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

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