5 Things You Need to Know About Photo Permits

When researching photo locations for your portrait session or wedding day, one of the most important things to find out is whether or not you need a photo permit to have your shoot there. Most city-owned spots and indoor locations do require permits! If a permit is required, it is the client’s responsibility to acquire and pay for the permit ahead of time. If you do not want to risk getting kicked off the grounds in the middle of the shoot—ESPECIALLY IF IT’S YOUR WEDDING DAY—do not move forward with the shoot without a permit. Here are 5 things you need to know about photo permits before submitting your application!

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Going into your portrait session without a photo permit means you accept the risk of getting kicked off the premises by site management

non-exclusive access

When booking a permit, you are paying for permission to use the location for your portraits, but having a permit doesn’t necessarily mean you have reserved the location for your exclusive use. Most locations are still open to the public! There will still be visitors roaming around, and potentially other wedding parties using the location as well! It’s important to keep this in mind, because a popular location with heavy foot traffic may cause some interruptions in your portrait session. If you anticipate that your portrait location will be very busy, allow some buffer time to accommodate any delays.

If you decide to choose a permit-free portrait location, assume that you’ll need extra time to accommodate other wedding parties. Most Photographers are very respectful and try to be patient so everyone has a fair chance to use prime photo spots. Remember—sometimes it’s ok to have by-passers in the background of your wedding photos, but it’s never ok to have another Bride & Groom or wedding party in them! (That is, unless that shot was intentional)

Time slots

When you book a permit, some applications may require you to book a minimum of 90 minutes to 2 hours. Some locations may also require you to select a specific start/end time and check in with the receptionist when you arrive. You should expect indoor locations to be more strict about punctuality. When planning your Wedding Timeline, make sure you’re able to accommodate any time restrictions before booking the photo permit.

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maximum occupancy

Some permits, often indoor locations, may limit the number of people that will be allowed (Usually up to 20 people). If you have a large wedding party, please remember that the occupancy limit includes any vendors that will be on-site with you, including your photographers, videographer, wedding coordinators and their team members.

proof of liability insurance

Some cities and venues may ask for proof of insurance in order to secure a photo permit. It’s a common requirement for the location to require at least $2 million in Commercial General Liability. Your wedding photographer should be insured and be able to provide a Commercial General Liability certificate for your photo permit application. If you’re one of my clients, please contact me and I’ll send it to you!

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rain or shine

Most permits do not provide refunds or postponements for poor weather conditions. If weather is a concern, consider locations that have indoor/covered areas, or rent a stylized studio space. OR, you can choose to embrace the rain and come prepared! Overcast skies have the perfect light for beautiful wedding portraits! Read more about How to Prepare for Rain on your Wedding Day.

Some additional tips:

  • To maximize your portrait time, avoid doing portraits at small parks during peak season
  • Try to choose portrait locations that are close to your venue(s) to minimize travel time
  • Book your photo permit as soon as possible to ensure your choice of location. Bookings usually open about 12 months before your wedding date
  • Apply for park permits from Cities, and contact individual establishments for most building interiors
  • If you’re planning on having your photos taken at a University Campus, it’s a good idea to check if there’s a discount if you and/or your wedding party are Alumni. This is available at all photo locations at the University of Toronto and also York University.

Toronto & GTA Park Photo permits:

The following section includes a few links for general permit information related to city-owned parks. Please note that these are not comprehensive lists, some locations and buildings may be privately managed. Please double-check with site management for the most up-to-date information.

I hope you found these things you need to know about photo permits helpful! If you’re ever unsure about what photo location would work best for you, (especially logistically) contact your wedding photographer and/or wedding coordinator!

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