As a professional photographer, I have an amazing amount of paperwork that I need to have done for each one of my clients, whether a single headshot or a large complicated 2 day photoshoot. This doesn’t include the back and forth emails, texts and phone calls.
Part of my paperwork that I include is a Model Release. But what is this Model Release?
A model release form is a legal document between me, the photographer, and the person or the people, that I’m photographing. At the most basic, it’s a formal written document of their permission allowing me to publish their image on my website, blog, and marketing materials. It also releases the model(s) from any form of future compensation made from any images that they appear in.
Okay this sounds good, but do I really need to have my clients sign one each time?
For me, I give my clients a choice, if it’s a personal photoshoot, they have the option of not signing. And I will respect whatever decision they make, and often times will not put the images on my website, blog, and marketing materials. BUT having them sign, will protect me against any possible civil liability lawsuits in the future. The release protects everyone involved, including the clients being photographed. If it’s for a commercial client, they will sign, and they will also have their own too.
If I decide to license any of the images at a later date, then it’s important, but I don’t do this because I like to let my clients know ahead of time. And if I do anything that can be licensed, then I would make the photoshoot just for the sake of this, to sell the images as Royalty Free stock images. So far I have yet to do anything like this, just a personal choice at this point in time.
For certain things like the images I did for The Women’s March in Washington, D.C., I am using these as editorial, like for a newspaper. I was part of UniteWomen and had a Press Pass to take these images.
For these, I had a model release, because I was not only photographing them for their branding, but I wanted to use them on my website. I’m not going to use these as stock images, but if there’s a problem where the images are stolen off of my site, I have further proof that I took them.
Here are some additional links for more information about model releases:
If you’re still unclear, my advise is to find a lawyer, and talk to them about this, as I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even pretend to play one anywhere, even on tv.
It’s complicated and crazy, I know. But who wants to get into anything messy and expensive when we can prevent it with a written document? Then there’s Property Releases, those give me permission to photograph on certain properties, and then whoever signs it, cannot sue or receive any future compensations from images created on said properties. There’s more, but that’s kind of it in a tiny nutshell.
I hope that this post helps clear up the confusion and we can get on with our photoshoots. Thanks!