Commercial Photography FAQ

by | Jun 13, 2018 | Park Rules, Parks Department

We have received a number of questions related to the Commercial Photography & Videography Permit. You can find the official rules and application here, but we wanted to try to consolidate questions.

I am a nature Photographer and I occasionally sell a print.  Do I need a permit?

Our interest is in covering our liability from commercial businesses operating in the parks.  So, this basically comes down to your intent.  If you came to the park to take some photos because that is a hobby you enjoy, then you are not operating a business, and no permit is required. Whether you then sell an image later on is of no interest to us. If you are coming to the park for the sole purpose of producing images for your business, then you are operating a business in the park and the permit and liability insurance requirement would apply.

Why are you doing this?

Just like you would expect a plumber or landscaper that works on your property to be insured, we expect businesses that work on county property to be insured.  Because it is often difficult to determine who is or is not operating a business, we have not enforced the long standing rule prohibiting commercial operations as it relates to commercial photography in the past.  Last year several photographers made it so obvious that they were operating a business that we could no longer responsibly look the other way.  So this policy is designed to protect the liability of the county and its tax payers and to help enforce a set of photography ground rules.

So, if a photographer has a permit, they have permission to “do whatever they want”?

No. Part of the reason this permit process was implemented was to make it easier to enforce ground rules for photographers. When you submit your application, you are agreeing to follow those rules. Failure to follow those rules will result in revocation of your permit and the inability to apply for another.

How will you know who is a professional and who is an amateur when you try to enforce this policy?

Parks staff will only enforce the policy if commercial photographers are breaking park rules/commercial photography and videography regulations. We may from time to time ask a photographer that is seemingly on a commercial shoot if they have a permit and provide information to them if necessary.  Staff will issue first-time warnings to inform people how to get permits. If photographers are encountered a second time for violating the commercial photography policy, they will be issued a civil infraction.

No one who is unaware of the policy will be kicked out or asked to stop shooting the first time that they interact with park staff.

I pay my taxes for this public park, why can’t I just do whatever I want?

Our interest is in covering our liability from commercial businesses operating in the parks to protect Ottawa County and its tax payers.  It would be irresponsible of us to allow any and all businesses regardless of whether they are insured or not to operate from public park land.  We could end up with a flea market instead of a park.

Why are photographers being singled out?

All businesses operating on county property are required to have special permission and liability insurance.  Using park property for commercial operations without a special permit is specifically prohibited on the park rules and regulations, so very few businesses are permitted to operate on county park property.  Because we want commercial photographers to continue to operate in our parks, they are being offered an opportunity not many other business are given.

I don’t like this policy / I have suggestions for you.

We are open to feedback and suggestions. Please feel free to email us. We have already made a number of changes based on very reasonable feedback from photographers. We truly appreciate your input.

The featured photograph was taken by Mike Lozon at Hemlock Crossing Park.


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