Let me make a scenario for you: A magazine has just released your photographs taken in the local mall. Everything's great, and you've already gotten paid.
Suddenly you get a message from an individual in the photograph. They claim that they are recognisable and never gave consent to be in the photo. The publication has no other choice but to recall their magazines. Everything's a mess.
All of this could have been avoided if you had just used a model release form. Whether you are doing a photoshoot with a model or taking pictures in public, you should always be sure to have documentation for anyone recognisable in your photographs.
You can download your FREE model release form template here and save the trouble of writing it up yourself.
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What is a model release form?
A model release form is a document used for a person to grant permission to the photographer. The photographer is granted permission to use the photographs that include their likeness.
If you are in doubt about whether or not you need one, you probably need one. In general, you should always try to get the signature. It makes sure that no legal trouble will come to haunt you during or after the project.
Why should you use it?
You should use a model release form when taking photographs that include people. Whether it's in a private or a public setting.
You can use the document when photographing a model for a third-party client. It could be for a fashion magazine or a shopping catalogue. If you do not have a release form signed, it leaves you and your client vulnerable.
When taking photographs in a public setting, you could also end up having to use a release form. If a person in a picture is identifiable in any way, you need them to sign a release form.
Identifiable is subject to interpretation, but generally, if they appear with any identifiable features such as tattoos or uniforms, it is always great to be on the safe side.
In general, it is a good idea to use it, even if you are not planning for the photo to be used in a commercial setting. There could come a day where the photograph would be perfect for a project.
How does it work?
A model release form works by getting the signature from the individual that appears in your photograph.
Remember to use a separate form for each person you photograph. You also need a new release form for every project. Even if you are working with a model who has already signed one for a previous photoshoot.
A model release form includes the following:
Date & Location
You will need to confirm several dates in the document. First, you will need to confirm the date the photograph(s) were taken.
Both the model and the witness should state the date of their signatures. Furthermore, the model shall state their date of birth, documenting whether or not they are over 18.
You should also fill out the location of the photographs. In this way, everyone included in the release form process knows what photos are signed off.
You will need the model to release the copyright of the photographs that are taken. This includes every agreement that you have made with the model. Typically they would forfeit the rights of everything included in the photos.
You will also need the model to agree that you have the right to alter the photographs in any way imaginable. In this way, you can edit the pictures in whatever way you deem fit.
Having the individual sign off on the photograph being used in any media and on any platform, present or future, is a great way to cover your bases.
In this way, if a new media or platform appear, you do not need to ask for permission to re-publish it. It is specifically vital when taking pictures for a company. In this way, they do not end up with legal complications.
If the model is being compensated, you should write it directly in the release form. You have to remember to state the currency and the amount of money they are being paid.
Furthermore, it is also a great idea to note if they are not being paid to avoid future complications. This way, a model can't claim they are owed money that was never agreed upon.
You will need the model's signature, documenting that they agree with the statements in the release form. You will need the contact information for the model.
You will also need a signature of a third-party witness, who can confirm that it is signed by the model in the picture.
This witness would typically be someone of the model's choosing to ensure legitimacy. You will also need the contact information of the witness.
If the model is under 18, you will also need the signature of a parent or legal guardian.
I hope this article helped you understand the contents and importance of a model release form.
Now that you've got your legal documents in order, you can focus on your craft. If you want to improve your photography, check our article on Photography 101.
Model Release Form FAQ
How do I make a model release form?
- Date and Location: The date and location of the photoshoot, as well as the date of the signatures.
- Release Clause: What rights the individual forfeits regarding the picture(s)
- Altering rights: Specifically, the rights to alter and edit the photograph in any way you deem necessary.
- Media/Platform: The right to publish it on any present or future media or platform
- Compensation: You should address whether or not the individual is being compensated for the picture. And if so, how much they are being compensated.
- Signatures: You will need signatures from the model, a witness and a legal guardian if the individual is under the age of 18
Do I need a model release form?
Generally speaking, you need a release form whenever you are taking photographs that include people. Even if you are not planning for it to be used commercially. That might change in the future.
How do you ask for a model release?
You simply ask the model to sign off on using the photograph. If they are not content with it, you could alter the release form and find a middle ground. You can also offer them compensation.