Pro photographer balks at proposed $400 fee to work in Metro Vancouver parks

Click to play video: 'Permit plan could force commercial photographers to pay to use Metro Vancouver parks'
Permit plan could force commercial photographers to pay to use Metro Vancouver parks
WATCH: Metro Vancouver is piloting requiring commercial photographers to get a permit for photo shoots in Campbell Valley Park because, the region says, some are not sticking to the beaten path in their quest for the perfect shot. Janet Brown reports – Jun 6, 2023

Commercial photographers may soon have to pay $400 for a permit to take pictures in 23 parks managed by the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

Last month, the federation of municipalities launched a pilot program at Campbell Valley Regional Park in Langley, notifying photographers that a permit would be required. It’s currently free, but starting next January, will cost $400.

“We’ve noticed a huge increase in nature photographers and also commercial photographers, wedding photographers in our parks and they’re starting to create some conflicts,” explained Jeremy Plotkin, supervisor of visitor services for Metro Vancouver’s regional parks.

“We’ve had staff patrolling the area and notice that they’re going off trail, sometimes disturbing nesting birds and other wildlife, also impacting sensitive ecosystems.”

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Plotkin said there have also been “issues” with weddings, party buses and alcohol in parks, and Metro Vancouver hopes the proposed permitting process will “help us control and monitor all of these activities.”

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The pilot program also comes with a set of guidelines for commercial photographers, including mandated minimal use of props and equipment, and bans on confetti cannons, smoke bombs, drone use without a drone-specific permit and off-trail photography.

Further, it states that photographers will be considered liable for the “actions of their clients and others” they bring into the park for photo shoots.

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The entire initiative is already facing protest, and an online petition opposing permit requirements at Campbell Valley Park has already gathered more than 1,700 signatures. Photographer Jaspreet Gill, who started the campaign, said the pilot program is an “unfair” “money-grab,” and other photographers agree with her.

“There is no proof or data to show that it is photographers that are disturbing the wildlife, that are damaging the environment, and if there is no data, why are photographers the only ones being singled out?” she said.

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“There’s also tourists, there’s also hikers, there’s people that walk their dogs.”

Gill said $400 is a lot of money for a photographer and she would like to see an explanation of how the funds collected will protect the environment from damage. It’s unfair that photographers will be responsible for damage caused by others as well, she added.

“I mean, I would do my due diligence with my clients to make sure I arrive with them, I exit with them. The most I’m here is 20 minutes, maybe even half an hour sometimes, and that goes for most photographers,” she explained.

“But it just seems unfair that if my couple wants to stay behind and enjoy the park and they end up littering or disturbing the wildlife, and I’m not even here for that, why is that on me?”

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Plotkin said the pilot program is not “targeting photographers,” although he has received public complaints about the proposal.

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Metro Vancouver bylaws require permits to be obtained for all commercial activities, he added.

“We also require equestrian tour operators to get a commercial permit. We require dog walkers to get a commercial permit. We have nature educators that operate in our parks that are also required to get a commercial permit.

“Right now, we’re really focusing on the commercial photographers that have clients rotating through on an ongoing basis that are monopolizing the park sites. That’s that’s our main focus right now.”

Plotkin said Metro Vancouver will review feedback from the Campbell Valley Regional Park pilot, with the goal of extending the $400-permit program to all 23 parks. Hobby photographers would be unaffected by the requirements.

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