- Step to the side to avoid blocking the pathway for others when waiting or while taking a photo.
-- When you are moving out of the way for others, take your time, and watch your step.
-- Don’t walk too close to the edge or walk backwards to get that perfect shot. Be careful around steep drop-offs and stay aware of your surroundings.
-- Be patient and courteous towards other visitors taking pictures.

Come and capture your experience in our national parks. Check out the NPS Trip Planning Guide to help you have a picture-perfect adventure!

Last updated: February 16, 2024