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Everything you need to know about photo and film permits in LA

LeisureEverything you need to know about photo and film permits in LA

Los Angeles has some of the most iconic venues and backdrops in North America. The city pulses with energy and creative charisma just waiting to be captured on film. If you are a photographer and you want to shoot outdoors in LA, here are some of the things you’ll need to know.

Permits protect all parties and regulate potential damage to the environment and community during filming. That’s why, generally, you are more likely to need a permit to film than to shoot still photography. Before applying for your permit, assess how invasive your production is and its impact on the environment you plan to shoot.

Also, it makes a difference if your project is commercial or personal. The National Park Service and US Forest Service require no permit unless you are using models, props, or are shooting in an area where the public aren’t generally permitted. If you are shooting anywhere in the city where landmarks or any city property, you will need a permit and insurance.

Applying for a permit

In all cases of commercial photography in the City of Los Angeles, you will need to purchase a $500,000 or $1,000,000 insurance policy depending on the size of the crew. In certain cases — such as student photography, documentary footage, or public service — the fee may be waived. This is at the discretion of the District Superintendent.

If you are shooting for news media, you do not need to apply for a permit. However, if you are doing a magazine spread or covering a story that is non-breaking, you may need a permit.

For more information on acquiring a film permit in LA, head over to FilmLA.

LA street picture
A girl in a grey jacket posing in front of a mural. Photo Credit: Stanley Kustamin on Unsplash

Adhere to general community laws and rules

This is pretty self-explanatory but must be addressed anyway. If you are in a public place, you must adhere to normal laws of being in public and be aware and courteous of residents and the general public.

Photography at beaches and harbors in LA

Will your photo shoot feature golden sandy beaches and vast blue seas? Well, you’ll need a particular permit for these shots. Insurance is mandatory, and expect a 72-hour response time once you submit your application for a response.

All party members must adhere to LA County’s general film permit conditions. Some rules are pretty standard, like “must not interfere with lifeguard duties” and “no driving on the sand”. But be aware of other requirements, like the proper use of tents or the appropriate timing for shots.

Man in the beach with birds
Man walking along the beach at low tide with birds flying overhead. Photo Credit: Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Personal photography

When you shoot for your own personal social media account or your own gallery, you won’t need a permit. In fact, the state encourages it! Nothing captures a memory better than a good photo reel of your trip. However, if you plan to sell the photos or make money from them using other means, then you’ll need a permit.


LA is artsy, alive, and open for business. Grab your camera (and your permit) and hit the streets! Here are a few popular venues to host your next photo shoot.

Santa Monica Pier

Towering over a field of crazy rides and fun vendors is the iconic Pacific Wheel. This ride lights up the skyline and highlights one of the coolest parts of the beach. Santa Monica Pier is the place to go for that beachy-carnival feel that only a pier can offer. The waves crashing along the shore in the background create a vista worth capturing.

Lake Hollywood Park

The Hollywood Sign is recognizable all over the world. It has appeared in TV shows, video games, movies, music videos, and other various forms of entertainment for almost a century. Lake Hollywood Park is a municipal park down below the sign where the public can play sports, walk the dog, or go for a jog. If you want a good shot in front of that iconic sign, this is certainly the place you want to be.

Venice Beach

One of the most popular beaches in southern California is waiting for you. Venice Beach has around 25,000 visitors a day due to its culture, scenery, and prestige. There are tons of different spots at VB to shoot as well; the skate park, the boardwalk, the beach, playgrounds, and a fishing pier just to name a few!

Check out more photo shoot locations in LA and discover the perfect backdrop for your production.

People doing a selfie
A group of friends takes a selfie on a rooftop. Photo Credit: AllGo – An App For Plus Size People on Unsplash

Plan the perfect photo shoot in LA

From the national parks to the city streets, LA is one of the most photogenic counties in the country. No matter the scale of your project, it is imperative that you bone up on the laws and regulations of the area.

Although this guide provides a basic overview of the rules on filming in LA, we encourage you to read the fine print yourself. Once all of the legal stuff is out of the way, you can finally get to capturing the essence of this fantastic city!


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