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 activities may require a permit to address their potential impacts on park resources and visitor activities.
'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.
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:
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?
Under the interim guidance issued on January 22, 2021, the National Park Service is not collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming activities.
Filming in Wilderness Areas
The National Park Service manages and protects more than 67 million acres of park lands and waters as wilderness areas. These areas have additional laws and policies to preserve their wilderness character for future generations. Filming activities in wilderness areas must follow all applicable laws and regulations that govern wilderness areas in the park, including prohibitions on structures, installations, motor vehicles, mechanical transport, motorized equipment, motorboats, or landing of aircrafts.
Except for casual filming by visitors, special use permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, no matter the group size or equipment used.
How do I apply for a permit?
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 weeks is required to process an application and issue a permit, more time may be required depending on the complexity of the request. 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.
Drone use is prohibited park wide. Special Use Permits will not be issued for this activity.
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:
Still Photography Workshops and Tours
A Commercial Use Authorization is required for photography workshops, tours, or portrait photographers.
What fees will I have to pay?
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:
Are there other permit requirements?
You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
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.
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 staff availability. Please request interviews with park staff through the permitting office, 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. NPS employees will not participate in reality-style productions or sign legal documents.
Yellowstone National Park staff may be required to monitor certain photography, sound recording or non-low impact filming activities. 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: May 19, 2022