10 Tips for Model Releases

Photographers often include people in their images. The general rule is if you publish those photos in a commercial manner, you need a model release. The release is proof that you have permission to use the person’s likeness to gain some commercial benefit. Without it, you run the risk of getting sued.

Following are 10 tips for model releases:

You don’t need a model release if the photo is used editorially, which includes news items, textbooks, public interest. You definitely need it for advertising uses. Since uses can fall between those two extremes, it’s safer to have a release than not.

Draft the release to be as broad as possible so that you can use the photo for any future need that arises without having to go back to the model.

Photograph the model signing the release and/or make a photograph of his driver’s license to file with the release as proof that the model himself signed it.

If you are photographing a minor (under 18, or 21 in some states), have the parent or the legal guardian sign the release. Get both parents signature if you can.

Get the release before the shoot so you don’t waste your time photographing the model if she is not going to agree to it.

File copies of the releases off-site in case the originals are destroyed.

While many states do not require consideration/payment for the release, some do. It doesn’t hurt to include it. Make sure that then consideration is fair so that a court won’t find your release invalid.

If the person is not identifiable in the photograph, you don’t need a release. Sometimes, however, a person can be recognized even when you can’t see his face.

Just because a person consents to have her photo taken does not give you the right to use the image in any way you want.

Get the model release in writing, even from friends and family.

In sum, it never hurts, and can only help, to get a release.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Check Photo Attorney on Lynda.com, in the Lynda.com Article Center, and on Twitter!

Leave a Reply