The internet is up in arms about a recent law enacted in Overland Park, KS. Professional photographers are now required to obtain a permit to photograph clients in any of the 83 parks under the jurisdiction of Overland Park Parks and Recreation. For some reason photographers worldwide are upset about this. Given that this author is actually a resident of the area, I'm going to ride the line between news and opinion a bit.
The first piece we need to understand is that technically under city legislation commercial photography or videography is, and has always been banned in this city's parks. In fact, city code (until recently) completely prohibited commercial use of public parks altogether. Since around 2007 there have been 3 parks that city required a permit for use in commercial photography. They are the most popular destinations in the area for sentimental photos, and as such they get a tremendous amount of photo traffic. Each of these three park's fees will remain unchanged with the new law. For each of the other parks the commercial permit fee is $50 for up to 5 days.
Those are the facts, now let's talk about why it's ridiculous to be upset about something like this.
In virtually every city I have ever been to, both in the states and worldwide, there has been a permit requirement for professional photography. Some places do not require a fee be paid, but many do. This is not a unique situation. In fact, I believe that most of the irritation at what this city is doing stems from the ignorance of common laws pertaining to professional photography in public places. Most of these policies are in place simply to mitigate the damage caused by commercial use.
The argument that I keep seeing on the news and hearing from annoyed peers is really what gets me though. the prevailing thought is that since parks are paid for via taxpayer dollars, and are public places...that photographers should be able to use them freely.
First and foremost, the land is not actually public. It is privately owned by the city, and they have sanctioned it for public use. Yes, the parks are funded by tax dollars and as such the general public is allowed to use it free of charge. However, when you bring a business onto the property it can interfere with general public use, and create potential liability issues for the city. Make no mistake, as unobtrusive as you think you are, you are still a business. Moreover, you are a business that is attempting to use a tax-payer funded property for profit while potentially interfering with it's intended use and safety.
Understand that I fully expect to get attacked like crazy from many of our readers, and really that's ok. Just stay with me for a second because there is a more important point to be made.
If you want to use a studio space and you don't have one, you have to rent a location. Right? If you want to shoot in someone's house, you need permission. Don't you?
So, if you already have to make a little more effort to use a location that isn't yours...is it really that big of a deal to do the same for a local park? After all, you are profiting from the existence of the location...Shouldn't you be at least willing to give something back to assist with it's upkeep?