GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — Elkhart County Parks Department officials are looking to update professional photography fees, according to director Larry Neff.
A $50 fee per session for commercial photographers is already in place, according to Neff, but many people are not getting permits or going through the department office for permission.
Neff said the department defines a commercial photographer as someone who makes a majority of their income from photography, whether it be portrait or other forms of commercial photography.
"We haven't changed our policy yet, but we've been working on (the update) for about four months," Neff told The Goshen News (http://bit.ly/QILpGv ). "We want to get together some professional photographers and at least one board member to discuss possibilities."
Neff said the permitting process also helps the Parks Department keep an idea of what's going on in the park on a typical day, and they can help photographers out.
"We wouldn't want someone going to shoot at DeFries Gardens when a whole bus load of senior citizens is going to show up that day," Neff said. "If they come into the office, we can tell them that the day they picked won't work out."
The ultimate goal is to separate the family photographer from the professional photographer, Neff said. He said people are encouraged to bring their personal cameras to photograph things, but that people who make a living off of photography can expect a fee.
"(Different levels of rates) are probably the direction we're eventually heading in," Neff said. "That's why this is so difficult to figure out — it's a gray area. We're not trying to rip photographers off, but we also need to keep the parks up. We just want people to come in and talk to us. We can try to be flexible."
New Paris photographer Darcy Holsopple said that the $50 fee would impact her business — and where she chooses to photograph people — greatly. She has never gone through the permitting process at the county park office, though she has photographed in county parks a number of times, she said.
"There's no way I can afford to go there (if I have to pay the fee)," Holsopple said. "It takes my options down to very few places I can give people."
Holsopple said she would put the fee to her clients, if it were imposed on her, and that they would probably choose to go elsewhere. Tanya Heyde from the Goshen Parks and Recreation Department said she was not aware of any similar fee in the city parks.
The fee doesn't seem to accomplish the goal of the parks, according to Holsopple, which is to attract visitors to the beautiful landscapes.
"It feels to me like (area photographers) are bringing people to the parks and showing them the beauty of the parks," she said. "Now it feels like we aren't being encouraged to come."
Goshen photographer Nicole Mehl said that she would turn to private property owners or parks in other jurisdictions if she couldn't use the county parks.
"I could see it as more reasonable if it were a smaller fee or an annual fee of $50 to help with upkeep," Mehl said. "But $50 per session is excessive."
Local photographer Shalmai Orama, who shares a studio with Mehl, said she saw fees for historic buildings and for large commercial shoots when she worked in southern Florida, but she feels that her style of photography, which is family, children and other small, personal photography, shouldn't be regulated by such a high fee.
"I can understand a slight fee," she said. "But I can't justify $50. I can't afford it, and my clients would go elsewhere."
Orama said a slight fee may deter some of the more inexperienced or unprofessional photographers from using the parks, and that these photographers may be to blame if there has been any destruction or other negative behavior.
"I'm also all for calling ahead, and letting the department know you're coming," she said.
Information from: The Goshen News, http://www.goshennews.com