Model Release Forms: The What, When and How

October 20, 2010 · 18 comments

in Tips & Tricks

If you photograph a lot of people and well-known landmarks, then the topic of model release forms would often come up. There’s often confusion about when you would need one and what it should entail. I’ve decided to speak with a few friends in law and photography and hopefully this article clears the confusion over model release forms.

What is a model release form?

In a nutshell, model release form is simply a legal document giving you the permission to use the photo for commercial use. The photo would usually feature an identifiable person or well-known landmark. A photographer would usually give out the model release form to be signed in order to receive consent. Types of forms include:

  • Adult release (person over 18 years old)
  • Minor release (usually a person under 18 years old, to be signed by a parent or legal guardian)
  • Group release
  • Property release (usually for private property or photographs taken within buildings that require permission from the owners)


When do I need one?

You would need to have a signed model release form when you plan to use the image for commercial purposes or monetary gain. For example:

  • marketing brochures
  • posters
  • ads
  • greeting cards
  • postcards
  • endorsement of a product
  • photo will be taken out of context

When don’t I need one?

If you’re not making a personal monetary gain, then surprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form. You don’t need one when:

  • the face or property is blurred and you can’t recognize or identify it
  • you submit it to a newspaper or magazine for a news article
  • it’s for an art exhibit
  • it’s for personal use

How should I get the person to sign it?

When you’re unsure, it’s probably best to hand out a model release form. The easiest way is to approach the person after you’ve snapped up the photo. Explain how it might be used and show them the photo. Keep the conversation short, sweet and simple.

If it’s a private building, you will need to contact the person beforehand. Keep this in mind as it takes time for someone to get back to you, so you might not be able to shoot on the day.

What should I include in a model release form?

A lot of people would be hesitant to sign legal documents so keep the model release form short and free of jargon. It should have:

  • Your full name and company
  • Your contact details
  • What you want to use the image/s for
  • Who might be the audience
  • When and where the image will be used
  • How long you will need the permission for
  • The model’s details (full name, address, date and signature)

Search for “model release form” online and there would be lots of examples and free templates too.

Do you have any other tips to add?

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

  • Norris

    It’s alright. You should example of Models release forms.

  • Norris

    It’s alright. You should example of Models release forms.

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Where you say “If you’re not making a personal monetary gain, then surprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form.” don’t you mean “If you are making a personal monetary gain, then surprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form”.

    Every day all over the world me and thousands of other photographers get our photos of people in public places printed in the press and we certainly get paid!

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Where you say “If you’re not making a personal monetary gain, then surprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form.” don’t you mean “If you are making a personal monetary gain, then surprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form”.

    Every day all over the world me and thousands of other photographers get our photos of people in public places printed in the press and we certainly get paid!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Hi Norris,

    This was pointed out under: “What should I include in a model release form?”

    Usually a model release form is simply a form stating some conditions of the contract, nothing too fancy. If you do a Google search, you can come up with a range of comprehensive examples.

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Hi Norris,

    This was pointed out under: “What should I include in a model release form?”

    Usually a model release form is simply a form stating some conditions of the contract, nothing too fancy. If you do a Google search, you can come up with a range of comprehensive examples.

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Hi Scott,

    I meant in general if you’re not making money off it, then there’s no need for the form. I went on to expand that there are exceptions like for an art exhibit, submitting for the newspaper etc, where there might be monetary incentives.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Hi Scott,

    I meant in general if you’re not making money off it, then there’s no need for the form. I went on to expand that there are exceptions like for an art exhibit, submitting for the newspaper etc, where there might be monetary incentives.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Cheers

    Yi

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Hi Yi

    So you probably mean:

    “If you’re not making a personal monetary gain, then UNsurprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form. You ALSO don’t need one when:”

    It’s hard work getting photos and we don’t want people to be surprised if there’s no release requested! I’d spend all day filling forms as I walk down the street :-)

    Cheers

    Scott

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Hi Yi

    So you probably mean:

    “If you’re not making a personal monetary gain, then UNsurprisingly, there’s no need for a model release form. You ALSO don’t need one when:”

    It’s hard work getting photos and we don’t want people to be surprised if there’s no release requested! I’d spend all day filling forms as I walk down the street :-)

    Cheers

    Scott

  • http://twitter.com/mybellavita Cherrye Moore

    Wow, I just typed out a long comment and then it deleted it when I entered my name. Let me see if I can remember what I’d said … ;-)

    Lately I’ve been thinking about this with my website/blog and wondering if I needed something like a model release form when I photograph people. How do these rules apply to blogs and websites?

    Another issue I have, which may be because I am in southern Italy and don’t want to get yelled at in a local dialect, is whether I should just point and shoot or whether I should ask permission before I take someone’s photograph. It seems a little rude to me to just take their picture without asking, but at the same time, I’d imagine if you do ask, they’d get nervous and your pictures would lose some of that authentic feel.

    What do you think?

  • http://twitter.com/mybellavita Cherrye Moore

    Wow, I just typed out a long comment and then it deleted it when I entered my name. Let me see if I can remember what I’d said … ;-)

    Lately I’ve been thinking about this with my website/blog and wondering if I needed something like a model release form when I photograph people. How do these rules apply to blogs and websites?

    Another issue I have, which may be because I am in southern Italy and don’t want to get yelled at in a local dialect, is whether I should just point and shoot or whether I should ask permission before I take someone’s photograph. It seems a little rude to me to just take their picture without asking, but at the same time, I’d imagine if you do ask, they’d get nervous and your pictures would lose some of that authentic feel.

    What do you think?

  • Jenconnelly1

    What about if I was paid to do child portraits, and would like to use the photos on my website/blog/facebook? Thanks!

  • Jenconnelly1

    What about if I was paid to do child portraits, and would like to use the photos on my website/blog/facebook? Thanks!

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Yi can probably help elsewhere but you can’t in the UK. A right to privacy for family type photography exists in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, this right will not be infringed if the subjects gives permission to the photographer to use the images elsewhere. You need it in writing in your contract.

  • http://blog.allablur.co.uk Scott H. / Allablur

    Yi can probably help elsewhere but you can’t in the UK. A right to privacy for family type photography exists in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, this right will not be infringed if the subjects gives permission to the photographer to use the images elsewhere. You need it in writing in your contract.

  • http://www.twttier.com/yiiee Yi

    Jenny: You would need a model release form for the children, signed by the guardian/parent. Best to also specify how you would be using the photos as well.

    Scott: Thanks for the heads up on that! :)

  • Carlos Herrera

    Hi Norris

    I was trying to know if were can i find the model release forms I am trying to do something fun and meet new people so yea I can edit picture pretty nice and professionally i love taking picture’s and so i am trying to take some good pictures. Can you get back to me whenever you can? Oh and thats me with the hat on.

    Cheers

    Carlos

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