Photography Permits for National Parks: Do You Need One?
The long and short of it is, generally yes. Since you’re running a business and charging clients for sessions, when shooting in state and national parks it is extremely important to be aware of the rules and restrictions. If you take a photography client somewhere new, make sure you look it up ahead of time so there are no surprises during your shoot. There is nothing more embarrassing and unprofessional than getting scolded by security, or worse, kicked out of a location because you weren’t prepared.
What Happens if You Don’t Get a Permit?
When it comes to state and national parks, you could receive huge fines if you don’t have a permit to professionally photograph inside the park. So, do your due diligence and make sure you’re good to go well in advance of your scheduled photo shoot, no matter where it is. Again, scrambling at the last minute is unprofessional and irritating to clients. We all know people are more likely to write bad reviews than good ones, so don’t give them a reason!
How Do I Know if I Need a Permit for a State or National Park?
Every location is different. For some, like for example, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is located just outside of Denver, there is a one-time fee of $25 that must be paid in advance of your visit and can easily be done online. However, with some locations, you have to purchase a permit AND schedule a date/time to shoot in a specific location. This may seem intense, but if it’s a popular location for families and tourists, parks (understandably) don’t want the area to be overpopulated with photographers and their clients.
As another example, if you’re shooting inside Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, photographers are required to pay $50 for a single-use photography permit. The permit doesn’t include wedding ceremonies or elopements though, that’s an entirely different set of forms, so elopement photographers beware! If you’re planning a photoshoot AND an elopement ceremony for your clients, there may be extra forms and fees in order to accommodate your client’s needs. Just be sure to check all of your boxes.
Can I Get an Annual Permit?
If of course you’re lucky enough to shoot in national parks often, most locations will offer a yearly permit so you don’t have to apply for one every single shoot, which could get expensive. For Rocky Mountain National Park (at the time of this posting), a yearly permit will cost you about $300, but again, if you shoot there often, it’s totally worth it.
Bottom line, always be prepared! Even if you’re shooting at a small park, city building, or another well-known location, it’s important to know the rules ahead of time. A quick google search or a phone call is way worth your time in order to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to complete your photo session.