Sign Requiring Permit for Photo Shoots in St. Louis County Park Was a “Mistake”


Officials over in St. Louis, Missouri are embarrassed and have a bit of explaining to do after it was discovered that a sign banning permit-less professional photography in county parks had been put up “by mistake.”

The controversy started after earlier this week when a Reddit user named SYGAC spotted, snapped, and shared the above photograph inside a St. Louis County park. The sign reads:

Professional photographers are required to obtain a commercial photography permit to shoot in all St. Louis County parks.

The sign states that the new rule went into effect on April 1st, 2013, and offers a phone number for photographers who wish to obtain a permit. The Reddit thread caused quite a bit of discussion, and it appears that a number of concerned photographers contacted city officials asking about the ban.

Some people thought it was an April Fools’ Day joke, but a quick call to the number revealed that it was no so. Leisa Zigman over at KSDK reports that the permits were being sold for $50 per shoot for $200 for a year of shooting, and that there was a $1 million liability coverage requirement that jumped up to $2 million if the photographer wished to photograph pets.

However, after some investigation, it soon came to light that there is currently no county ordinance behind the sign. A county spokesperson revealed that the parks director should never have put up the sign in the first place, and the sign was quickly taken down.


If you’re a St. Louis photographer cheering this latest development, you might want to hold back on your celebrations. County parks department director Tom Ott says that although there is no new policy change and that the sign were put up by mistake, a potential rule change is currently under review. If that rule change does go through, the sign may find itself back in its place before long.

(via KSDK and RFT via Reddit)

  • Mansgame

    The sign was removed so it’s a moot point, but overall, I think it depends on the public space to decided whether to require a permit for professional photographers. If it’s a busy area where many people are walking or trying to take pictures, I don’t think it’s asking too much for professionals to pay a few bucks extra if they plan on taking up more space, setting up lights, and risking damaging flowerbeds, etc. or otherwise taking away from other people’s enjoyment while they make a profit. On the other hand if it’s a big park where you won’t get in anybody’s way, it’s asking too much.

    The other question would be what is considered a professional photographer…Some people think anybody with a DSLR “looks” professional. Tripod? Lights? If they see you there every day with a different couple?

  • Sergei

    And how are they going to tell if I’m professional or doing it for fun or recreation? How do they define the word professional etc?

  • Renato Murakami

    Are those parks private in any way? If not, is it even legal/constitutional to prohibit people from taking pics there? The professional/amateur distinction is too grey area to make a point.
    Perhaps prohibiting tripod usage among others might be more effective for what they want, provided it’s not only harvesting money from tax paying citizens.

  • CrackerJacker

    Do you have a reflector? If so – Professional!!!

  • Andre

    They would have to define “Professional” very clearly.

    Question 1) Does 100% of my income come from Photography?

  • Neoracer Xox

    the bigger the lens…

  • Jim King

    LOL- – That is a thoroughly transparent ‘CMA’ statement ! ! While it was definitely a ‘Mistake’ to put the signs up, they weren’t put up by ‘Mistake’. Who do they think they are kidding besides themselves ??

  • juliusscissors

    i agree they should put this back up. Photographers are a nuisance.

  • Jon Knobelock

    On their website, their requirement on whether or not you needed a permit never stated anything about being a professional. It was linked to if you were making money from the actual act of photography. Their defense behind it was that they have had a history of people leaving behind messes and messing up the grounds.

  • Roberto

    April fools obviously

  • gochugogi

    I’ve been stopped in two parks while on vacation and told I needed a permit for commercial photography. Of course I was a tourist on vacation and was being judged by the size of my camera, lens and use of a tripod. Security guards are not always the sharpest tool in the shed and both times I had to leave as there was no reasoning with them.

  • ed.cetera

    “land of the free” indeed!

  • Duke Shin

    Cop “Excuse me sir, are you a professional?”
    Photographer “Nope. Just an amateur.”

    Cop “That’s a really big camera.”
    Photographer “Yes. I’m a very rich amateur.”

  • Sean Berry

    anyone else find the part of the video where the photographer was shooting around the musician with the telephoto funny? lol

  • IWSYFPhoto

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that this is something that the City will look into for future revenue stream.
    I personally have no problem paying a small fee to use a venue such as a park for the backdrop to my photos if I am doing them as a “professional.” It’s called the cost of doing business. Besides the permit should allow you to have exclusive access to a particular area without distraction, correct? Such as when you buy a permit for a park when hosting a wedding, should be no difference.
    Speaking of that, when would you have redundant permitting? If a party paid for a permit for their wedding and had a photographer shoot it on said same park, would you need 2 permits or would the one for the wedding be suffice?

    Either way this goes, whether they just remove the signs or enact an ordinance, the matter should not be determined by just the term “professional.”
    If so, you would have to discern between professional and amateur, not strictly based on equipment or camera model.

    I get people all the time telling me “Nice camera” or “that looks really expensive”, when talking to them, I find that most are not really into photography, so how would they “really” know if it is expensive or not or if it was a nice camera.
    You don’t have to be an expert, but the number of buttons on the camera is not an indication of expense.
    If you didn’t know what a Leica M9 was, to the average person it would look like any other medium body point and shoot and not a $7000 camera.

    Anyway, I ranted enough.

  • dbvirago

    The sign was put up by mistake?
    Who told the person to put it up?
    Who took delivery on the sign?
    Who paid for the sign?
    Who ordered the sign to be printed?
    Who wrote the verbiage on the work order?
    Who signed off on the work order to get the sign printed?

    That’s a lot of people making a mistake

  • Richard Steinberger

    I just completed a 2 day shoot at Carter Lake County Park in Larimer County, near Fort Collins, CO. I was charged $400 to shoot there. A wee bit steep of a price for a low-impact two day shoot if you ask me…

  • ogopogo

    This is just the beginning. Cities, counties and states are very very short of cash and they are going to tax everything. photos in the park, walking in the park, picnic in the park, biking in the park. Soon you will pay to walk down town. The new reality.

  • cchdisqus

    Most parks in my area charge pretty substantial fees for permits. Oddly though, they don’t require permits for professionals that are doing “personal photography,” such as wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photography. But they are charging fees anywhere from $50 to $100’s of dollars an hour depending on the size of your commercial shoot. I think that’s fair, because we are profiting as commercial photographers. However, Bridal parties can be large at times, and quite a production/nuisance, etc. at such places. I think it’s a mistake not to expect wedding photographers to have some sort of year round permit required to photograph/film in parks, proof of insurance would be nice too. It doesn’t have be some crazy fee, maybe just a year round permit that has a reasonable cost, much like a parking permit, etc. I see so many “new professionals” do a wedding or engagement shoot, and partake in some pose or whatnot that looks potentially hazardous or just plain irresponsible. Having some system in place to make sure they have a permit and insurance would go a long way. In some cases, the images they pick eventually become advertising for their business, and I’ve seen some photos get re-licensed so that other professionals that participated in the wedding that day can use them to advertise their services. Again, I don’t mind paying as a commercial photographer, it’s part of doing business and my client pays for it outside of my rate. So I’m not losing money. But I don’t see why I’m the only one that has to be full-on professional about it. Either way the client or subject is still at risk here. So why is it that safety only matters to the Parks if it’s commercial vs. personal/professional?

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    we live in an era were “The Government” has decided that all people are the enemy and should remain in their homes and continue to be taxed to Death