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As a new photographer, the thrill of finding that picture perfect location for your shoots is exhilarating. You’ve tested out the location with a friend and you can’t wait to book your next session there. There are a few things to consider before you book your first shoot there. 

Parks are expensive to upkeep and maintain. And while photography is usually allowed in national, state, and local parks,  they are usually open to all of the public, they can easily become off limits to photographers if they aren’t respected.  

So to save you- and our parks- some heartache, we put together a few tips on how to keep our parks (aka locations) beautiful for all to enjoy. 

Mom and dausghter walking in a park.

Best Practices for Photographers Using Local Parks 

Research 

Make sure to do a little research first to learn the rules and ensure you are allowed to photograph at your chosen location

  • Are there signs posted that have park rules you need to abide by? 
  • Check their website  to see if there are specific rules or if you need a permit. 
  •  It is a good idea to talk to the park manager too as you never know where they are trying to grow back tracks or if there is an area off limits due to wildlife.  They also can be very helpful in providing you with great ideas for locations within the spot, or tell you if there is an area that is unsafe or if there is an outbreak of ticks (no one wants that client call do they?). Building that relationship with respect will not only help you, but will also help the park. 

Pro Tip

If a permit is required, always respect the park and buy the permit. There are a multitude of reasons why parks sometimes require permits including managing the amount of shoots per day in the park and recouping the costs of wear and tear on the grass that often gets damaged during a shoot. Ignoring the request for a permit can lead to photographers being banned altogether from the park.

Do not litter sign on a tree.

Using The Park

Don’t litter. 

Let’s start with the basics- in the simplest terms, you want to always leave the park as you found it. Many parks do not have trash cans as they want you to take out what you bring in. Bring a trash bag for anything you use and take it with you to throw away when you leave the park. 

If there is a trash can, please don’t leave food in the trash cans as they aren’t always emptied every night. Food in the trash cans causes animals to dig around and spill out the contents of the trash can while they are trying to find the food. 

Respect roped off areas. 

 Ideally you can scout the location a few days before and see if there are any areas roped off for regrowth - this way you can have options prepared as a backup. Sometimes your client might want a specific spot in the park and having an alternative spot ready to go will allow you to guide them to an alternative location if it is suddenly off limits. 

Be respectful other people in the park.

Try not to use a spot repeatedly at times when you notice other park goers are trying to use that area. Regularly dominating a certain spot so it is not available to park goers may lead to photographers getting banned from the park. 

Don’t shuffle park goers around.  

Constantly asking  park visitors to move   from enjoying the park to accommodate your photoshoot is another sure fire way to get yourself and other photographers banned from shooting there.

Limit your props to the park scenery. 

Bringing furniture and large props not only ruin the grass and the area around it but they interfere with other park goers just enjoying the park. Let the surrounding nature highlight your shoot.

Blankets or no blankets?

 Parks have different rules for blankets - it depends on their ability to water the grass. Some parks don’t allow blankets for the simple reason that blankets create a greenhouse effect on the turf. The area under the blanket gets quite warm and damages the grass, and it needs a significant amount of time to recover. In a nutshell- even if the park allows blankets, try to limit the amount of time that the blanket is covering the grass. 

"Please eep off the grass" sign in a park.

To Learn More About Best Practices For Photographing In Parks

Some great organizations have created a list of seven principles that we can use as a guide as we go into nature, simply to visit or to do a photoshoot. 

For more information about the seven principles practices used to protect and preserve natural spaces, visit:

Nature First Photography

Leave No Trace

To learn how to bring these seven principles into practice in your photography business, Maddie Mae, from Adventure Instead, offers a fantastic course, The How To Leave No Trace Course - for Wedding & Elopement Photographers. 

Photographer shooting bride and grrom in a park.

Final Thoughts

If you have found the perfect park to have your next photo shoot, these tips will help you to take amazing pictures and be kind to nature. If we all focus on these earth-friendly practices when we are photographing in parks, we can help to leave no trace and allow future photographers to continue to use these beautiful locations. 

The best impact you can make on the world is to leave as little impact as possible, so all of us can experience the same great locations tomorrow as we do today.

 

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