People who follow me online know that I’m – how do I put this? – blunt? I get to the point and I don’t mince words. So let me just say this – I hate model releases. I’ve always thought they sucked, and have long categorized them as a burdensome, distracting and unwieldy part of doing business, though incredibly necessary. If you don’t get a model release from a portrait shoot, you should have just stayed home. Why? Because you won’t be able to use the photos for any purpose beyond delivering them to the model. So back in the day, I grudgingly whipped out the paper forms, got the model’s signature, and filed the release away in a massive network of filing cabinets back at my studio. It’s an archaic system that has been around since the hunting and gathering days. Today a new day is dawning with the recent arrival of the Top Model Release app for IOS devices. My verdict? It’s easily the best model release app for the iPhone, period.
Created by photographer (and occasional Photofocus contributor) Catherine Hall, the app lets you create, edit and process model releases right on your phone. It’s so slick and easy the whole process takes just a few minutes. I no longer have to worry about losing rapport with clients while I ask them to examine a multi-page legal document, and the release can be emailed right from my phone to both the client and myself, for record keeping and backup purposes. Even better, the clients think it’s fun to interact with the phone instead of pen and paper. And these days, pulling out paper and a pen just seems so old-school, even for someone my age.
I should also note that Catherine took the brilliant step of consulting with an attorney to develop the app. If you live outside of the United States you may need to consult with additional legal counsel to make sure the app meets your needs, but if you’re in the USA you’re covered.
It doesn’t matter if you shoot pets, architecture, cars or high school sports, it works for any modeling situation because you can create your own custom releases if you don’t like the pre-loaded releases. The template releases which are built-in cover most situations, i.e., Adult, Minor, and Property (pets are property, by the way.) If you’re shooting a group of kids and need a release from each one, you can take a picture with your phone and embed it in the release so you know who is who after the shoot – it’s simply amazing.
I’ll note that there are some negative reviews on the iTunes Store (mostly posted by Catherine’s competitors) saying this is a flawed app because the iPad version is still in the works. I disagree. I don’t like carrying anything to a shoot I don’t need to and would much rather carry my phone than an iPad any day. But for those who like to use an iPad there’s nothing to worry about. Those who buy the iPhone version will get a free iPad version upgrade when it arrives this summer. The iPhone version actually works just fine on the iPad now, but it’s not a native app so it’s lower resolution but still 100 percent functional. There’s no Android version right now either. The only other minor fault – which is directed towards Apple and not the app itself – is Top Model Release uses Apple’s iCloud technology, so any release you create on your phone will show up on your iPad. However, you sometimes have to wait for the release info to sync to the cloud, which could take up to 30 minutes or longer. Again, this is an Apple issue, not an issue with the app itself, but users should be aware that syncing isn’t always simultaneous. (Come on Apple let’s speed up this cloud thingy.)
If you photograph professionally or ever hope that you will be able to sell your photos, and you use models of any kind, you can’t afford not to have this app. It has made my entire workflow so much faster, easier. Highly recommended.