Why I got a professional photography permit

Professional is as professional does

As some may recall, I posted last week about going to the Albuquerque Botanical Garden and paying for a professional photography permit.  For reference, it was $25, just $5 more than the regular combination ticket to the Botanical Garden, Aquarium, and Zoo.    Given that I didn’t make it over to the other two, it might be a more accurate comparison to say that it was $12.50 more than the Botanical Garden ticket alone … twice as much!

Someone out there is gonna say I paid twice as much for my ticket as I had to.  After all, I’m entirely small-time as a professional photographer, if they’d even call me that, since the photography sales didn’t even bring in enough to report to the IRS last year.  [The bulk of my sales come from these two designs, for what it’s worth]  I’m not even doing portrait or bridal photography, which is where the big money is.  So, who would care if I just got a regular ticket, took photos, and sold them anyway?

Well, I would.

For one, if I want to be a professional photographer, I should act like one.  I’m not suggesting that going all cargo cult is a good idea, mind you, but the way we act influences the things we do (not just the way others perceive us).  Going in with the expectation that I’m here to take photographs to sell reminds me that I should do the things that professional photographers do – take my time with framing and angles, take multiple shots,  think about whether I’m taking the shot because it’s a cool thing or because it makes a good photograph, and not hurry.

For two, if I do someday start making good money on my photographs, the last thing I want is for someone to come along later and say “but she used to sell ones she didn’t have the rights to sell!”  Perception and reputation are important.  I’d rather start as I mean to go on – everything on the up and up, as they say.  I’ll never make the money on these shots that negative publicity (or lawsuits, fines, etc.) could cost me.

For three, in the long run, permits and licenses are simply a cost of doing business.  In the grand scheme of things, they’re not even really large costs.  That $25 may be twice as much as the regular ticket, but $12.50 is pretty much an indian-buffet-with-chai-and-tip lunch.  Even the $150 permit for the Portland Japanese Garden, which is way more than I could afford then or now, is well less than what I’d be spending on the equipment I’d want to have before I did that shoot and it’s also for a year-long permit, as I recall.

I’m not the only one who would care … more on that in a later post.

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2 Responses to Why I got a professional photography permit

  1. Wendi K says:

    Wow. I have to admit I never knew there were such things as professional photography permits… and I have spent time around pro photogs for years… Good on ya for doing the right thing. This makes me wonder though what other “right things” not many people are aware of. :/

    • Victoria says:

      It really depends on the site. Some don’t have any restrictions, some do. Going out in your own back yard you don’t need to. Working a wedding at a church, you probably don’t need to (I say without having any actual idea). A general public area, you probably don’t other than model releases if your photos include people (but check for your area).

      Just last week I wrote to the Seattle Zoo, asking them about their policy, which wasn’t up on their website. The answer turned out to be “if they’re taken from the public side of things (that is, no special access or behind-the-scenes), go for it.”

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