View Full Version : NPS permits in Arizona

Kirk Gittings
30-Mar-2004, 14:59
Has anyone been hassled in Arizona by NPS personel recently about permits for professional commercial photography when they weren't doing anything more unusual than carrying around a view camera. In the last two years I have been hassled at Wupatki (two weeks ago) and near Sedona (last year). I only have problems in Arizona not in New Mexico where I live. Kirk Gittings

30-Mar-2004, 16:06
I was hassled in San Antonio with my 8x10 camera. I was told that as a professional photographer I needed a permit to photograph in the missions. I am not a pro but I went to see the people that issue the permits because this was a long term project and I wanted to do it correctly and avoid future hassles. I was informed that as a citizen I did not need a permit to make images in the NPS jurisdiction. If I sold an image that was ok as there is NO Law against that. Now if I brought in a buggy and a horse and a crew then yes I would need a permit. The Missions in San Antonio is a popular place for wedding photographers as one might suspect. I don't think the rules are different in different states.


Michael E. Gordon
30-Mar-2004, 16:54

Tell the NPS Nazi's to kiss off and chase the photographers that light fires under arches. You don't need a permit, and I wouldn't submit to their threats. This land is your land.....

30-Mar-2004, 17:13
But Kirk, you are in fact a professional photographer as anyone who can Google will quickly see. Therefore you need a permit. Whether you should need one or not is another topic, but dems the facts. The person "harassing" you was probably an underpayed schmuck just doing their job.

Michael E. Gordon
30-Mar-2004, 17:22
According to the document I posted a link to, if Kirk's work falls outside the scope of the following, then he does NOT need a permit (professional or not):

"A permit is required if the filming, video taping, sound recording or still photography involves products or service advertisement, or the use of models, sets, or props, or when the filming, video taping, sound recording, or still photography could result in damage to park resources or significant disruption of normal visitor use."

tim atherton
30-Mar-2004, 17:46
Professional/commercial photographers DO NOT need permits if they are photographing in areas normally accesable to the public and are not doing any of the above (models, crew, lights etc).

See also the info on this site listed at the very bottom, but:

Public Law 106-206 5/26/2000: Signed by President; Became Public Law No: 106-206 [114 Stat. 314; cod. 16 USC 460l-6d].


One Hundred Sixth Congress of the United States of America AT THE SECOND SESSION

An Act

To allow the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a fee system for commercial filming activities on Federal land, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary shall not require a permit nor assess a fee for still photography on lands administered by the Secretary if such photography takes place where members of the public are generally allowed. The Secretary may require a permit, fee, or both, if such photography takes place at other locations where members of the public are generally not allowed, or where additional administrative costs are likely.

(2) The Secretary shall require and shall establish a reasonable fee for still photography that uses models or props which are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.


(NB - I haven't checked those below for a while but the NPS regualtions are in line with the law above)

1. This first part is from:

NPS-53 (Revised) Appendix 20 Special Park Uses Filming and Photography Exhibit 1 Still Photography - Handout Page A20-27


It is the policy of the National Park Service to allow and encourage photography within the National Park System, consistent with the protection and public enjoyment of resources.

The NPS will not require a permit for photographers, commercial or non-commercial, to go anywhere or to do anything that members of the public are generally allowed to go and to do without a permit. This is true whether or not the photographer uses tripods, strobe lights, or interchangeable lenses. Coverage of breaking news never requires a permit but is subject to restrictions and conditions necessary to protect park resources, public health and safety, and to prevent derogation of park values.

A permit is required if the Superintendent determines there is a likelihood of a photography project's harming the park's natural, cultural, or recreational resources, or creating unacceptable health or safety risks, or disrupting visitor use and enjoyment. A permit is also required pursuant to 36 CFR 5.5(b) for persons taking photographs of vehicles, other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising.

If a photography permit is required, the NPS will impose only those conditions necessary to accomplish the needed resource protection of visitor objectives. Liability insurance requirements and other limitations should not be made unduly burdensome. For advertising photography, it is appropriate to impose a permit condition that prohibits implied or stated Service endorsement of the advertised product or service.

Release Number 2 September 1997


2. The second part is from:

CFR Ch. 1 (7-1-97 Edition)

5.5 Commercial Photography

(b) Still Photography. The taking of photographs of any vehicle, or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising without a written permit from the Superintendent is prohibited.


3. The third part is from:

S 7.96 36 CFR Ch. 1 (7-1-97 Edition) Maps of Tripod Restrictions

Included in this section are three maps showing the areas around the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial where tripods may not be used.

White House - prohibited areas include the South Lawn fence and the areas to the east and west of the South Lawn. But the Ellipse has no such restrictions.

Lincoln Memorial - prohibited area appears to be within the Memorial itself and surrounding colonnade, but not the steps.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial - covers the area of the Wall and all land between Constitution Ave. to the middle of the Federal Reserve Building, then south to the Reflection Pool, then west to the street around the Lincoln Memorial, around to the short diagonal street that runs between Lincoln Memorial to Constitution Ave.

See also

http://www.nps.gov/refdesk/DOrders/DOrder53.html Section 14 below)

And also

http://www.nps.gov/refdesk/DOrders/RM53.zip (for details)


As with any other request for a special park use, filming and photography activities may be permitted only when they meet the criteria listed in section 3.1. If those criteria are met, then the following policies and procedures apply.

14.1 Permits Requirements. The Special Use Permit (Form 10-114) is the instrument used to authorize filming or photography in NPS areas.

A permit is required for any filming or photography that:

involves the use of a model, set, or prop; or requires entry into a closed area; or requires access to the park before or after normal working hours. A permit is not required for:

A visitor using a camera and/or a recording device for his/her own personal use and within normal visitation areas and hours; or A commercial photographer not using a prop, model, or set, and staying within normal visitation areas and hours; or Press coverage of breaking news. This never requires a permit, but is subject to the imposition of restrictions and conditions necessary to protect park resources and public health and safety, and to prevent impairment or derogation of park resources or values.

(as well as the detailed info at http://www.largeformatphotography.info/travel/national-parks.html

http://largeformatphotography.info/photo-permits/ )

30-Mar-2004, 18:24
My apologies if I was incorrect. I didnt read the link as I dont photograph National Parks.

30-Mar-2004, 19:26
The reason I was quick to judge Kirk is because this topic has come up before, and I thought I recalled that a permit was required. I apologize for that, as it's obviously not an across the board requirement.

However, note from above that

"A permit is required if the Superintendent determines there is a likelihood of a photography project's harming the park's natural, cultural, or recreational resources, or creating unacceptable health or safety risks, or disrupting visitor use and enjoyment. A permit is also required pursuant to 36 CFR 5.5(b) for persons taking photographs of vehicles, other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising. "

So in practice, it is up to the Park Superintendant to decide when a permit is required. Has anyone checked with the respective offices to see if a permit is/was required?

I'm also quick to defend low-payed, often poorly trained, idealistic NPS employees (who have been accused of this before). Was the employee wrong? Perhaps, but perhaps they were just following orders or training, thinking they were doing the right thing. If its a persistant problem then maybe it should be brought to the attention of the regional or national supervisor so they can make sure employees understand the regulation.

Michael E. Gordon
30-Mar-2004, 20:51
Wayne said: So in practice, it is up to the Park Superintendant to decide when a permit is required.

Fine. While you're checking with the Super to see if you need a permit (which you likely won't), I'll be off shooting.

Shoot first, ask questions later.

Kirk Gittings
30-Mar-2004, 21:31
Thanks for all the replies. Frankly I know I legally don't need a permit for what I do at the parks, but I have been hasseled lately anyway in Arizona as though the interpretation of the rules have changed there somehow. My question was not so much whether I needed a permit. I know I legally don't, but whether the parks service was bugging photographers other than me. I am upfront about being a professional, but the rules do not exclude professional photography per se. Is there a pattern developing, contrary to their published rules, that we should be aware of? I am starting to carry a copy of the NPS rules with me to inform the rangers of my rights. Sorry if my question was unclear the first time.

Todd Caudle
30-Mar-2004, 22:46
Tim beat me to adding a link from this very site that details policies in NPs. However, beware of shooting in some locations in California, as they have their own sets of rules in some cases. (Not too surprising, I guess. It IS California, after all.) Tim's link (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/photo-permits/) is a treasure trove of information.

MIke Sherck
31-Mar-2004, 05:59
I was in Arizona in February of this year and had no trouble. I photographed a number of places but the only NPS property was the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Had no trouble. Even had a nice conversation with a park ranger.


Tim Curry
31-Mar-2004, 06:04

One thing I have noticed of late in Arizona, and I mean within the last two years or so, is a certain sensitivity of the NPS people after the fires we have had. I tried last year to get permission to go into the area above Tucson which had burned due to the Aspen fire. This was the second major fire in two years in our area. The year before, the Rodeo-Chediski set a record in the state for timber and habitat loss, it was terrible. I was not able to get permission and did notice, after the fire, a very real edge to personnel in the area.

So, to answer your question, I think there is an undertone of negativity now with respect to these people and their jobs. They failed miserably, and publicly, to prevent and then contain these large fires. Untold thousands of acres were burned and destroyed so that it will take centuries for habitat to return to "normal." In many areas the soil was sterilized, completely stripped of organic matter, a vast lunar landscape which goes on for miles. This is fallout form the fires, they have become hypersensative to other issues due to a sense of loss and outrage over the fires.

Just my opinion.

Ralph Barker
31-Mar-2004, 08:59
FWIW, there also seems to be a trend in Arizona toward revenue generation. Not specifically with the NPS, but more regional in nature, to help support the overall maintenance of the "tourist" regions. The regional "parking permits" around the Sedona area is an example. Park Service budgets have also been under a lot of pressure in recent years, so I suspect there is also a subtle motivation for staff to look for ways to assist revenues.

QT Luong
31-Mar-2004, 13:03
See also http://www.largeformatphotography.info/photo-permits/

Jeff Conrad keeps this page current to follow the last regulations, in fact it has been updated this month.

Jeff Conrad
9-Apr-2004, 15:14
It’s annoying to repeatedly deal with claims that professional
photography on federal lands requires a permit, especially when those
making the claims should know better. Although it’s tempting to tell
a ranger to “get lost,” this usually isn’t the most
productive initial response. Most of these folks are pretty decent (if
occasionally misinformed), and they usually make far better allies than

The safest approach to dealing with a challenge probably is to carry a copy
of Public Law 106-206 (16 USC 460l-6d). As an act of Congress, it
trumps anything in the Code of Federal Regulations, including 36 CFR 5.5(b)
and 36 CFR 7.96. When photographing in National Parks, there certainly is
no harm in also carrying a copy of the NPS regulations, especially 36 CFR
5.5 (b), because it is the basis for Pub. L. 106-206.

No federal agency has yet issued new regulations to implement 106-206.
The Forest Service and the BLM have issued interim directives to agency
personnel; the FS directive seems open to interpretations that could
overreach the authority granted by 106-206, but most forest rangers
probably have more pressing issues than hassling photographers. Again,
however, in the event of conflict between an agency directive and act of
Congress, the latter obviously prevails. What’s sometimes tricky, I
suppose, is determining if indeed there is a conflict.