Is St. Louis County Going to Charge Commercial Photographers Who Shoot in Their Parks?

Categories: Environment

stl county park policy.jpg
via Reddit
New rule? Not so fast.
Can St. Louis County officials charge photographers for taking pictures in their parks?

That question was raised this week when someone posted a photo on Reddit of a new sign in a St. Louis County park that reads in all caps: "Professional photographers are required to obtain a commercial photography permit to shoot in all St. Louis County parks."

The policy is effective as of April 1, the sign says.

Tom Ott, director of the county parks department, however, tells Daily RFT that the sign has since been removed, and there's been no formal policy change. At least not yet.

Here's the full sign, which was posted by Reddit user SYGAC this week and was shared on Twitter (which is how we first saw it yesterday):

stlcounty parks sign.jpg
via

The photo is from Chesterfield's Faust Park.

Contacted about the sign yesterday afternoon, Ott tells us, "It's already down. It was put up by mistake."

A possible rule change, however, is "still under review," he says.

And the St. Louis County Parks also posted this on Facebook:

stl county fb.jpg

Ott explains that officials are considering requiring commercial photographers to get permits, much like other business operations in the parks; the county would collect some sort of fee through these permits.

He says that individuals who run exercice classes in the park, for example, need to get permits. The photo-shoot policy may be similar to this, and it would be fairly standard, he says.

Faustplayground.jpg
via
Faust Park.

Ott says, "This isn't going to apply to amateur photographers."

There's no immediate time frame for a potential change in policy.

The sign that sparked the questions this week was only put up in that one location, Ott says.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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53 comments
R David Weaver
R David Weaver

What defines professional photographer. Have lazy wealthy citizens pay their share. A public park is for ascetic enjoyment. If one cannot read in a park, or take a photograph what the hell is it good for? rdw

Cb II
Cb II

Next thing you know they will be asking for a tooth!

Eric Seelig
Eric Seelig

If I'm not mistaken, haven't they had a policy along the lines of this on the STL County Parks website for something like 5+ years now? I remember it bothering me back then, and it definitely deterred me from shooting in County parks instead of city ones.

Sandy Landrum Bartolin
Sandy Landrum Bartolin

This is crazy! What are they gonna' do...stop everyone with a camera to check for a permit? A public park is just that...a public park. Of course, the land has impact from people; that is why it is a public park. When people live in the city, they don't have a lot of nature to surround themselves like I do out here in the country, so they have PUBLIC PARKS! Your tax dollars are providing those public parks and it doesn't matter if you are a professional photographer or John and Jane Doe. The reason movie people have to get a permit is because they also require special police control for onlookers and crowds. They block city streets for chase scenes, etc. It's dangerous and John Q Public could get hurt; thus, the extra police on duty and that's what the movie permits pay for is the police control!

Guy C. Maggio
Guy C. Maggio

Am I the only person who noticed that the policy was effective April 1st? :)

Kerry Ann Colombo
Kerry Ann Colombo

Don't consider myself a "professional" but the problem is where do you draw the line? Photography is part of my day job. I also do it occasionally on the side as part of my graphic design services. I charge money, but not sitting fees, etc and I charge very little. There is no clear definition between hobbyist and pro. A Hobbyist could go on to sell photos later on... a Photographer "in training" is not yet a pro, but can charge... I do not do it full time for a living but do charge sometimes but not enough to pass that extra cost onto my clients. A HUGE part of this issue is that they also require you to have crazy insurance! This will be a nightmare to enforce. They need to ticket the people who litter and ruin the experience for everyone else. Take only photos, leave only footprints!!!! We pay taxes just like everyone else.

Kerry Ann Colombo
Kerry Ann Colombo

Don't consider myself a "professional" but the problem is where do you draw the line? Photography is part of my day job. I also do it occasionally on the side as part of my graphic design services. I charge money, but not sitting fees, etc and I charge very little. There is no clear definition between hobbyist and pro. A Hobbyist could go on to sell photos later on... a Photographer "in training" is not yet a pro, but can charge... I do not do it full time for a living but do charge sometimes but not enough to pass that extra cost onto my clients. A HUGE part of this issue is that they also require you to have crazy insurance! This will be a nightmare to enforce. They need to ticket the people who litter and ruin the experience for everyone else. Take only photos, leave only footprints!!!! We pay taxes just like everyone else.

Justice Rising
Justice Rising

hahhahaha. now thats funny. kinda unconstitutional i mean. but funny. soon we are going to have to pay the country for the air we breath. lol

Camron Razavi
Camron Razavi

The signs are already being taken down. On channel 5 all day yesterday.

Ron Rigdon
Ron Rigdon

@ Jess it's not the fee or permits. It's the fact the Acting Parks Director implemented this policy unilaterally. No public hearing, no county council members knowledge, heck not even the County Commissioner knew about this (allegedly). Also, there are other added costs of doing business aside from the permit fees. Additional insurance costs. I don't think any professional or commercial photographer has an issue with paying for a permit if they're going to take up space for an extended period of time in one of the County Parks, but a permit fee for a family getting photos in a park for less than an hour? Oh, and you know about the part of the directive that revokes the permit & fines the photographer(s) $150-$500 if someone in their group uses a park trash receptacle? To throw trash away! What? The County parks will now receive an additional $6 million annually from the passing of Prop P - the tax payers voted for, approved, & had a say. In the decision of the Acting County Parks Director this was not the case. For me, this is an issue. He's not a dictator. He's our employee and in this case he was held accountable, as all public employees should be held accountable.

Marco Athie
Marco Athie

this is insane. the free PR is worth way more than any stupid fee generated by charging photographers for capturing beauty.

Eric Levy
Eric Levy

Dumbest thing ever. Taxpayer supported. Why don't they charge people a fee to take wood and other resources OUT of the parks?

Ryan Stufft
Ryan Stufft

How is it fair that other people make profit off public services with no contribution?

Jess Horsley
Jess Horsley

And there's an honest answer from a pro photographer; thanks! And I'm not saying passing that fee on is a bad thing either since it's the choice of the photographed party to have their photos taken in a public park. It's only fair to pass the fee on...and as I said before, depending on how much the annual permit costs, some photographers would probably make money on the whole thing, charging their customers a flat fee to take photos in the park instead of a % of the permit.

Brendon LeBeau
Brendon LeBeau

Here's another story to fuel your fire! Ron Rigdon

Jeff Buydos
Jeff Buydos

As a photographer, I can tell you that we'll somehow pass that cost on to our consumers so it doesn't really affect us...just everyone who uses our services. That's how all fees, insurance, taxes, etc. work for small businesses. We hardly every pay extra. Everyone else makes those payments for us.

Brian Marten
Brian Marten

It was April 1st, April Fools? Plus, a photo shoot is very different than a professional in the park looking and shooting different things as they pass along. Plus, what if you take a shot that is worth a million, and you are just an amateur? Does the city just take your property? Do they retroactively bill you? Not to mention, what is the actual, legal, difference between a park and a city street? How much restriction could be enforced using this ordinance. Recording inappropriate behaviour of public officials on streets near parks? Seems like a very slippery slope.

Brian Marten
Brian Marten

So when I take personal photos using my Professional equipment of my family and other "things" I now have to add the potential of harassment by overworked, underpaid, bureaucrats, who will be trying to meet some sort of quota, no doubt, for maximising fine reveue? Great. BTW, regarding others questions on papers,... One of the reasons we came to this country is so that we didn't have to "show them our papers." I've got papers from when I lived in Switzerland. I shouldn't need them here. :( When you obstruct the use of public spaces or damage them then you should pay for that use, otherwise it is inappropriate for the government to restrict usage. BTW, don't need a permit to just shoot pictures in Central Park, in NYC,

Jess Horsley
Jess Horsley

Which is the fault of the photographer as they're shooting wedding photos. The wedding party wouldn't be there were it not for the photos being taken there...which means the photographer could pass the cost/fee on to the wedding party. If one is a professional photographer, it means you make a living taking photos...which means you're making money. To make the money taking photos in a public park means your financially benefiting from the use of public ground. I'm OK with NOT charging them anything if we're all OK with concert vendors/events/movie crews/yoga teachers and anyone else who also makes money off of the use of public parks NOT having to pay to use them too. I think it's fairly logically that anyone who financially benefits from the use of public property should pay a fee or have a permit. Seems like the patriotic thing to do considering if it weren't for public tax dollars, they wouldn't have the space to use and thus make money. Get what I'm saying?

Donald Creswell
Donald Creswell

Jess in that case it's the wedding impacting the public space and not the photography. The costs should be covered by the wedding using the park as a venue.

James Madison
James Madison

well duh! It is the cost of doing business, and those cost are passed onto the customer of the services.

James Madison
James Madison

The wedding photographer is not getting a permit for sole use. Others have a right to walk right through the scene and standing in the picture. A production company will pay a fee for exclusive rights. Huge difference. While most people will be nice and walk around the wedding party, the photographer has no rights to demand they do so. Issuing a permit will cause some of those photographer to think they own the park. Wrong. Fine those destroying public property - permit or not. Leave others alone. the permit idea simply will allow a ranger to harass a photographer and interrupt a shoot for no other reason than to check on paperwork. "Papers please" Is that the sort of state you wish to live in? How do I defend myself as not being a professional? I must prove a negative to avoid being kicked out of the park - missing my shot, and perhaps paying a fine. "He looked like a professional." The policy is flawed. Stop worrying about the money someone else is making. It is meaningless to you. Worry about the impact he is having, and make the issue. Most nature photographers, pros or not, leave a place better than they found it. Many humans, including professional wedding photographers, do the same. Stop punishing them for the actions of a few.

Mark Swain
Mark Swain

It is the most desperate, ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

Jess Horsley
Jess Horsley

Actually, I've been to numerous public parks including Forest Park where a wedding party's professional photos have indeed impacted other's use of the public area, to include the party's loud, boisterous use of areas which limits access to other patrons and families, etc. While I understand the joyous occasion like a wedding calls for celebration, if the professional photographer taking the photos is personally financially benefiting from the use of the public ground, please explain why they shouldn't - like movie crews/concerts/events who also financially benefit - be required to have a permit or charged a fee?

Ryan Stufft
Ryan Stufft

If you hold a special event in or at a public facility you have to apply for a permit-this should not be any different. That being said I think the law should be smoothed out more so both sides are balanced. Also, if you are struggling to make ends meet (not spelled meat Margaret) then you either need to improve and/or adapt or re-evaluate if you are in the right career.

Allison Whyte
Allison Whyte

Permits are required for movie crews/concerts/events because they impact other's use of that otherwise public area and generate costs to park resources (garbage, sanitation, access, etc.). Photography - professional or otherwise - does none of that. As a bid for funding, it is unenforceable and therefore worthless. I find it hard to stomach the idea that our civic leaders are truly that... intellectually underweight.

James Wright
James Wright

They are getting desperate! How long before we have to pay a toll to walk out our front doors?

Allison Whyte
Allison Whyte

Permits are required for movie crews/concerts/events because they impact other's use of that otherwise public area and generate costs to park resources (garbage, sanitation, access, etc.). Photography - professional or otherwise - does none of that. As a bid for funding, it is unenforceable and therefore worthless. I find it hard to stomach the idea that our civic leaders are truly that... intellectually underweight.

Carolyn Burke
Carolyn Burke

Good luck in trying to obtain a permit. Let's give Park Rangers something else to do. LOL There is no ordinance so what is the FINE if they are caught?

Matt Laws
Matt Laws

just another way for the our government to make money off of us and spend it on things 'we don't need to know about'.

Glenn Gibson
Glenn Gibson

Stand outside of the park and zoom in. lol

Shannon Coatney
Shannon Coatney

If they are true professionals, they absolutely will pass this fee along to their customers. If they don't, that would indicate they are not trying to make a living at their craft. Having said that, if you are working with a quality photographer, this really shouldn't be an issue. There are so many beautiful and wonderful places in STL to have photos taken outside of the county park system. A photographer should certainly be able to recommend another site if the fee is a problem for the client.

James Madison
James Madison

The policy was flawed. The regulation penalized people who did no harm because a few refused to behave reasonably in public. Issuing permits does not change the nature of a person. If they intend to trash a cake and leave a mess, they will do so, permit or not. If they have no respect to walk around flowers but to trample them, permit or not, they will do so. Existing rules and regs are on the books for such anti-social behavior. Permits solve nothing. Worse, some idiot with a permit will think he owns the park for his shoot. Public hearing to address the real issues is required.

Mark Farace
Mark Farace

Isn't this over and yesterday's news?

James Madison
James Madison

RFT, please try to keep up with the news... https://www.facebook.com/stlouiscoparks - they announced they have shelved the idea and are reviewing the policy. the signs were taken down. RFT is days late... again. No real journalistic follow up? No fact checker? No one thought, maybe before reposting on FB, they ought to check the Park Dept's FB account? A Middle School Student Newspaper has better journalists than this.

Tamara Terese Carey
Tamara Terese Carey

Well, I'll just be going to other parks, I suppose. I am not paying to take pictures of nature.

Chuck Bollinger
Chuck Bollinger

What do you mean "THEIR" parks ?? Parks are developed and maintained for Public use by Public money, they DO NOT belong to the City, last time I checked Photographers were part of the Public

Mary Lyle Daniels
Mary Lyle Daniels

This was on Channel 5 news last night - Lisa Zeigman investigated and they have removed the signs, at least in Faust Park and the county is reviewing the policy. I don't necessarily think its a bad thing to require a permit. The insurance requirements that went along with it though seemed a little onerous, and it sounds like they didn't go through the proper channels needed in order to implement such a policy.

Casey Govero
Casey Govero

Absolute garbage. Most Photographers don't make a lot of money off photos in the park anyways.

Chris DiMercurio
Chris DiMercurio

That's ridiculous... I'm going to start charging girls for each duck face or feet in the sand picture they put on Instagram

Rick Kohn
Rick Kohn

and exactly how will this be enforced? Special police pro photography unit? I swear some of our 'officials' are such idiots.

Margaret Nicholson
Margaret Nicholson

no, it's dumb. I'm photographer/artist and I hardly make ends-meat. now I'm being asked to to pay to make art WTF

Jess Horsley
Jess Horsley

Professionals who film a movie in public parks, host a parade or race in public parks or host any type of concert or major event must also obtain a permit to do so; I'm not sure I see the difference. Even if I don't agree with it necessarily, I understand why this is something that could be done (sounds like it's not actually happening now anyhow). From what I heard, it'd be around $200 per year for a permit and if that's the case, most photographers could charge $10 extra per person/party that wants to shoot in a public park and they'd not only recoop their costs easily, they'd probably make money on top of that. The thing that's going to get the city in trouble is policing this, which would cost them more than they would make if they police it right...which I'm guessing they won't if they do.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

i want to see the venn diagram that shows people complaining about this on one side and those that voted for more people paying their "fair share" on the other.

Roy Jacobs
Roy Jacobs

WOW are we that desperate for money!

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