Definition of Commercial Photography

California Code of Regulations § 4316: Commercial Filming. 
"Except where authorized by the Department, no person shall photograph, videotape or film for commercial (profit and sale) purposes in any unit, or portion thereof, owned, operated or administered by the Department without a permit from the California Film Commission, pursuant to Government Code section 14998.8."

Note that recording video for YouTube and other social media outlets that result in financial gain, and photography that will be used in a professional portfolio (whether for the photographer or the model/subject), is deemed commercial photography.

Photography within State Parks falls generally into seven categories. Five of these are defined as commercial, and generally subject to permitting requirements. These are: 

1. Documentary photography. 
Whether still, motion picture or video, documentary filming may be permitted through the use of the same forms and procedures used for commercial photography. Permit requirements for documentary photography may be waived at the discretion of the District Superintendent or his/her designated representative. An example of a situation justifying waiver is a film project done in conjunction with the Department or in which the Department realizes a direct marketing or other benefit. Insurance requirements must be met even when permit requirements are waived.

2. Public Service Announcements. 
Permit requirements for the filming of television public service announcements on behalf of nonprofit organizations or other governmental agencies may be waived by the District Superintendent or his/her designated representative. Insurance requirements must be met even when permit requirements are waived.

3. Student photography.
Individual or group student photography is conducted for the purpose of educating or providing supervised experience to persons learning photography methods. Student photography may be permitted through the same forms and procedures used for commercial still motion picture or video photography. As with documentary photography, permit requirements for student photography may be waived by the District Superintendent or his/her designated representative. Insurance requirements must be met even when permit requirements are waived. Since individual students may find it difficult to obtain required insurance, it is recommended that the permit be issued to the school and the student. A letter certifying that the individual is a student of the school providing the insurance, and that the film is being done as part of the curriculum, is required.

4. Commercial Still Photography.
This category covers photography for sale or profit aside from filming for motion pictures or television. Such photography may be permitted after appropriate application and required insurance. Commercial still photography permits are handled in the same manner as commercial motion picture, video and television photography. 

5. Commercial Motion Picture, Video and Television Photography. 
This category covers all photography for sale or profit utilizing motion pictures, videotape, or other imaging media, including theatrical motion pictures, shorts, television programs, commercials, etc. It may be permitted after appropriate application and securing required insurance. 


Photography That Does Not Require A Permit

1. Personal photography. 
Photography for personal purposes is encouraged as a means of enhancing visitor enjoyment and extending the benefits and influences of recreational experiences.

Personal photography by park visitors, whether still, motion picture or video, is allowed under the following conditions:

  • Park rules and regulations must be adhered to.
  • No interference with other park visitors' use and enjoyment of the park.
  • No use of professional props and/or sets, professional actors or models, or specialized or large motorized equipment.
  • Photography takes place during the normal hours that the park is open to the public.
  • No disturbance or rearrangement of any park facility or natural/cultural features is allowed.


2. News Filming
No permit is required for news agencies in the process of gathering breaking news for television broadcast or print media. Such coverage will be with the concurrence of and under the supervision of the District Superintendent or his/her designated representative. The Deputy Director for Communications at DPR headquarters shall be advised of all significant news media photographic activity.

Filming or photography for non-breaking news media (such as "magazine" formats and delayed broadcast feature programs) may require permits. A permit may also be required for still photography done in conjunction with feature or editorial print articles. A DPR staff person or docent will be made available to assist with, and provide interpretive information for, such editorial and feature photographic shoots or filming projects. 


Information on Filming in the Great Basin District

Advance Notice Requirements: 
The average “simple” request takes approximately 10 days. More complex requests require more time for review. For most District units, a site visitation is required to work out Permit provisions. Approvals are based on the impact to the resources, and staff availability. For more information please phone (661) 753-6356. 

The Department of Parks and Recreation does not charge a location fee for film permits. Charges are the result of a reimbursement to the Department for specific expenses such as review fees, day use fees, and employee time (monitoring).

Review Fees:
Simple - $100/day
Student - $50/day
Complex - $250/day

Monitor Fees:
A ranger or other park employee(s) will be assigned to monitor. State employee reimbursements are $105/hour for park rangers.  Other per hour rates depend on the wage scale of the employee. There is a six-hour minimum charge.

Fire Requirements:
The Office of the State Fire Marshal oversees fire/special effect/life safety issues when using state property.

Insurance Requirements:
Insurance is required to be on file with the California Film Commission whenever state property is used for a film. The state requires: a) $1 million general liability and b) $500,000 hired and non-owned auto-mobile liability coverage. The certificate must name the State of California as additionally insured and be on file before a permit is released. The coverage will be increased to $10 million if the project involves any aviation activity.

Additional Permit Information:

Guidelines for filming in California State Parks

California Film Commission