Photography in National Parks: Rules, Permits, and Guidelines

Photography in National Parks: Rules, Permits, and Guidelines

From towering peaks to complicated ecosystems, national parks provide photographers with a visual symphony. However, as the adage goes, great beauty comes with great responsibility. When photographing these protected sites, photographers must follow a slew of restrictions. This book delves into the fundamental dos and don’ts, permissions, and ethical rules for national park photography.


  1. Recreational Photography vs. Commercial Photography


It is critical to understand the difference between leisure and commercial photography.


Recreational Photography: Most national parks are pretty tolerant when it comes to taking photos for personal use. There are certain basic regulations to follow, such as avoiding disturbing wildlife and sticking on authorized pathways.


Commercial Photography: Commercial shootings, whether advertising a product or for sale, demand additional examination.


Legal Insight: For a detailed summary, consult the National Park Service’s commercial photography standards.


  1. Obtaining the Required Permits


Permits are required for commercial projects.


Submit an application outlining the nature of the shoot, crew size, equipment, and planned usage of the images.


Fees: These vary depending on the park and the nature of the project.


Use the Permit Database for US National Parks to find particular requirements and applications.


  1. Regional Regulations


Because of its ecosystems, fauna, and conservation concerns, each national park may have its own set of laws.




Drones are not permitted in certain sections of national parks, such as Yellowstone.


Parks that contain indigenous historical sites may have additional standards in place to protect cultural sensitivity.


When searching for ‘Yellowstone photography guidelines,’ always reference the ‘official national park website’ or ‘U.S. national parks photo permit databases’ to assure accuracy.


  1. Ethical Principles


Beyond the legalities, shooting in these immaculate environments has an ethical component.


Interactions with wildlife: Always keep a safe and respectful distance. No shot is worth putting an animal or oneself in risk.


Leave No Trace: The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics promotes the notion of leaving no trace.


  1. Aerial Photography


Drones provide a bird’s-eye perspective but have their own set of regulations. The majority of national parks in the United States prohibit the use of drones owing to noise, wildlife disturbance, and safety issues.


Legal Reference: Read through the FAA’s guidelines on drone use in national parks.


  1. Sharing and Selling Your Photographs


If you plan to sell or publicly distribute photographs shot in national parks, make certain that:


Accurate credit: Acknowledge the national park, especially if it played a substantial role in the filming.


Respect prohibited Areas: If you photograph prohibited areas by mistake, do not share them.