Grand Teton Reverses Rigid Permit Plan for Photographers

After pressure from four photography organizations, the Grand Teton National Park has just reversed policy changes that would have limited wedding shoots and required photographers to hand over a percentage of their profits. While permit requirements have been reversed, the parks new wedding limitations still stand. Grand Teton National Park Chief of staff Jeremy Barnum says that the National Park Service is launching a review of portrait photography policies in all 50 states and territories.

The proposed rule change would have required photographers to purchase a $300 photography permit, pay the park services three percent of their earnings while in the Grand Tetons, wear a uniform, and stay within a half mile of roads and established trails. The now-cancelled regulations also prohibited paid photographers from attending weddings with fewer than 12 people, which would have effectively ended the increasingly popular practice of adventure elopements. The changes also limited wedding photography to site-specific locations, but those weddings were also not permitted during the winter.

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The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) sent letters of protest to the park, listing concerns that the rules violated federal law. The organization referenced law that says that 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.” The law does have exceptions, including allowing fees when the photography increases expenses or personnel needs for the park. The organization also pointed out that the seasonal restrictions would prohibit wedding photography seven months out of the year.

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After the pushback, including more than 400 letters from individual photographers, the Grand Teton National Park stepped back the requirements for permits, including the requirements that photographers pay for the permit and pay a portion of their earnings. However, some of the limitations on weddings remain in place. Large weddings will be limited to 330 permits—a bit more than the park saw last year. Smaller wedding parties will be allowed beyond that limit. The rule that prevented paid photographers from attending weddings of fewer than 12 people, however, was also reversed.

The Grand Teton had originally proposed the rule changes after complaints that wedding parties had brought in non-native flowers and asked other visitors to leave the area, both of which are against the regulations of a wedding permit. Barnum said that the now reverted rule changes will be part of a bigger conversation and that the National Park Service is reviewing portrait photography regulations in its 423 parks.