Grand Teton Reverses Controversial Plan to Require Portrait Photo Permits

Grand Teton Reverses Controversial Plan to Require Portrait Photo Permits

Over a decade ago, the Federal Government outlined exactly the circumstances when a photographer would need to obtain a permit to shoot in a National Park. From the legislation:

The Parks “shall not require a permit or assess a fee for still photography in a System unit if the photography takes place where members of the public are generally allowed,” reads U.S. Code § 100905. “The Secretary may require a permit, assess a fee, or both, if the photography takes place at other locations where members of the public are generally not allowed, or where additional administrative costs are likely.

“The Secretary shall require and shall establish a reasonable fee for still photography that uses models or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.”

In essence, this legislation says that a photographer can shoot in a public locations of a National Park without models or props without obtaining a permit or pay use fees. To be clear – a wedding party or portrait client are not considered models, however I suspect the props section could be included to ensure photographers are not using smoke bombs or other props which could leave their mark on the park environment. 

Grand Tetons Park

With the increase of permits to shoot weddings, and complaints from the public about wedding parties asking guests to leave an area on the rise,  Grand Teton proposed new rules for photographers who offer portrait sessions and shoot weddings. The proposed changes included the photographers wearing a recognizable uniform during their shoots, and a $300  permit fee. Perhaps the biggest rub was that the park wanted the photographers to return 3% of their earnings from the shoot to the park. The park also wanted to restrict photographers from accompanying wedding parties of fewer than 12 people. 

We all own it

We all own the National Parks and have the right to enjoy them. Weddings are chaotic and those involved want everything to go just right, so I can see why photographers are asking the public to move along when they are trying to capture the happy couple. The issue these photographers don’t really understand is that the general public has every right to be in the park regardless of what wedding or other event is happening at the time. In many cases, the public visitors paid as much as anyone else to be in the park and they too want to see the iconic scenery. I personally have an inherent problem with photographers who make their living off of the National Park service and don’t contribute their fair share back to it to support the money they make. If you are a photographer running tours to the park to take photos, or taking wedding or portrait images there, you should be giving a percentage to the park for your personal impact on the environment there. 

Reversing Course

As you might imagine, many professional photography organizations jumped on board with first amendment lawyers to convince the park to change it’s mind over the proposed changes to the permitting rules. Grand Teton has agreed to reverse the planned changes and revert the permitting rules to their original state.  There should be some way for the photographers to support the park that is giving them their livelihood and offset the impact they are making bringing clients into the park, but a heavy handed approach is not the way to go. Federal Legislation needs to be updated and improved, otherwise you might run into a situation where each park is making their own rules and confusing who needs a permit for what and when more than they need to. 

If you would like to read more, check out this article from PetaPixel:

Grand Teton Axes Controversial Plan to Require Portrait Photo Permits | PetaPixel

Before you go…

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