Monday, June 9, 2014

Anatomy Of A Permit

I mention in my book Photography for Writers that some private premises charge photographers to take photos. Such properties are well within their right to do so, and I usually buy a permit because you never know when the photos may come in useful. I recently visited Wells Cathedral, in Somerset, and although I have no current plans to write an article about it, or set a story inside the venue, who knows what ideas may crop up in the future? (And at £3, the price of the permit was extremely reasonable.) So I bought my permit and snapped away.

It’s worth hanging on to the permit after your visit, because the terms of the photographic permit are often printed on the reverse. (Useful when in five years’ time I suddenly remember I have photos of Wells Cathedral, but can’t remember whether I can offer the photos to editors!)

Wells Cathedral make the following conditions:

    1.    This photographic permit authorises the purchaser to take photographs on the date of issue in Wells Cathedral for the purchaser’s own personal use. Photographs may not be taken for publication or commercial gain without additional written permission of the Chapter. WARNING: The Chapter reserves the right to take legal action for infringement of copyright.
    2.    No flash photography in the Quire at any time.
    3.    No photography or video recording within the sanctuary of an altar or in the library.
    4.    No video recording during guided tours.
    5.    No photography or video recording during services or concerts.
    6.    Sound recording equipment in any form other than video camera is prohibited without the prior written consent of the Chapter.

Rules 2 to 6 are straightforward in setting out where and what you can and can’t photograph. Rule 1 is the one that we writers/photographers are interested in. This states that as a permit holder we’re permitted to take photos. Good. However, they’re for our own personal use, not publication or commercial gain.

At first, it may seem a waste of time taking them, if we can’t use them to illustrate our articles. However, we’re entitled to use the photos for personal use, so if I want to set a story inside Wells Cathedral and need photos to remember the interior for descriptive purposes then I can use my personal image library of photos to do this. And there’s nothing stopping me referring to anything inside Wells Cathedral in an article I happen to be writing (and checking my photos to ensure descriptive accuracy).

But all is not lost because the permit says that photographs cannot be taken for publication purposes without additional written permission. So, if I decide I want to write an article about Wells Cathedral and offer the photos I took to an editor for illustrative purposes, then it means I simply have to contact the Cathedral’s Chapter, in writing, and ask permission. I would also supply a copy of the images that I wanted to offer to the publication, so they could see what I wanted to use.

The Cathedral may grant permission at no additional charge (your article could be good publicity for them), or they may then make an additional charge for such use. It’s up to you to make the decision about the economic impact of the charge on your project. (Clearly, you don’t want to pay out more than you may earn from any article.)

But this also raises an important point. If you buy any such permits, always ensure that you keep a copy of them, and record with the relevant photos that a permit was purchased and applies to those photos, because in ten years time you may not remember what the terms and conditions of the permit are … and you wouldn’t want the property owner taking legal action, as this permit warns!

Good luck!