PHOTOGRAPHY IN MICHIGAN UNDER THE LATEST EXECUTIVE ORDER – Weddings and portraits

May 24, 2020

I.   Gatherings.  Photographers in Michigan can only photograph outdoor gatherings that are allowed under the current executive order. All social gatherings are now allowed statewide, with a maximum of 10 people total (this includes all vendors, an officiant, etc).

Gatherings over 10 people are not legally allowed at all right now – anywhere. The complication comes with places of worship because the government will not intervene with what those organizations are doing on their own private property if it involves “worship services”. Many religions interpret that to includes weddings. However, the state government maintains that a wedding is a social gathering and those are currently limited to 10 people. So, other than people who are employees or representatives of the place of worship who may be on-site otherwise, no more than 10 people can be present to attend a wedding currently regardless of where it takes place. Same with funerals.

II.  How does this impact photographers? If the ceremony takes place indoors, you are not allowed to photograph that or any other part of the day which takes place indoors. You could shoot any part of the day that takes place outside, as long as it involves no more than 10 people together at any given time. So portrait sessions before or after would be fine outside with the couple, their parents, or a bridal party under 10 people total. No large family photos, and no reception photography at all indoors, and none outdoors involving more than 10 people total (including you).

We are likely to see the allowances as to numbers increase slightly in the coming weeks, but you should not assume that a certain number (especially larger numbers) will be allowed by any particular deadline, or that we will be allowed to shoot indoors anytime soon. That can all change of course, but the restrictions are being lifted very gradually so far.

III.  Studios.  There has been a lot of talk about whether indoor studios are allowed to open. As of Thursday, the answer is firmly no from the governor’s office (I asked about this specifically). No indoor photography is allowed at all. And regardless of what spin anyone tries to put on it, photography studios are NOT retail establishments, even if you do some IPS or if that is the structure of your packages. You are hired for a service you provide, not as the supplies of a retail product. Walmart is a retail store, David’s Bridal is a retail store. Their primary function is selling goods. That is not the primary function of a portrait or boudoir photography studio. Please do not let anyone convince you differently as to this issue. The penalties are high.

IV.  Enforcement.  Do not assume that because one deputy or officer says they “won’t” or “aren’t” enforcing the executive order that you should not follow it. It can be enforced by local, country or state law enforcement, and you never know who you will get as a prosecutor or judge if you take the “I’ll just fight it in court” attitude. That is really not the best business plan.

V.  Violations for shooting in any location or any size event that is currently not allowed are:

  • a $500 fine for operating your business in violation of the law; plus
  • a $1000 misdemeanor for attending a gathering which is not currently allowed in violation of the executive order (all attendees and hosts could be subject to this)
  • Further penalties at the state level from the Michigan Corporations and Securities Division (LARA – Licensing & Regulation)

VI.  Relevant current orders:

2020-96: allowing social gatherings up to 10 people statewide https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MIEOG/2020/05/21/file_attachments/1456636/EO%202020-96%20Emerg%20order%20-%20MI%20Safe%20Start%20-%20re-issue.pdf

2020-100: Extending the stay at home order through June 12, 2020 (other than as specifically allowed or exempted in 2020-96):

CAN PEOPLE CURRENTLY GET MARRIED?

Yes, in two very limited instances: 

  1. Where a ceremony may take place:
    • Inside or on the property of a place of worship (church, synagogue, mosque, etc); and 
    • Inside or on the property of the couple getting married.
  2. Who may attend the wedding:In both of the above locations, the only people allowed to attend the wedding are the following:
    • the couple; 
    • their Officiant;
    • other individuals who actually reside with the couple in their immediate household; and
    • the 2 required witnesses, who must be over 18 years of age and may only be chosen from amongst the following allowed groups: 
      • individuals affiliated with the place of worship and provided as witnesses;
      • individuals who reside with the couple in their immediate household;
      • the couple’s wedding photographers 
    • No other guests are currently allowed as all private and public gatherings outside of the members of an immediate household are currently expressly prohibited.

Restrictions on professional photography at the above permitted weddings:

  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet must be maintained at all times; and
  • Only outdoor photography is current allowed; therefore, professional photographers may only capture those portions of the wedding day which take place outside, whether on the property of the couple or the place of worship.  No indoor photography is currently permitted. (see EO XI-E https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/0,9309,7-387-90499_90705-529860–,00.html)

Wondering what vendors you CAN and CANNOT hire for your wedding?

  1. Professionals who CAN be involved: 
    • Professional photographers may capture those portions of the wedding day which take place outside, whether on the property of the couple or the place of worship.  No indoor photography is currently permitted;
    • Florists, cake makers, food suppliers, and any other vendors who can do deliveries or curbside pickup can deliver the products they are providing, or make them available for curbside pickup outside their locations; and
    • Dress makers or formal wear/menswear shops can only be involved for purposes of delivering or picking up wedding dresses or menswear via curbside delivery.  In person fittings or in person consultations are currently not allowed.    
  2. Professionals who CANNOT be involved in weddings yet: 
    • Dressmakers or formal wear/menswear shops who need to do fittings or in person consultations, as neither is currently permitted;
    • Personal care providers, such as: stylists/hairdressers/barbers/personal groomers; nail salon technicians; tattoo artists; and massage therapists.  This includes any other providers whose services involve being within 6 feet of the customer or client by nature.  

Genevieve DeVries is an on-site, professional photographer.  Based in Plymouth, Michigan, I serve southeast Michigan and the greater Wayne County, Washtenaw County and Oakland County areas, including Plymouth, Canton, Livonia, Westland, Northville, Novi, Farmington/Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Belleville, Whitmore Lake, Saline, Dexter, Salem, South Lyon, Wayne, Garden City, New Hudson, Wixom, Walled Lake, Brighton, Milford, Southfield, West Bloomfield, Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, and beyond .

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