Commercial Filming and Photography Permits

Learn and Explore

In order to monitor and regulate the use of park areas while still conserving the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife within park boundaries, all National Park Service areas require special use permits for certain activities. This may include the filming or still photography. Continue reading to learn if you should obtain a permit for your activity.

 

Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land


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 5.5 are unconstitutional. In response to the decision, the National Park Service issued interim guidance on February 22, 2021, to manage filming activities. Under the interim guidance, filming activities may require a permit if they would impact park resources or the visitor experience. The National Park Service intends to update regulations addressing filming activities that are consistent with the outcome of Price v. Barr. Once effective, those regulations will replace and supersede the interim guidance.

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, you may e-mail us or call 508-957-0706 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?


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 activities may require a permit to address their 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 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. Those participating in low-impact filming activities do not need a permit and are not required to contact the park in advance. If low-impact filmers have questions about areas where they want to film, they should contact the park directly.

Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, news and other staff associated with filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors, including park hours and closed areas, still apply to filming activities even if a permit is not required. 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 ten days advance notice to the National Park Service by contacting the park directly in writing. The park’s superintendent will determine whether the filming activities will require a special use permit for filming. Based on the information provided, 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.
Examples of requests that may require a permit include, but are not limited to: entering a sensitive resource area, filming in areas that require tickets to enter, or filming in visitor centers, campgrounds, or other visitor areas. The decision to require a permit rests with the park superintendent based on potential impacts to park resources or the visitor experience.

Contact the park directly if unsure whether or not a filming activity is considered low-impact or may require a permit.

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.
 
 

Still Photography


 
The still photography permit is used as a management tool so photography does not interfere with other permitted activities or park visitors. Any payment is cost recovery or goes to projects that keep the park scenic for the benefit of visitors and permittees.
 

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:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. 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
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
 

The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges 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 park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

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 still photography fee schedule:

  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day
 
36 CFR 5.5 governs how the National Park Service manages audio recording in parks. Audio recording generally does not require a permit unless any of the following situations apply:

• It takes place at a location where or when members of the public are generally not allowed.
• It uses equipment that requires mechanical transport, such as dollies and cranks.
• It uses equipment that requires an external power source other than a battery pack.
• The National Park Service determines staff is required to monitor the recording activity for safety or to minimize potential impacts to park resources and other park visitors and permittees.
 
 

Learn and Explore

For special restrictions please see the following page regarding Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) including, but not limited to drones.

 

Last updated: February 25, 2021

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Mailing Address:

99 Marconi Site Road
Wellfleet, MA 02667

Phone:

(508) 255-3421

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