Lakewood Mayor Ray Coles responds to your ‘Ask The Mayor’ questions: I Need a Permit for Photography?

The following is an ‘Ask The Mayor’ question submitted to TLS, and the Mayor’s response. Email your questions for the Mayor to [email protected].


Dear Mr. Mayor,

I am a photographer based in Lakewood, New Jersey. Recently, I was conducting a photoshoot at Lake Shenandoah Park when a park ranger approached me and asked if I had a permit to take photos in the park. This was the first time I had heard about the requirement for a permit, and as such, I did not have one. Consequently, the park ranger instructed me and my clients to leave the park.

This situation was highly inconvenient. My clients had scheduled their shoot weeks in advance, made special arrangements to be there, and prepared extensively for the session. Being asked to leave was a significant disappointment for them and disrupted my work.

I understand that public parks are intended for public use. Therefore, I question the necessity of a permit for photography. How is using a camera any different from having a picnic in the park? The permit, which includes insurance, costs over $300 per year, which seems excessive and bureaucratic.

I would appreciate any assistance you can provide in reconsidering this permit requirement, which imposes a financial burden on photographers. If there is anything you can do to eliminate this costly and, in my view, unnecessary regulation, I would be grateful.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our community.


A Frustrated Photographer

Response from Mayor Coles:

Good morning.

Shenandoah Park is a county facility. We checked with county administrator Mike Fiure and he responded that the county does require a permit for any commercial photographer.

I disagree with this and we will ask them to rescind the rule.




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  1. @frusrater photographer
    Send an email to your county commissioners. They are elected officials and you are their constituent.

    Also, remember – it’s important to vote. Elected officials will quicker make changes if they feel your vote counts.

  2. While I disagree that the permit should be necessary, comparing your use of a public park for business with taxpayers use of a public park for a picnic isn’t mathing. Your use of it is so you don’t have to take on the expense of buying or renting a property to be able to photograph people. Their use of it is to take advantage of what their tax dollars pay for. Maybe if the permit was a similar fee to what a property would cost you to rent then the permit would make sense but to treat it as a free site and then complain when you got caught not following the rules is very much a you problem.

  3. While is seems like a bad idea to require permits, photo shoots can get way out of hand and disrupt normal people enjoying the park in peace. Mayor Coles, how would families deal with a large professional photoshoot when they just want to have a nice time in the park with their kids? I have seen this in other parks and it is a nuisance – being asked to stay out of a shot, to be quiet, to keep the kids from running around the view of the camera…

  4. I had this experience, except that I wasn’t even there with a professional photographer! My niece has a nice camera that she wanted to practice with. The park ranger said you can use your phone and that’s it.

  5. can we do something about the state police that sit along the 9 every sunday morning pulling over anyone that looks like they may be touching a phone

    it has nothing to do with teaching people to drive safer, it is easy money for them

    • No, it has everything to make it safer. Just last week a car crossed a center line in Jackson killing two innocent people in a head on accident. The cause? Distracted driving while the person was on the phone. The slick move to hold the phone down while driving so no one can see is why these people are probably getting pulled over.

    • Who cares WHY they do it? The fact is that holding a phone while driving is dangerously, and the amount of people in Lakewood driving while on their phones is completely ridiculous. You should be happy about this.

  6. Notice how its a commercial photography permit required.
    I think you can easily say its for a friend and they cannot have issues with it. If I take out my phone photograph the lake in the park that doesn’t require a permit. Same to me taking pictures of a friend at said lake.

    • “You can easily say it’s for a friend.”
      We pride ourselves on being the “Ihr HaTorah” yet it seems we’re so comfortable lying or suggesting others lie.
      It’s pretty standard practice to charge a professional photographer a permit fee to shoot at parks.
      How can a Frum Yid suggest to another Frum Yid that stated, “the park ranger instructed me & MY CLIENTS to leave the park.” to outright lie?
      It’s all over America so it’s certainly not a special burden exclusive to Lakewood photographers or specific to Yidden in any way.
      There are so many tsaros going on in the world. In Lakewood, in America & especially in Eretz Yisroel. I’m not a Navi nor do I have “Daas Torah” but perhaps these tsaros are not due to Bitul Torah or being late for Davening or not reciting enough Tehillim (all things we need to be doing) but maybe Hashem is trying to tell us to return to the days of “Erhlichkeit” “Menschlichkeit” & “Yashrus” in how we deal with people Yidden or not. Perhaps this explosion of Antisemitism is somewhat caused by how we treat others.
      I’m trying to imagine a professional photographer doing a photoshoot of Reb Aharon, Reb Moshe & Reb Yaakov for a large project & telling them, “If the park ranger asks tell him we’re just a few friends taking a few casual pictures.”

  7. This is nothing new , county parks require permits to do photographic shoots . As a professional photographer if you are working as a professional without insurance that is not a very wise decision and you are taking a risk legally . I say this because of my first hand experience as a professional photographer for over 30 years .

    • Please elaborate Steve. What is the definition of professional? My daughter has an expensive camera, is she professional? Is it someone who has a few jobs every day? Is it if the photos are if a family dressed up for the occasion? Please explain

      • The letter writer states “my Client had scheduled their shoot weeks in advance” , so clearly this was not just a family member taking photos , and also stated “I am a Photographer based in Lakewood ” so I would say their was a fee involved for the services of capturing images for the “client” As far as the definition goes as to “professional” if you are deriving even a small portion of your income and just part time you would technically fall under being professional , but as far as the rules for county parks go if you are there on their premises working for a client that falls under Commercial photography and a permit is required ,if you are in business ( even part time) it is your obligation to abide the rules even if you disagree with them and yes to also carry insurance .

  8. Happens to be the park ranger by Shenandoah is a creep and has some sort of complex. Makes him feel big apparently to harass park goers with interrogations and accusations and quoting obscure rules. Very officious and rude, have experienced this myself and wasn’t surprised when I heard the same from two other people. I can say from my experience, the ranger was very aggressive, harsh and rude and only after I answered all of his direct and personal questions (in a calm and polite manner) did he actually back down and begrudgingly admit there was no wrongdoing on my part. Not pleasant at all. The guy single-handedly ruins the experience, and I for one stopped going there specifically because of him.

    • Thanks , having been a wedding ,social event photographer for 30+ years , we see things like this lately more often when the newer generation of photographers get into the business and are still not only learning the craft itself but also all the other elements of doing business! Proud to say I am A past President of The Professional Photographers of New Jersey , a Professional Photographer of America Master Craftsmen Photographer & Life Member

  9. I am shocked that Mr. Coles disagrees with the requirement that commercial use of the public areas are by permit only. As Mr. Coles is certainly aware, there are very logical reasons for these requirements and in fact, some of our local parks have signage to this effect. (“Use of this baseball field is by permit only”)

    If the park were available for unlimited commercial use it would ruin the experience for everyone. There would be a dozen photo shoots,, filming of action movies, food stands all over the place, street performers and acrobatic shows at each playground, etc. Is that what we really want?

  10. I remeber when I got married almost 33 years ago we had some photos taken at Holmdel Park and a permit was required even back then. These types of permits are a must to keep cost down for tax payers and maintain the beauty of the park.

    As for the bashing of the ranger(s), stop and think of what they probably go through every single day to try and keep some peacefulness in the park so others can enjoy the surrounding. Unruling teenagers, people disregarding the rules because they feel it doesnt apply to them (happens every where), like the other article writen talking about riding their segways. It maybe the safest place for you to ride your segway but maybe not for the other patrons in the park.

    Could the rangers approach people in a more professional manner as to not offend, I’m sure they could! The rules I am sure are also written in black and white as you enter the park and as Steve mentioned if you are a “professional photographer” you should knows these rules.


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