Cobb County parks can make a beautiful backdrop for photographs, but professional photographers who want to shoot there need to pay up, the county says.
According to a notice posted to the county website earlier this month, the county now requires permits for professional photographers who operate photo shoots there. Residents and non-profits will have to pay $100 for a day of shooting, while non-residents and commercial photographers will pay $150 per day.
County spokesman Ross Cavitt said the Board of Commissioners approved the policy in 2017 in response to complaints.
“The photo policy (arose) after photographers and companies would advertise photo packages that included scenic areas in some of our parks and there were complaints they were restricting access by park patrons,” Cavitt said. “They were essentially using county parks property as their business backdrops.”
Cavitt said the policy only impacts commercial enterprises. Everyday park visitors — those who aren’t making money from photography, can still snap away as much as they like without paying. Photographers for media organizations are also exempt from the permit requirement, Cavitt said.
Liz Williams, owner of Powder Springs-based Liz by Design Photography said one of her favorite spots for photo shoots is Green Meadows Nature Preserve off Dallas Highway west of Marietta. She loves the park so much that she joined Friends of Green Meadows to help keep it beautiful.
Williams said the preserve definitely has a problem with some inconsiderate photographers.
“Green Meadows has been vandalized a lot by photographers or other people, amateur photographers will throw confetti for photos,” she said. “And it’s not the kind that will go away, it’s the metal confetti. People were driving their vehicles onto the property and setting up props. You can’t drive a vehicle on the property. It’s a nature preserve.
“Right now, there are two bales of hay left out,” she added. “People just leave stuff there just because they don’t want to take it home. They just expect other people to clean it. There are photographers who have gotten into fights over shooting in front of the red barn there. How can two adults get into a fight over a shooting space?”
Williams said she supports the county instituting a permit requirement to keep photographers she calls amateurs from trashing parks. But she has two major issues with the current plan. The first is the price.
The city of Roswell charges $100 for an annual permit, which Williams said is much more reasonable.
“It’s a flat rate yearly permit,” she said. “So what they need to do is get people to pay a yearly permit, make sure they have their business license, make sure they’re paying their taxes. Instead, they’re doing this daily rate … but oftentimes I’ll just do a 30 minute session where there’s not much profit margin and there’s just one family. If I’m paying $100, that is all of my profit.”
Williams also said the plan will not stop the bad actors from messing up the park.
“The problem is that all this coming from the amateur photographers,” she said. “They’re still allowing people to shoot there as long as you’re not making profit, so what’s being said in photography Facebook groups is ‘Okay, I’ll just tell them I’m not making a profit and I’ll still shoot there.’ It’s those people willing to lie who will go in there and do whatever they want to do.”
Williams said she will still spend time with her family in the park, but she will likely not be able to take photos there anymore unless the county changes its policy, something she and other photographers are pushing for.
“Green Meadows has played a really big part in the way I can take care of my family,” she said. “I have no problem paying and giving back to the place that has allowed me to take care of my family. It’s just the way they’ve done it is strictly to run photographers off the property, not for any other reason. They made it really absurd on purpose.”