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Photo shoot location: Valley of Fire

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Nevada’s Valley of Fire state park, about an hour’s drive northwest of Las Vegas, is a popular destination for tourists, film crews and photographers. The magnificent architecture of its rock formations, accented by the rust color of the sedimentary rocks, are unique and inspiring.

Because of that, Valley of Fire is frequently used by photographers and models to create exotic, dramatic pictures for their portfolios. Models thinking of going there to have their pictures taken, however, need to understand that there are rules established by the State of Nevada, and if it seems that they are not followed a park ranger may stop your shoot, or worse.

The regulation most relevant to photography is in section 407.0071 of the Nevada Administrative Code. It defines:

“Commercial photography” means photography engaged in for financial gain, including, without limitation, the sale of a photographic image as a product or for use in advertising, motion pictures, television productions or portfolios and the archiving of an image by a person who uses photographic skills, equipment or resources to provide a photographic product for sale.”

For commercial or stock photographers the definition clearly applies to them. But note the word “portfolios” in the definition. “Portfolios” is an ambiguous word, and for any model or photographer, whether amateur or professional, if you are shooting in a way that makes it look like the pictures may be used in “a portfolio”, you can have a hard time convincing the park ranger that they will not. And at the time of the shoot, the ranger gets to win that discussion.

The park rules require that groups doing “commercial photography” have a permit, which can be expensive: a minimum of $200 per day, and much more for large groups. However, all is not lost for the casual photographer and model shoot. If a model, a photographer, a makeup artist and hair stylist want to go shoot at Valley of Fire they can, even for portfolio or other commercial purposes, if there are no more than five of people involved, and they all travel in the same vehicle. The park administration has made use by small groups much less burdensome than the federal government has. No permit or insurance is required, no fee need be paid.

Groups of more than five people, or more than one vehicle, in addition to needing to pay a fee for the permit, also need a liability insurance policy with named insureds to include "The State of Nevada, Division of State Parks, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, its officers, employees and agents” in the endorsement to the policy.

Groups also need to know that “commercial photography” is not allowed at Valley of Fire on weekends or holidays, and no more than one group will be granted a permit to shoot on any given day.

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