Newlyweds eye photo finish in scenic fee for all

Pia Akerman
The Australian
December 28, 2013

(c) News Ltd (The Australian) 2013

When the wedding bells ring, so do the cash registers.

Nothing comes cheap on that special day, but a push by councils and park managers to claim hundreds of dollars in fees for scenic backdrops is causing angst for wedding photographers and prospective newlyweds.

In tropical far north Queensland Cairns Regional Council has launched a crackdown, sending letters to repeat-offender wedding photographers who have been spotted snapping couples on the city’s esplanade without paying a $278 annual access permit. Usually it’s the happy couple that foots the bill with photographers factoring an access fee into their costs.  For many the price is an unwelcome extra burden to an already expensive occasion.

Sydney wedding photographer Wayne Hou said the $242 weekend fee for photos in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain prompted some of his clients to look elsewhere. “Some people say ‘forget it’,” he said. “To be honest, for the Domain I think it’s a little too much. Everywhere is charging more for photos.”

Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens charges a $170 fee for wedding photos, making the city’s laneways and tramstops a popular alternative choice for couples trying to capture a memorable shot.

Photos in Sydney’s Centennial Parklands cost $200, with the same amount charged for bridal photography in the harbourside parks of Woollahra Council.

Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane councils do not charge fees for wedding photography on their sites while the City of Perth said a $75 fee was motivated by keeping track of bridal party movements. “We don’t want all the brides turning up in the same place,” a spokesman said.

Australian Institute of Professional Photography executive officer Peter Myers said that council fees were becoming more common and sometimes appeared unjustified. “If the site is in need of maintenance or protection, then it’s quite a legitimate expense to charge for it, provided the money is being used for security or maintenance,” he said. “Most professional photographers would be happy to pay that, but if it’s simply ‘if you want to stand on our beach, pay a fee’, then it does seem to be unjustifiable.”

Cairns council chief executive Peter Tabulo said the permit ensured that public areas were appropriately managed and the council could track their use. “Public areas such as the Esplanade have been established for the enjoyment of residents and visitors as a place to recreate and relax, not for commercial gain by any individual,” Mr Tabulo said.