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April 29, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies, and Ignoring Your Own Links

A guy named Rich, who runs a blog named West Coast Imaging News, is spreading unfounded fear about the updated National Park Service policies regarding commercial still and video photography.

But he's hardly the only one; the National Press Photographers Association probably started the whole thing with their own fact-free and straw-grasping press release on the subject.

I feel incredibly sorry for anyone working at the National Park Service, as they're surely currently being flooded with letters that have no basis in fact. Here, then, is an overview as it pertains to still photography.

Fact: The new NPS regulations were based on the established regulations the BLM has used for years.

Fact: The new regulations do not affect your ability to use a tripod, flash, or multiple lenses.

Fact: The new regulations do not automatically apply to you simply because you want to sell prints.

Here are a couple relevant quotes from the National Park Service.

First up, an overview of what the regulations mean to you:

The NPS does not require a permit for still photographers, commercial or non-commercial, when going or doing anything that members of the visiting public are generally allowed to go or do without a permit. This is true whether or not the photographer uses tripods, strobe lights, or interchangeable lenses.

And further clarification on when you need a permit (the Cliffs Notes version of which being "for advertising shoots"):

A permit is [...] required pursuant to 36 CFR 5.5(b) for persons taking photographs of vehicles, other articles of commerce or involves the use of a model, set or prop for the purpose of commercial advertising.

Note that "for the purpose of commercial advertising" bit. That's the kicker. That's what allows you to shoot portraiture on both BLM and NPS land: you can sell prints to the portrait subject. You just can't sell the subject of the portrait (which is illegal anyway). It should also be noted that in the BLM version of these regulations, "model" specifically excludes humans, referring only to mock-ups (e.g., the Death Star). I can't speak to whether or not the NPS has adopted that position as well, as they seem to bounce back and forth between BLM-model and empty-headed-model.

In fact, you can even shoot BLM or NPS land, then go back to your lab and Photoshop in the product you want to sell and be completely within the regulations. They only cover taking the product to the site for in-situ photography.

Moreover, for still photographs, this "new" policy is basically identical to the NPS' previous (as of 2004) policy:

As a general rule, permits are not required for either commercial or non-commercial still photographers.
However, written permits issued by the Superintendent may be required when the still photography
involves advertisement of products or services and/or the use of models, sets, or props, or when such
photography could result in damage to the resources or significant disruption of normal visitor uses.
Permits shall be required for photographers granted access to areas normally closed to the visiting public [...]

Posted by Colin at April 29, 2006 7:17 PM

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