Stop the $300 Permit Fee !!!

I’m gonna jump on my soapbox and make an appeal to all photographers who live or shoot in New York City. Today is the last day to register with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to speak out at the hearing on June 3rd against charging fees for all still photography permits. Every editorial and advertising photographer uses the type of equipment that under current rules requires a film permit from the city and up until now those seeking a permit simply were required to carry $1,000,000 in liability insurance, but the new proposal is adding a non-refundable $300.00 ‘application’ fee for every time a permit is pulled to shoot! Given the razor-thin profit margins photographers are working with these days and the budget tightening our clients are faced with, a $300.00 permit fee will seriously hamper location shooting in the city.

I will be speaking on behalf of EP, ASMP, APA and NPPA, but the more photographers who get up and let their voices be heard, the better! If you’re available to to go the hearing being held June 3, 2010 at the 125 Worth Street Auditorium, you must register by TODAY…contact Dean McCann of the Mayor’s Office at 212-489-6710 or by e-mail at and if you can’t make the hearing, please vote “NO” on this online petition.

39 thoughts on “Stop the $300 Permit Fee !!!

  1. As a professional still photographer who shoots many editorial and personal projects on NYC’s streets, I implore you not to impose this fee. For a huge film or tv production that lasts months, $300 is a drop in the bucket. but for still photographers, $300 for a day of shooting severely hurts. Most editorial photo work has minuscule budgets nowadays. And when I’m working on fine art/personal projects, there is not budget at all.

    I understand that the city is in need of increased revenue, but this proposal effectively makes shooting still photography in the city cost prohibitive. I’m sure there are many similar arguments for independent and student filming. It would be a shame to see less and less of our beautiful city in art and magazines due to this fee.

    If you intend to go down this route, i think you need to differentiate between big budget films and television productions vs. still photography shoots and independent and student films. The latter generally uses a tripod and a few c-stands and doesn’t put the same drain on city resources.

    Charge Scorsese $300 for his next $100 MM film. Just don’t charge me the same thing.

    Please do not pass this proposal as it currently sits.

  2. Please get your facts straight before causing this scare.

    The fee as nothing to do with still photographers if you know anything about the Mayor’s office of film or if you have ever worked with them before.

    Bzzzzt!!! Wrong, but thanks for playing our game!!!

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the proposed application fee applies to anyone who has to pull a permit in New York City…there is no distinction between still, video, film, commercial, editorial or not-for-profit! And what really makes NO sense is that while a television series only has to fill out one application and pay one $300 fee for the entire filming season, a still photographer is required to pay a fee for EACH new project! Did you get that or do I hafta say it again?!! The big TV Production company, with all it’s millions of dollars to toss at production expenses, pays a single fee because the Mayor’s Office considers an entire season to be one project, but if a still shooter gets a job on Monday for ‘Time’ and a job on Tuesday for ‘Fortune’ he has to pay two application fees because that’s considered two separate projects! It makes no sense to charge a television studio the same fee for a season of production as an editorial or commercial photographer for a one day production of a much smaller scale. BT

  3. Christopher,
    Per this link to the proposal

    What part of:

    § 1. Paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of section 9-02 of Chapter 9 of Title 43 of the Rules of the City of New York is amended to read as follows:
    – 2 –
    (1) The following [two] steps shall be taken to obtain a scouting, rigging, and/or shooting permit:
    a. Submission of a New Project Account application to MOFTB. (i) For any activity needing a Required Permit, a New Project Account application shall be valid for the duration of continuous photography.

    Do you believe does not apply to commercial or still photography?

  4. I know I’m going tit-for-tat on two different sites and all I ask is just call the mayors office and ask them yourself about still photography work. It’s funny because it sounds like I’m defending this purposed fee, I’m not. I’m not only a still photographer, work for major film productions dealing with the MOFTB for those, but I’m also a budding indie filmmaker. So this will affect me. But I also know, if I’m going to get a permit even without the $300, I need a one million liability coverage written specifically for the particular project (not an all encompassing policy), worker’s comp, production company, a reason to actually hold parking and not just parking as available (meaning getting your truck at a meter and plugging the meter) etc etc. That’s just to get the permit now without the $300 fee. Do you know how much that already costs plus whatever budget for your shoot? Tell me what still photographer is already doing this and going through the proper channels to get the film permit (not the optional permit) that $300 is a redlight to pulling the production from the streets of NYC?

  5. Christopher: I am already doing this as are most people. And I would imagine most working, pro photographers have the million dollar liability insurance since you need that to rent studios, locations, equipment, etc. If you’re going to use c-stands or a tripod and have a few people with you, you need the permit. Not sure what you’re talking about, my man. But if you were stealing shots anyway without the proper permit, the new rule won’t affect you.

  6. I’m opposed to the $300 fee. One can’t compare a $100m film to that of an editorial shoot. It’s not a balanced approach. There is so much downward pressure on still photography these days, another fee could break shoot.

    Additionally, those images that would have been shot in NYC that feature landmarks, streets, landscapes, taxis etc. etc. of NYC will end up being shot at other locations. Therefore, NYC won’t be featured as often as the great backdrop that it is. In the long run I think that will hurt revenue in tourism & stature.

  7. I think this will be my last post because I’m not coming across correctly obviously and people just are not seeing through their knee-jerk reaction of what this all means.

    First, this fee isn’t adding any new rules that are not already in place and I think people are confusing this idea with thinking this fee is somehow new rules for shooting in the city. You already have to get a film permit for years and years if you use a certain amount of equipment, want to park trucks at your location (and not just parking where available), want to block sidewalks and city property over a certain amount, want to hold parking, want to clear parking for picture, want to use fire hydrants, the list goes on and on. This is already the case. And the cost for this now? NOTHING, but, you must be a company, you must have expensive liability insurance for the project to get your permit approved by the MOFTB and there are so many things that reject a permit already for even the Scorseses out there. These costs are high already for the “FREE” permit. If you can prove that the 1 million dollar policy is 25% or higher then your budget for the particular project you’re trying to permit, liability insurance required is waived. Well guess what….that same clause is going to be in place for the $300 fee as well and no you’re not going to lose $300 if you don’t get your permit, again just a scare tactic to get people riled up.

    My point is as a still photographer you’re falling under two categories currently:

    1. you either already go get permits when they are required
    2. you go out and shoot without permits

    If you go in already and can afford not to use the waiver, honestly, $300 isn’t going to be a deal breaker to if you shoot in NYC. And lets be real frank about this, if you really are someone doing this, you’re on a budget shoot which you have a client for. All these people talking about no budget shoots, students, etc. If this is the case you’re already not going in and getting the permits or getting one with the waiver anyways.

    Now for arguments sake, lets talk about what you get for FREE currently with film permits that you might now have to pay $300 for.

    1. Permission to shoot on city property and place rigging, etc.
    note: you can already do this WITHOUT PERMIT if you are just crew with no grip and trucks. You can go out and about shooting on the streets of NYC with a tripod and professional cameras and fill cards and crew and your car (parked legally) so long as you’re not overtaking a place. This isn’t going to change with the new possible $300 fee.

    2. Ability to take up a lot of space (when you get the permission from the MOFTB)
    3. Police on set the entire time if needed NO FEE
    4. Permission to park in no parking spots if you get permission
    5. Permission to hold that parking 24hrs in advance if you get permission
    6. Permission to CLEAR parking for your shot if you get permission. This includes FREE towing of all cars in your shot by the city
    7. Permission to place rigging on city items, lamposts, etc with permission
    8. Permission to hold traffic for limited times while the shoot is happening, again having a cop on set for FREE helps in this situation.

    I know I’m missing a bunch of other things.

    When it comes down to it, this fee has nothing to do with nor be paid by 95% of still photographers working in the city already. It’s for productions and for film work mostly. If you already are being stupid and going to hotspot places with stands and light-packs and not going in to get a permit already BEFORE this $300 is even in effect, you can get busted. 90% of the time if you’re small enough the cops will just tell you to leave. If you are arrogant enough to bring an equip van/truck, MOHO and blocking a sidewalk or taking over a park right now and not getting a permit, yeah you’re going to get shutdown. This new $300 has nothing to do with this. If you already play by the rules and can afford liability and all the other costs for a production that it requires, $300 isn’t a big deal. If you can’t afford those things, you might be able to get a waiver, if you can get the liability waiver already, then most likely the $300 is going to get waived as well.

    Much ado about nothing. Especially when I’ve worked with towns in Long Island that make you pay $1,000+ just to use talent and a tripod on their streets.

    I appreciate that you took what seems to be a lot of time to put all your ‘facts & figures’ down for us to read, but I’m going to write to you one last time to simply say that everything you think you know about this proposed fee is wrong. I just spend half an hour on the phone with Julianne Cho, the Assistant Commissioner and Press Liaison for NYC Media and John Battista, who I’m sure you know because you spend so much time at the MOFTB, runs the place. John said, in no uncertain terms, that the proposed $300 non-refundable application will apply to ANYONE who pulls a permit. You seem to keep trying to imply that if you can’t ‘afford’ a $300 fee then you have no place being in New York anyway! When are you going to realize that this isn’t about, as you so callously put it…”no budget shoots, students, etc.”…those ‘No Budget’ shoots make up the vast majority of what gets done on a day to day basis and they would NOT qualify for a waiver. Those ‘No Budget’ shoots with only $1500.00 total billings are what just about every normal editorial shoot are. Those ‘No Budget’ shoots are what guys like me and hundreds of other photographers do daily. And those ‘No Budget’ shoots would include a test you might want to shoot for your own portfolio where nobody is paying but the photographer. Where do you come off telling me and the members of EP, ASMP, APA and NPPA who have all done the homework to investigate exactly what this proposal means and are hardly acting in a ‘knee-jerk’ manner that we have nothing to worry about?

    I have no idea what your day to day business is like or what kind of budgets you have to play with, but you obviously don’t have to deal with the business reality I am faced with. But given how you seem to play fast and loose with the facts here, I doubt you would really care either. BT

  8. Christopher.

    You’re missing the point. We all know none of the rules are changing. Here’s where you’re dead wrong. It **IS** a big deal for us photographers who already play by the rules, have insurance and pay other production costs. I don’t think you have any idea what “budgets” are like nowadays. When a magazine shoots entire budget is $500, $300 for a permit is a big deal. Plus, when working editorial photographers are trying to work on personal projects or art projects that have no budget, $300 is a big deal.

    The precedent the fee sets would discourage all kinds of art and editorial work, knocking NYC down as the home of such things.

  9. I’m not going to changes minds here obviously. My personal work I don’t work with any budgets. My location work for other companies, it depends.

    James, if you budget for a project is $500 or even nothing and you’re working in a situation where you need a permit already AND GOING IN AND GETTING ONE ALREADY obviously you will get the liability requirement waived for permit, hence, if this $300 fee is enacted you will get the $300 fee waived on the hardship clause as well.

    What is it that people don’t understand about how this all works currently without the possible $300 new fee being added? You use a lot of equipment and take up city space and decide to go get a permit tomorrow, there are fees already attached in the liability coverage you need to have FOR THAT PROJECT, NOT for you business. It’s different. If you can’t afford that, you might get a hardship wavier to waive liability. You might not get that even now, it’s a case-by-case situation. If you get that wavier on your $500 or no budget project, then if the $300 fee starts being attached to permits, you’ll get that waived under the same hardship clause.

    AND to the person to attaches my my posts. Pulling a permit means you’ve gotten the permit and permission to do what you’ve asked on that permit, duh that you’d then pay the fee.

    You want something to fight about, fight the rules, not this stupid fee.

  10. I don’t know how Brad can say it any plainer. No matter who you are, what or who you are shooting, who you are shooting for, you WILL be charged this fee. Yes, are there photographers out there who will try to get away with not pulling any permit at all? Of course. But that’s not who we are talking about here. We are talking about very well established photographers who have run their businesses in NYC for years and have always done it the right way. You seem to think that this is only going to affect those who try to get around the rules. Wake up. It will affect EVERYONE. And it’s nice that your clients can afford $1000 location fees on Long Island. That is not the case with editorial photography these days. The business is changing and I don’t think that charging $300 fees for any still shoot on NYC streets is fair to the still photographic community in any way whatsoever. I don’t stick my nose into this stuff very often since I am now out of the biz, but as someone who used to pull those permits for many commercial photographers in the past, I find this fee ridiculous for the photographer who just needs to shoot his subject on the street in front of the business that is being profiled in the magazine. story.

  11. Ugh this is so frustrating! I’m not an elitist. $300 is a lot of money to me. This has nothing to do with someone shooting a subject on the street in front of the business being profiled, unless, you’re putting down lights on city property, have an equipment truck, blocking people from walking down the sidewalk in to your shot and it’s on Wall street or St. Marks. If so, you need a permit, legally. Once again, if you go in to the MOFTB right now and get a permit with the same rules that will be there if they put in the $300 fee, you will need liability converge per project permitted. That runs $600-800+ already. Remember you have to have coverage on the project, this is not your company policy. It’s not a rider, etc it’s coverage of that particular project. If you’re paying this and have a large enough budget that you would even carry EXPENSIVE liability insurance and all that comes to a total that the liability is 25% or more of the budget, that requirement is waived by MOFTB so long as you’re not trying to do something stupid like suspend a person in the air, etc. This will happen with the $300 fee as well if you get waived the liability. They are putting in the hardship clause to the fee as well. It’s right in the purposed document:

    under section 1b:

    “MOFTB shall have the authority to waive such fee where the applicant is able to demonstrate unreasonable hardship. The burden of demonstrating unreasonable hardship shall be on the applicant.”

    This is the same clause for liability wavier already in place.

    This fee isn’t going to stick it to the low-budget people, it’s not. It’s not going to stick it to the person out there on a side street in DUMBO with a profoto pack and a model who already isn’t getting a permit. That person will keep doing it. It’s not going to stick it to the portfolio builder out there going out with a camera and flashes and model and small crew, you don’t even need a permit for working like that already and that won’t change with this fee.

    Do I like paying fees. No. Do I understand that even if the fee happens (which is probably will unfortunately) that $300 is still far less then how much it costs to shoot and film in the majority of other cities in this country that have far sticker rules on when you need a permit? Yes. Do I think people here are still thinking this will affect in a major way their low to no budget work somehow differently then it already is if you do actually go get permits but are not understanding that it already costs a lot and really percentage wise the $300 isn’t that high but somehow people think this is a deal breaker and going to put out of business? Yes. Are they wrong about that? Yes. Do I come from money or have tons of money to play with in my budgets? No. Do I get permits for my low/no budgets when needed? Yes. Do I end up usually getting the liability wavier for what I do (me, talent, crew and two light stands and battery pack)? Yes. Will I have to pay $300 in the same situation as the one I just mentioned if I go get a permit? No because I’ll be able to prove the same hardship that got liability waived. If I’m shooting outside my studio in Brooklyn on the sidewalk and have a light setup for a few hours do I go get a permit? No. Can I get busted for this? Yes. Have cops come up to me when I haven’t had a permit in this situation in my neighborhood park? Yes. Have they fined me? No. They just tell me I can’t be doing it, or they just ignore me because I’m so low key with like one-two light stands and power-pack.

    Finally am I trying to pick fights with people here? No. Are people trying to pick fights with my by claiming I’m making up my facts, yet theirs are right because they say so? Yes.

    “…If I’m shooting outside my studio in Brooklyn on the sidewalk and have a light setup for a few hours do I go get a permit? No. Can I get busted for this? Yes. …..”

    Christopher…stop making this so easy for me, ‘cuz in all honesty, you’re just making yourself look extremely foolish! Your entire argument compares disparate facts and situations and is flawed in many, many ways…but when you make a statement like the one above we can’t even begin to take anything seriously because it just proves that you are willing to act in a totally unprofessional manner on a shoot. There is no way I would risk blowing a shoot by not getting a permit. Apparently you do this all the time. That’s where I and most of the people reading this right now differ from you. Your willingness to get ‘busted’ shouldn’t be looked upon as a good business model… BT (the guy who runs this place)

  12. Christopher. You’re entirely wrong about insurance. I’ve done it many, many times. All you need to do is have your insurance company issue a certificate of insurance naming the city as an additional insured. Costs you nothing.

    And most photographers are going to use lights on shoots.

  13. This forces many photographers and producers to go “old school” and shoot and run. Please people, everyone feels the pinch, 300 bucks is way too much!

  14. Did you guys bitch and moan like this when the city (and state and federal government) screwed over every other business? Just curious.

  15. WHY shouldn’t there be a fee for photographers? There’s a fee for everything else. It’s not fair that you should be conducting your business for free, while every vendor, no matter how small needs permits too. That’s New York for you, if you don’t like it, go to a free city like Toronto, who would welcome you just because you’re you.

    Ahhhhhh…Toronto!!! Beautiful city…the Jewel of Canada……and a place where they fine you 90 bucks for not having a Bell on your Bike!!! BT

  16. You know John, hiding behind is this really your site?
    You are absolutely right photographers should pay up just like everyone else.
    We should also get paid for our true worth expertise and experience.
    We would also like to see our day rates that have not increased in more than 20+ years go up at the same pace as the cost of doing business.
    We would like clients to pat their invoices on time rather than net 180 or for some as long as 18 months.
    You comment clearly indicates that you do not have a freaking clue as to how the commercial photo industry works nor what it takes just to make a living when your being nickel and dimed to dead with every job.

  17. Here’s a solution: File a permit for “Documentation photography of the people and sights in the environs of New York City for 2010” It’s a single project. You’ll pay one fee.

    If a cop ever asks if you’ve got a permit to shoot, show it and say “Yes” – all the cop cares about is if you have a permit. I really don’t see the cops trying to figure out if your specific shoot fits the description, but that’s the key – make it as vague and open-ended as you can.

    Good one, and while I love the inventive spirit behind your suggestion, the problem is the MOFTB are sticklers that specific locations be listed before they’ll issue a permit…and I doubt John Battista, the guy who runs the MOFTB and is behind this proposal, is gonna let a loophole like that exist! BT

  18. What do shows like Law and Order do? They film all over the city during a season. Do they list every possible location they may need to shoot at?

  19. Sure glad I live out west where the land is mostly public and I don’t have a city that is trying to drive me to a new location to shoot… and take my money.

  20. It’s not just us the permit fee is going to hurt. The editorial market which has already underpaid us for so many years is hurting and highly unlikely to be receptive to the paying the fee. There have only been a few instances over the years when I actually needed a permit. I see a future of stripping my subjects into backgrounds of NYC scenes in post if this happens, another nail in the coffin for editorial photography. I guess I can just go out without lights and a tripod then I don’t need a permit. More revenue loss for the potential assistants and the equipment rental houses! Way to destroy an industry.

  21. It seems like city hall has found another way to discourage business. Because of the economy, magazines have been hurting, some have gone out of business. Though it is not unreasonable to charge some sort of fee, Los Angeles charges a fee for film permits and no one complains, this is a part of doing business. In a way New York is doing Los Angeles a big favor, maybe now in terms of cost LA is a cheaper place to shoot editorials and with better year round weather to boot. Still maybe New York may want to reconsider charging $300 per permit and change $150.

  22. One would think NYC is more savvy about free brand awareness. If many photographers shoot in your city to the extent it becomes an iconic location (NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, London, etc.), instead of them paying the city, the city should be paying them – as some cities do by giving film productions special treatment/help to shoot in their city!

    Another reason to shoot in Toronto and other cities?

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