Starting in 2025, commercial photographers will need an annual permit costing $400 to take photos in a Metro Vancouver regional park.
The Metro Vancouver Regional District, which manages 13,800 hectares of parkland in 23 parks, says it is introducing the permits in a bid to keep the parks pristine and protect wildlife.
The district has begun testing the permit system at Langley's Campbell Valley Regional Park. A permit is currently free, but photographers will have to start paying for it starting in January 2024.
Jeremy Plotkin, supervisor of visitor services for Metro Vancouver parks, says the new permitting system is an important step to protect the environment.
"Staff have observed some photographers ... going off trails, harassing wildlife, disturbing the public with their props, blocking some of the trails," Plotkin said.
He said staff have reported that commercial photographers placed semi-permanent setups at "desirable locations and scheduled clients on a rotating basis."
The program is being introduced at Campbell Valley Regional Park due to a number of complaints received by staff, says Plotkin, though the exact number of complaints is unknown.
"I wouldn't say it's a few and I wouldn't say it's 100, so it's probably somewhere in between there," he said.
According to the district's guidelines, those who will need permits include anyone taking photos intended to be sold or used for commercial purposes, including for-hire photography, wedding photography, and stock photography.
Photographers will have to apply for the permits annually, and they will be valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Plotkin said they hope to streamline the permitting process at Campbell Valley before rolling it out to other parks.
Professional photographer Jas Gill has launched an online petition to challenge the permit system, which she says comes with a number of "unfair" restrictions.
A permit requirement that states "photographers are responsible for ensuring that their clients follow all park bylaws," is unnecessarily burdensome, Gill says.
"If my customer decides to do something that might damage the park it ends up on me, and that shouldn't be my responsibility," she said.
Photographers are required to have a registered business in order to apply for a permit. Gill says that rule is especially damaging to new photographers.
"There are a lot of starting-out photographers that haven't been licensed yet, so they have to be registered in order to just receive the permit ... By the time you receive your permit and you're at the park, you've lost your client."