To seek relief from the current photography fee structure for family portraits of 11 family members or less in Fairfax County Parks.
This petition only covers family portraits of 11 family members or less at Fairfax County Parks excluding: private parks.
This petition does not cover wedding photography or corporate or advertising photography. No change is proposed to the current photography fee structure for wedding photography or corporate or advertising photography.
Requested Board Action:
This petition requests the Fairfax County Park Authority Board take up a motion to modify the current photography fee structure. The current Fairfax County Park Authority Schedule of Rates, Fees & Other Charges dated 1 April 2014, is reflected in Appendix A. The proposed photography fee schedule is contained in Appendix B, effective with the new 2015 Fairfax County Park Authority Schedule of Rates, Fees & Other Charges.
The undersigned petitioners:
• Recognize the need for various fees
• Understand the rationale for why fees were initially adopted and put into place
• Recognize that FCPA facilities may charge a fee for families of 12 or more people
• Seek to achieve fairness and consistency with other local public park jurisdictions with respect to family photography opportunities
• Current quick facts regarding For Profit/Commercial Use Photographer’s Fees
1. Fees were implemented in 2011
2. In 2014 Photography fees generated $5250 in revenue.
3. The percentage of that revenue that was from portrait photography in 2014 was $3100.
• Fairfax County is the only NOVA County that charges photography fees (Appendix C)
• Feedback from FCPA PIO regarding other jurisdictions charging fees pit private vs public parks – not apples to apples comparison. (Appendix D)
• 2010 Research by FCPA PIO presented Privately funded Botanical Gardens and not Public Parks as comparisons to the Board. (Appendix E)
• Current family portrait photography fees appear inconsistent with Park Policy regarding For Profit Groups. (Appendix F)
• Current fee structure places a disproportionate financial burden on photographers and middle to low income families. (Appendix G)
• Current revenue from Photography fees charged in 2014. (Appendix H)
Appendix A: The current Fairfax County Park Authority Schedule of Rates, Fees & Other Charges dated 1 April 2014.
Appendix B: Proposed photography fee schedule effective with the new 2015 Fairfax County Park Authority Schedule of Rates, Fees & Other Charges.
Appendix C: Fairfax County is the only NOVA County that charges photography fees
Appendix D: Feedback from FCPA PIO regarding other jurisdictions charging fees pit private vs public parks – not apples to apples comparison.
Appendix E: 2010 Research by FCPA PIO presented Privately funded Botanical Gardens and not Public Parks as comparisons to the Board.
Appendix F: Current family portrait photography fees appear inconsistent with Park Policy regarding For Profit Groups.
Appendix G: Current fee structure places a disproportionate financial burden on photographers and middle to low income families.
Appendix H: Current revenue from Photography fees charged in 2014.
Current 2014 Fee Structure
Suggested 2015 Fee Structure
Fairfax County is the only NOVA County that charges a fee for Family Photography and Requires a Permit.
Currently, Fairfax County is the only county in all of NOVA that charges a fee for family photography in our public parks. The fee is $100 and also requires a permit. This fee allows two hours of photography in a taxpayer funded, public park and the permit takes up to 5 days to acquire. This fee is exorbitant and the permit process differs within the park system making it confusing as well as time consuming to acquire.
NOVA County websites. There is no fee or permit requirement for family photography.
• Alexandria: http://alexandriava.gov/recreation/info/default.aspx?id=12342
• Arlington: http://parks.arlingtonva.us/arlington-county-park-rules-regulations/
• Culpeper: http://www.visitculpeperva.com/search.cfm?cx=002045182467070324981%3Aalz3ysj2gfm&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=photography+permit&sa=Search
• Fairfax: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/press/photography-permit.htm
• Fauquier: http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments/parksrec/index.cfm?action=pr_forms
• Loudoun: http://www.loudoun.gov/Search/Results?searchPhrase=photography%20permit&page=1&perPage=10
• Orange: http://orangecountyva.gov/Search/Results?searchPhrase=photography%20permit&page=1&perPage=10
• Prince William: http://www.pwcgov.org/searchcenter/pages/results.aspx?k=photography%20permit
• Spotsylvania: http://www.spotsylvania.va.us/content/95/10818.aspx?cx=008339891885646369985:qfooysehnm0&cof=FORID%3A11&ie=UTF-8&q=photography+permit&sa=Search
Feedback from FCPA PIO regarding other jurisdictions charging fees pits private vs public parks – not similar comparison.
In 2010, Judy Pedersen, FCPA PIO, put together a list of 14 parks she felt were comparable to public parks in Fairfax County. All 14 parks were Botanical Gardens, privately funded and most were located in other states across the country. The 2010 data listed the average fee per photography session (there was no break down of wedding vs portrait photography pricing) at the private parks at $102 and fees for an annual permit averaged $308. From this data, Fairfax County adopted a fee Schedule in 2011 for their public parks that required photographers to obtain a permit for each session and pay a fee. The fee was $100 for a 2 hour session and $500 for an annual permit.
In 2014, FCPA PIO put together another list of parks she felt were comparable to Fairfax County Public Parks. On the list were 6 parks and only one was a public park, Brookside Gardens (run by Montgomery County). Brookside’s policy regarding family photography is to allow free access for families of up to 10 people. Below is a link to their policies.
Here are the 6 parks FCPA PIO listed as comparable examples to public parks in Fairfax County in 2014. The FCPA PIO’s comparison and fee structure is followed by my research gathered from park websites regarding the correct fee structure for family photography at the parks.
FCPA PIO: Meadowlark Gardens (NVRPA) allows individual admissions of $4 per person for up to ten people and if the group is larger, then charges the per person fee plus a $25 per hour charge. (11 people x $4 + $25=$69 for one hour).
Research: Meadowlark Gardens: Run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. The only additional charge for photography in the gardens is a $25 photography fee for two hours. Patrons have to pay the entrance fee to enter the park whether taking pictures or not. So it isn’t valid to include an entrance fee onto the permit charge. Only 1 wedding party is allowed at a time in the park and up to 5 families can be photographed during the same 2 hour window (12/17/14 spoke with Michelle). Another point to mention is that the fee at Meadowlark also gives the photographer and family exclusivity.
FCPA PIO: The National Park Service has fees that begin at $50 per day for three to ten people. However, there is a $100 application fee, an $80 administration fee, and hourly management fees depending on the size of the shoot.
Research: National Park Service: The application fee is $90 and the photography location fee is $50 for a two-hour window and up to 10 people.
FCPA PIO: Brookside Gardens (Silver Spring, MD) requires registration but does not charge for ten or fewer; when the group exceeds that number there is a $350 fee.
Research: Brookside Gardens: Run by Montgomery County. A Free Public Park. There is NO photography fee for up to 10 people.
FCPA PIO: Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (VA) requires advance registration and has a $100 fee plus individual admission fees.
Research: Museum of the Shenandoah Valley: Not a public park. Spoke with Katherine on 1/13/15 and family portrait photography during normal business hours is free. Admission fees do apply, $10 for adults and children are free.
FCPA PIO: Woodlawn House (Alexandria, VA) has a $100 per hour fee and requires staff to accompany the photographer.
Research: Woodlawn House: Again, not a public park. Woodlawn is run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is primarily rented as a wedding venue. I emailed them to find out pricing information for family photography since I could not find any on their website. On December 19, 2014 I received a response from Meredith who states that they have not had any requests for family photography on the grounds and there is no information currently regarding permits and fees for family photography.
FCPA PIO: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (Henrico, VA) requires admission for groups over six; Charges $300 fee for 1.5 hours, and $100 each additional hour.
Research: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Charges $150 fee for 1.5 hours and includes admission for up to 6 people (12/19/2014 Spoke with Sarah phone: 804.262.9887 x345).
Research: Carlyle House (Alexandria, VA). A privately funded park. A permit is $25 for the YEAR. The permit allows a photographer to reserve the entire park for 2 hours. Reservations may be made throughout the year with no limitations. The Carlyle House also has permitted photographer’s names on a list of park photographers and recommends them to potential wedding clients who are interested in the venue.
2010 Research by FCPA PIO presented Privately funded Botanical Gardens and not Public Parks as comparisons to the Board.
Current family portrait photography fees appear inconsistent with Park Policy regarding For Profit Groups
Through 2014, For Profit groups have been allowed to bring unlimited numbers of people to county parks and have been allowed access to park grounds and resources without having to provide advanced notice, pay a fee or apply for a permit. The 2015 Park Authority Fee Proposal continues to allow For Profit groups of 11 people or less free access to the county’s parks and amenities with no permit or advanced notice requirement. In the 2015 Fee Proposal, For Profit groups of 12 or more people would only be charged $3 per person and receive unlimited time and access to our parks with no permit requirement or advanced notification.
Documentation regarding the 2015 Park Authority Fee Proposal regarding For Profit Groups.
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/archives/2015-fee-proposal.pdf (Page 22)
Other For Profit businesses are allowed to purchase a business license and solicit business within the park. The cost of the Business License is $50 or 15% of gross revenues, whichever is greater. A Business License is valid for one month and allows the vendor to solicit park patrons to sell their products/services.
Examples of vendors who’s services fall under the Business Activities License are as follows: Food trucks, clinics, workshops, programs and other events. All of those examples involve a cost impact to the Park Authority. Trash removal and staff to manage the flow of patrons to the workshops and clinics to name a few. Photographers do not solicit business from the Parks and have no cost impact on the Park Authority. However, photographers are charged the highest permit rate of $100 for two hours access.
Documentation regarding Business Activities License Fees
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/downloads/fee-schedule.pdf (Page 28)
Charging families a fee for portrait photography in our free public parks is not keeping with the regulations of The Park Policy Manual.
Policy 305 User Fees states: That fees are to be approved by the Park Authority Board annually with input from the citizenry.
Fees are established and maintained at levels which:
1. Can reasonably be expected to collectively produce revenue sufficient to recover all costs of the Park Revenue Fund and all other financial obligations as set forth in the financial management principles of the Park Authority’s Financial Management Plan;
Families taking pictures in a public park have no additional cost impact for parks.
2. Are competitive with comparable facilities and services in the area;
$100 fees and permit requirements are not consistent or competitive with any other public park in NOVA. All public parks in NOVA allow family photography at no cost.
3. Reflect relevant market, economic and financial considerations;
A $100 fee and permit requirement for family photography does not reflect relevant market, economic and financial considerations. Photographers cannot afford to pay the photography fee because it would be on average 37.59% of their sitting fee. As 1 person small businesses, we also do not have the man power to keep up with the permit process. Inevitably, the cost and hassle of permits will be passed on to families. In addition to being excessive and time consuming, the $100 photography fee may also limit lower income families from being able to use the parks as it will will bring the average sitting fee to $366. (The average sitting fee for a family portrait is $266. A Google search of local photographers revealed that of the 20 photographers sampled, the average sitting fee is $266.)
4. Attempt to balance the availability of facilities and services with their affordability;
As shown above, the fees charged to For Profit groups differ greatly from the fees and permit requirements imposed upon families. For Profit groups are allowed to use park facilities and grounds for free and are not required to apply for a permit or even give advanced notice. A group of 20, 50 or 100 patrons arriving on a bus seeking access to the park has a much greater impact on staff, resources and other patron’s experiences at the park. The 2015 Fee Proposal regarding For Profit groups allows groups of 11 people or less free access to park grounds and amenities and does not require a permit or advanced notice. The average family size is 3.14 people according to the US 2010 Census: (http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf) Even though the average family size is 3 people, families are expected to pay $100 for 2 hours of access to park grounds and also apply for a permit that takes up to 5 days to acquire.
Photographers do not solicit business from the Parks and have no cost impact on the Park Authority. However, photographers are charged the highest permit rate of $100 for two hours access.
The cost of the $100 fee would also make the availability of the parks a strain and possibly out of reach for low income families. This is not a fair balance of services provided to patrons and affordability across for profit groups is inconsistent.
5. Reflect the principle that, where feasible, comparatively small and regular fee increases are preferred over less frequent, larger increases;
6. Allow the Park Authority, where feasible, to build reserves to fund capitalized repair and maintenance of Park Revenue Fund facilities.
300.7 – 300.8
Current fee structure places a disproportionate financial burden on photographers and low-income families.
2013 DC Area Retail Photographer Survey
346 Portrait Photographers in Maryland, DC or Virginia completed the survey.
Portrait Photographer’s Income
– 52% of the respondents reported that their business gross for the previous year was below $30,000. This is despite living in the richest area of the country.
– Despite 41% of the respondents relying completely on their income as their only employment, the majority (52%) reports a salary from their business of $20,000 or less. This is significant considering the average a family of four needs for basic costs of living is $88,000 and less than the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s numbers of a median salary of $28,490. This indicates that the majority of portrait photographers responding have businesses that are in peril and, if the trend continues, will not be sustainable into the future.
– 88% of the respondents aim to take 10 clients (sessions) a month or less (120 a year). To achieve a $20,000 in salary and $30,000 in gross business income the average these portrait photographers are earning per client falls below $300.
– Only 8% of the respondents reported making a salary that near or above $88,000 (the basic cost of living for a family of four), yet 60% reports making more this year than the previous year.
Due to portrait photographers grossing on average less than $300 per portrait session, the fee for family photography in Fairfax County public parks will invidably be passed along to families who want to have their pictures taken at their local parks.
Pamela Lepold Photography