Simply put, a model release is a permission given to the photographer from the subject to use photos of them. In order to assure the best return for photographs offered for sale through Adobe Stock or any agency, releases are needed.
A model is anyone being photographed
Model releases are important. They are a written agreement between model and the photographer as to how the photographs may be used by the photographer. Anyone in a photograph is a “model” even in a family or editorial setting. Anyone who can be recognized in a photo is a candidate for filling out a release. Even when the face is obscured, if any part of a person in a photo is recognizable, the shape of their ears from behind, for example, getting a release signed is important. It’s better to collect too many releases than not have one when you want to license your photo for a commercial use.
Why get a release signed?
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the question: “Why do I have to bother to get releases? I made the photo. I own the image.” The statement is true. The photographer owns the image. The people in the photograph own the right to privacy. They have to allow images of themselves to be used commercially. I don’t want to get into a big long discussion of what commercial means and the inevitable “What about if I use it for an editorial?” Or, “It’s fine art. I don’t need a release to make art.” Commercial means a photograph is sold for money. Photos without releases are commercially valueless. Nobody will pay for a photo with unreleased subjects in it to use in an ad that appears online or streamed, or broadcast or printed. Why? Because without permission from the person or persons in a photo, a company using the picture is liable to be sued.
You make a photograph of an attractive couple holding beverages in front of a truck with a liquor ad on its side. You contact the company, show them the photo and its ad folks love it. They offer you big bucks to use it. Score! Not so fast. What the company doesn’t know is that the couple are members of a very conservative church that does not condone consuming alcohol. They see the ad online in a major digital publication. They sue the liquor company and you, the photographer. Big problem. Without the releases for each of them, you and the company have no defense. Not knowing that the couple objects to alcoholic drinks is no excuse.
On the other hand, you did get a release from each of them at the time you made the photo. Now the sale is a score. Reality check: The company would not have purchased the rights to use the photo of the couple without your having their releases.
What’s in a release?
There are several sources for model release wording. ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers,) is probably the most widely used. Corbis & Getty release information is basically the same for both of them as they are now one company. When I wrote my first book “Photoshop CS: The Art of Photographing Women,” my publisher updated the model release I provided. It is the one I use today. Every one of the models, as well as makeup artists, assistants and any others in the photographs published in the book, signed releases.
Other photographers ask, quite often, if I would share my model release with them. My answer is always yes. The more of us that use releases the more our subjects will be willing to grant us permission to publish them in our photographs for money. Here is the body copy of my model release: (Feel free to use it if you’d like. There are no warranties that it’s flawless. I recommend you check it with your attorney. You use this release at your own risk. Just saying.)
For value received I do give and grant Kevin Ames, Ames Photographic Illustration, Inc., and their licensees, successors and assigns permission with respect to photographs of me and my property taken at: (List the location, its address, city, state, zip and country.)
(the “Photographs”) to use, publish and distribute in any media, now known or hereafter developed, such Photographs and my name without restrictions as to alterations, distortions or manipulations, individually or in conjunction with other photographs, images or text, and for any purpose whatsoever, in perpetuity and throughout the world, and to copyright such Photographs. I waive the right to inspect or approve the Photographs or the specific uses to which they are applied.
By signing this release I warrant that I am at least 18 years old and not party to a contract that prevents me from entering into this agreement and waive all claims arising out of the use, production or reproduction of the Photographs, including without limitation any claims for libel or invasion of privacy or publicity including without limitation any claim relating to the alteration, distortion or manipulation of the Photographs.
The lead photograph of this post shows the other information that I get from each model and how it’s laid out. The model’s printed name and the date of the shoot along with a line for the model’s signature and a line for a parent’s or guardian’s signature should the model be under 18 years old are the primary blanks. The date is important because it covers all of the photos made that day. The date can be used to prove the model’s age. You can request the model text a photo of their driver’s license, passport or other official identification. Subtract the Id birth date from the one on the release. If the answer is greater than 18, everything is good. Next is the model’s contact information. Most important is the email address and the cell phone. Physical addresses are important although, today, not as important as the other two. Physical addresses change quite often compared to email and cell phone.
More to come
This post kicks off a year-long partnership with Adobe Stock and Photofocus. Our authors will explore the ins and outs of how to monetize video and photography. Model releases are just one part. In the meantime start getting releases. They are valuable. Become an Adobe Stock contributor.