Today’s audience question comes from Julie Pacini…
“Hi Scott, how do you get permission to take someone’s photo, or to use the photo once it is taken? Do I have to get permission from all of the people in the photo? How does that work, if you are going to use the photo either selling it or making it into cards, for example, or use it on a mouse pad, just some examples to help answer the question.”
Thanks for the question Julie. Let me preface my answer by saying I am not a licensed attorney so I cannot give you any legal advice. I in fact suggest you check with an attorney before you make any decisions here. But I can tell you what I do and how I deal with this situation.
Unless I plan to use a person’s photo in a commercial advertising manner, I don’t ask for permission. If I planned to make and sell products such as mouse pads with your face on them, I’d need your permission in the form of a model release. You (and everyone else) have your own “right of publicity.” So I can’t use your likeness in a commercial manner without your permission.
To specifically answer your question – the way I get permission is simple. I just ask :)
I have model releases with me at all times. They are very short. Here it is:
MODEL RELEASE: In return for one 8×10″ print of one image of THE CLIENT, THE CLIENT hereby assigns and grants “YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE” and its legal representatives the irrevocable and unrestricted right to use and publish photographs of THE CLIENT or in which THE CLIENT may be included, for editorial, trade, advertising or any other purpose and in any manner and medium; to alter the same without restriction; and to copyright the same. THE CLIENT hereby releases YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE and its legal representatives and assigns from all claims and liability relating to said photographs. It is agreed that YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE may display and use the photographs taken for advertising, display, website and internet promotion, photographic contests, public display such as in malls, photography books, photography instructional books, store fronts, window displays, studio display, television advertising, magazine advertising and any other purpose thought proper by “YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE”.
If I think that a photo has commercial viability, I simply ask the subject if they would mind signing a release and I offer them an 8×10 print in exchange, which I promptly mail to them first thing when I return to my office.
In more than 30 years of making photos, nobody has ever turned me down.
Now I don’t ask for permission or a release, if I just plan to use the photo for instruction, education or demonstration. I also don’t ask for permission or a release if it’s news or fine art. Under those circumstances, I just fire away.
One thing to think about is the difference between having the LEGAL right to make a photo and whether or not common sense says not to. I know that in general, I have the right to make photos at the airport (except for the security areas.) But I don’t because most of the badge-heavy cops at the airport will hassle me, even though I am within my rights. I don’t make photos of little children at the playground, even though I am within my rights – because their parents may decide that I am a danger to their children and take action against me.
This is a complex subject and can’t be covered in-depth in a blog post, but in general, the rules are simple. Not an ad or a commercial venture? No need to ask – but you might want to ask anyway just to be polite. Commercial ventures require permission.
I hope this answers your question and thanks for sending it in.
If you’re reading this and would like your question answered, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Q&A. I can’t answer every question, but I will read them all and try to use them as a source of information upon which to build future blog posts.