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Commercial Photography on Public Lands

Written by @winterlamaster.


“Lands of the United States were set aside by Congress, Executive Order, or otherwise acquired in order to conserve and protect areas of untold beauty and grandeur, historical importance, and uniqueness for future generations”


This is what our nation had in mind during the formation of our many public spaces. It seems that in all this talk about crushed poppies people are forgetting the whole reason that public open spaces exist to begin with. And here we are today, where certain groups of people seem to think that shilling some product for pennies is far more important than actually having ethics, values, foresight, or common sense regarding the land we exist on. Give someone 27,000 followers and they seem to think they are a celebrity who the rules no longer apply to.


Since I can’t win the environmental preservation argument (mostly because anyone who stands up for a belief is called a “hater”…….does that mean all the Native Americans that stood up to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline are haters?? I guess John Muir is a hater? Ansel Adams? Leonardo DiCaprio?)  Instead, let me approach this as a producer with over 13 years of large scale film and photo production under my belt and share some facts.  All commercial filming activity on public lands in California (and other states) require a filming permit.


That’s right. All these corporate automatons using our/your public lands to shill cheap products for the benefit of getting followers, appeasing corporations, and filling  their bank  accounts, are required by law to apply for, and carry an approved permit and liability insurance for their #ad shoot. Doesn’t matter if it’s an iPhone and Facetune, or a Sony Alpha and a preset pack bought from Peter McKinnon (who is a swell dude!), if the result of your shoot is going to be seen by the public and you or someone affiliated with your shoot is going to reap some financial benefit from that shoot, YOU NEED A PERMIT.


And to add to that fact about permits, it is the photo teams responsibility to KNOW what the rules are for filming at the location. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got to put on your big boy (or non gender denominational) pants and use Google to do some research. 


Film permits aren’t just for Hollywood, or major ad campaigns, but are a lawful requirement for any person filming or photographing for profit or promotion especially on NPS land, BLM land, state/county/city property. They are a way to help protect resources, provide a check and balance system to ensure public spaces are kept safe, and that the public in general is given fair access.


I have been making a living as a photographer and producer for almost 13 years now (Hard to believe, I know, since my IG barely has enough followers to sell shitty toothpaste! ) . I’ve been on every type of set and in every role imaginable from PA to the lead producer on multi-million dollar catalog shoots. Every single pro, and hell even the majority of amateurs, in the business know that a permit is required for filming.


This excuse about “I just do what the client says” is BS. If you are such a bad ass creative content provider, YOU should know your business and YOU should have enough clout and skills to hire a producer, or run a permit and pay for your production liability insurance, or work with your client to find a creative direction that is attainable. Also keep in mind the reason these companies are using you, the good ole influencer, is because you’re cheaper than actually hiring a professional…… think about that. That means that instead of paying a pro $30,000 per day plus image licensing (you know all about licensing fees for image usage right?) They pay you the equivalent of a PA rate to do all the hard work for them.  Who’s getting the shaft here?


Oh, what? The $200.00 you got from your #sponsored post won’t cover permit fees? Maybe you should consider a different line of work if you can’t follow the most simple and basic protocol that every other real shooter and director follows. You want to be a real force in the business, start by raising your standards and ask for more money so you can stop looking like a fool trampling some flowers just so some random kid in Uzbekistan will #clickthelinkinyourbio


Some helpful links:


Lake Elsinore (Walker Canyon!!)

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