Colorado Photography Permits

Posted On | April 22, 2024

Welcome to the vibrant world of photography in Colorado! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or an excited couple looking to capture your love against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, understanding photography permits in Colorado is essential. Let’s dive into the details about photography permits when planning your photo session – portrait, engagement, elopement, or wedding.

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What is a photography permit?

Simply put, a photography permit grants you official permission to shoot in certain locations. It’s like having a pass to some of Colorado’s most picturesque spots.

Who do photography permits apply to?

Anyone looking to take professional or photos for commercial use in certain designated areas should consider obtaining a permit. From engagement shoots to elopements, you should always check if you need a permit.

What are the types of photography permits?

Permits can vary depending on the location and the purpose of your shoot. Some common types include commercial permits for businesses, special event permits for weddings or gatherings, and personal use permits for individual photographers or small groups.

How long does it take to get a photography permit?

The timeframe can vary, but it’s always a good idea to plan ahead. Some permits can be secured relatively quickly online, while others require more time for processing. It’s best to check with the relevant authorities well in advance of your planned shoot.

What Happens if I don’t get a photography permit?

If you don’t have the required photography permit in Colorado, there are many consequences you could face. You could just be given a warning to ensure you have one for next time. There are also some more severe consequences like getting fined and being denied future permit requests. Along with these consequences, it’s just plain embarrassing to be caught without a permit in front of your client. Do your research and get a permit when it’s required.

Do I need insurance to obtain a photography permit in CO?

Insurance requirements can vary depending on the location and nature of your shoot. While it’s not always mandatory, liability insurance is a smart move to protect yourself and your clients in case of any unforeseen accidents. Many jurisdictions in CO that require insurance, require you to have a minimum of $1M aggregate and to be named as the insured in your COI.

Need insurance? Contact your local insurance company for a quote (we love our local State Farm branch). You can also obtain insurance online from The Hartford, Hiscox, or the PPA.

What places don’t require a photography permit in CO?

Fortunately, not every breathtaking spot in Colorado demands a permit. Public spaces like city parks or certain national forests often allow photography without a permit for personal use. However, it’s crucial to research the specific regulations for your chosen location to avoid any surprises.

How to get a photography permit in Colorado?

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

1. Determine if a Permit is Required:

    Contact local authorities by email or phone to determine if a permit is required for your chosen location. We suggest getting it in writing, so you have documentation for permit requirements (this comes in handy for locations that authorities said do not require a permit).

    You can typically find a phone number or email on the website for the jurisdiction.

    When speaking with the jurisdiction of the location you’re interested in be sure to tell them who you are (photographer, couple getting married, etc), what activities you will be partaking in (ceremony, just photos, etc.), the date/timeframe, and the primary use of the photos (personal use, to market yourself, etc.).

    2. Fill out the application:

      Some applications are online and can return a permit to you instantly. Some permits require you to submit an application that needs to be manually reviewed and can take several weeks to obtain.

      3. Pay for the Permit:

        Most permits cost anywhere from $25 – $350+. Knowing the cost of your permit ahead of time will allow you to determine who is paying for it. Some photographers may choose to incur the cost of the permit or pass it on to their client.

        4. Print Your Permit:

          You will want a copy of your permit on-hand for your photo session in case you are asked to show it. We recommend both printing off a hard copy and taking a screenshot to keep on your phone.

          List of Colorado Locations and their Photography Permit Requirements:

          Blue Lakes (Breckenridge)

          Permit Required: As of 2023, White River National Forest shared that no portrait photography is allowed on the lands surrounding Blue Lakes owned by Colorado Springs Utilities.
          Jurisdiction: Most of the area leading up to and directly around Blue Lakes is privately owned by Colorado Springs Utilities. 
          Permit Cost: N/A

          Boulder Parks & Open Space

          Permit Required: Yes
          Includes Locations Like:
          Chautauqua Park and Lost Gulch. Here’s a map of Boulder OSMP lands to determine if your location falls within its limits.
          Jurisdiction: Boulder OSMP
          Permit Cost: $150 for the annual permit for unlimited visitors. $50 for the limited permit of up to 50 visitors per year.
          Permit Link: Get You Boulder OSMP Photography Permit Here

          Brainard Lake

          Permit Required: In general, a permit is not required for photography of small groups up to 20 people. Several of the trailheads lead into Indian Peaks Wilderness, which has a different governance and rules.
          Jurisdiction: Brainard Lake Recreation Area
          Permit Cost: $14 parking fee during summer season, required to reserve in advance
          Permit Link: Reserve Brainard Lake Parking

          Colorado National Monument

          Permit Required: A permit is not required for general portrait photography as long as it’s not for a styled shoot. Permits are required if you are planning to elope or hold a wedding ceremony.
          Jurisdiction: Colorado National Monument
          Permit Cost: $150
          Permit Link: Get A Colorado National Monument Wedding Permit Here

          Denver Parks & Recs

          Permit Required: A permit is required for groups larger than 5 people total (including the photographer). It can take up to 14 business days to get your permit and does require proof of insurance, so be sure to apply in advance.
          Includes Locations Like: Echo Lake, Red Rocks Park, Lookout Mountain Park, Summit Lake Park
          Jurisdiction: Denver Parks & Recreation
          Permit Cost: $0
          Permit Link: Apply For The Denver Parks & Rec Photography Permit Here

          Douglas County

          Permit Required: In general, a permit is not required for family, senior, wedding or other types of photography unless you have a large group. In that case, a special event permit may be required.
          Includes Locations Like: Sandstone Ranch and Daniels Park
          Permit Cost: n/a
          Permit Link: Contact Douglas County Here

          Echo Lake

          Permit Required: A permit is required for groups larger than 5 people total (including the photographer). It can take up to 14 business days to get your permit and does require proof of insurance, so be sure to apply in advance.
          Jurisdiction: Denver Parks & Recreation
          Permit Cost: $0
          Permit Link: Apply For The Denver Parks & Rec Photography Permit Here

          Emerald Lake (Buena Vista)

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.
          Jurisdiction: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests
          Permit Cost: N/A

          Garden of the Gods

          Permit Required: Not for portrait photography, small weddings or elopements. 
          Jurisdiction: Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center

          Great Sand Dunes National Park

          Permit Required: Yes
          Jurisdiction: Great Sand Dunes National Park
          Permit Cost: $200-$350
          Permit Link: Get a Commercial Use Authrization permit for general portrait photography. Get a Wedding or Ceremony Permit for elopements.

          Guanella Pass

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.
          Jurisdiction: The majority of Guanella Pass is in the Arapaho National Forest governed by the Clear Creek Ranger District on the north side and the South Platte Ranger District on the south.

          Independence Pass

          Permit Required:  In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.
          Jurisdiction: San Isabel National Forests

          Indian Peaks Wilderness

          Permit Required: No permit required for 7 people or less. A day use permit is required in some areas for 8-12 people.
          Includes Locations Like: Lake Isabelle and Crater Lake
          Jurisdiction: Indian Peaks Wilderness in the Arapahoe and Roorevelt National Forest. The Boulder Ranger Distict covers the east side of the continental divide. The Sulphur Ranger District covers the west side of the continental divide. 
          Permit Cost: Each Overnight/Day Use Permit costs $11.00
          Permit Link: Get A Indian Peaks Wilderness Permit Here

          Jefferson County

          Permit Required: Yes
          Includes Locations Like: Mount Falcon and White Ranch Park. Here’s a map of Jefferson County Open Space to determine if your location falls within its limits.
          Jurisdiction: Jefferson County Open Space
          Permit Cost: $125 for the annual permit. $25 for a single-day permit.
          Permit Link: Get Your Jefferson County Photography Permit Here

          Larimer County

          Permit Required: Yes
          Includes Locations Like: Horsetooth Reservoir, Devil’s Backbone, and Hermit Park.
          Permit Cost: $25 for a single-use permit. $150 for an annual permit.
          Permit Link: Get Your Larimer County Photography Permit Here

          Loveland Pass

          Permit Required: In general, permits are not required for portrait photography. If you are hosting an event such as a wedding or workshop a special use permit may be required.
          Jurisdiction: Dillon Ranger District in White River National Forest
          Permit Cost: $75+
          Permit Link: Get Your White River National Forest Special Use Permit

          Maroon Bells

          Permit Required: For groups of 3 people or less (photographer plus 2 people) a photography permit is not required. If you are planning a wedding at Maroon Bells with guests, the couple is required to book the Maroon Bells Amphitheater.
          Jurisdiction: Aspen-Sopris Ranger District in the White River National Forest
          Permit Cost: $200 to book the Amphitheater
          Permit Link: Reserve The Maroon Bells Amphitheater (Heads up, these reservations go fast. Be online at the start of the day when the reservations are released exactly 1 year in advance)

          Mount Blue Sky (Formerly Mt. Evans)

          Permit Required: The Clear Creek Ranger District has stated that weddings and photography are not allowed on Mount Bly Sky. However, Echo Lake and Summit Lake are owned by Denver Parks and Rec who does allow photography.
          Jurisdiction: Clear Creek Ranger District in the Mount Evans Wilderness

          Meadow

          Paint Mines

          Permit Required: Yes for portrait photography. Weddings and elopements are not allowed.
          Jurisdiction: Paint Mines Interpretive Park in El Paso County
          Permit Cost: $100 + possible $50 damage deposit
          Permit Link: Get The Paint Mines Photography Permit Here

          Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater (Outside The Amphitheater)

          Permit Required: Only for 5+ people
          Includes Locations Like: Red Rocks Trading Post
          Jurisdiction: Denver Parks & Recreation
          Permit Cost: Free
          Permit Link: Get Your Red Rocks Photography Permit Here

          Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater (Inside The Amphitheater)

          Permit Required: Yes, typically not approved for days they are holding events/concerts
          Includes Locations Like: Inside The Amphitheater
          Permit Cost: Free
          Permit Link: Contact Jeannette Murietta at jeannette.murietta@denvergov.org or 720-865-2484

          Rocky Mountain National Park

          Permit Required: No. If you are photographing in the park, you do not need a permit. However, if you are getting married in RMNP, you are required to obtain a wedding permit for one of the designated ceremony sites.
          Includes Locations Like: 3M Curve, Sprage Lake, Dream Lake, Lily Lake and Trail Ridge Road
          Permit Cost: None for photography. $300 for a wedding permit.
          Permit Link: Get Your RMNP Wedding Permit Here

          San Juan Mountains

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.
          Includes Locations Like: Yankee Boy Basin, Blue Lakes, Trout Lake, Telluride, Ouray
          Jurisdiction: Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests (Mount Sneffels Wilderness)
          Permit Cost: N/A

          Sapphire Point

          Permit Required: Permits are not required for general portrait photography. However, if you are planning to hold a wedding or elopement at Sapphire Point, you are required to reserve it in advance.
          Jurisdiction: Dillon Ranger District in the White River National Forest
          Permit Cost: $128 for a two-hour reservation
          Permit Link: Reserve Sapphire Point Overlook Here

          St. Mary’s Glacier

          Permit Required: In general, in James Peak Wilderness a photography permit is not required and groups are limited to 12 people.
          Jurisdiction: James Peak Wilderness
          Permit Cost: $20 parking permit (cash or check only)

          Twin Lakes

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.
          Jurisdiction: Leadville Ranger District in the Pike-San Isabel National Forests
          Permit Cost: Some locations do require a parking permit.

          U.S. Forest Service – National Forest

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. We recommend groups no larger than 10-12 people to minimize impact on the environment.

          U.S. Forest Service – Wilderness Areas

          Permit Required: In general, on U.S. Forest Service land a permit is not required unless you have a large group. In most wilderness areas group sizes are strictly limited. Each wilderness area has its own size limits that can vary between 6 and 12.

          Armed with this information, you’re ready to capture your couples in the beauty of Colorado responsibly and legally. Happy shooting!

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          Are You Freakin’ REady?

          We’re 100% here for whatever day you’re dreaming up. Fill out our contact form to start chatting.

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