A model release form is a contract that a photographer and model draw up to regulate their professional relations and define the terms of cooperation during a photoshoot. This type of written agreement has become a standard practice in fashion and corporate photography.
If you feel confused with all the nuances of the model contract for photo shoot, here is a thorough description of everything you need to know.
In most cases, this document states that a photographer is allowed to use the images for marketing purposes, for example, to promote his/her services on various websites, blogs, to include them in his/her portfolio, etc.
To give you a good jump-off point for your business, I have gathered 5 free model release form templates that you can download, adapt to your specific needs and use as many times as you want.
This is a universal photography model release form that can be used for a variety of genres. It contains all the key details and specifies the topics that commonly cause ownership misunderstandings.
This is a wonderful type of model release form covering all the basic notions you need to take care of while working with a great number of people within a short timeframe. Street photographers will undoubtedly appreciate this template.
If you are going to shoot a person, who is under 18, you should obligatorily fill in this model release form. It contains detailed info about a parent or any other empowered person, who will be present at the shooting, so that the whole process corresponds to established rules.
As the name implies, this is a kind of agreement between a wedding shooter and his/her clients. During such a photo session, you need to keep in mind many different things (the duration, rescheduling, emergency issues, cancelation, etc.) and it will be easier to keep a check on all those aspects if they are prescribed in a contract.
If you are working on a project that includes not only the photo but also video content, you need to prepare such a release form. Actually, it would be great if you manage to sing 2 different contracts.
Experience photographers highly recommend drawing up a model release form, as this document can save you from various compensation claims from your models as well as possible liabilities and lawsuits.
I am sure you don’t want to rebut your model’s accusations of privacy invasion or defamation of character in a court, so prepare an appropriate contract in advance.
Some shooters feel OK about verbal authorization from a model but verbal agreements are not legally binding when it comes to copyright.
What evidence are you going to present if a model sues you and claims you used photos without his/her permission?
To be on a safe side, make sure you have discussed all the nuances and specified them in a written form.
There are many things to pay attention to when it comes to filling in a legal document, and a photo release form is no exception. Below you can find the most frequently asked questions related to the topic and straightforward answers to them.
In some countries and states, signing a model release form is required by law, while in other regions it all depends on your personal wishes. Typically, modeling contract for photographers is advisable but not obligatory. I suggest using the image above as a point of reference, to clearly understand whether you need model releases.
The Intended Use of the Picture
If you are hesitant whether you need a model release form for artist, try to answer the question – “How will I use these photos”. Knowing the answer will help you decide.
In most cases, it is required by law to sign a model release form if the pictures will be further used for commercial purposes. This implies earning money from posting them in various printed and online media as well as participating in photo marketing. Such activity calls on creating a model release form.
If you need photos for editorial use (meaning “fair use”), e.g. to publish them in newspapers, educational books, consume materials, as opposed to promoting products and events, you can manage without a contract.
Ability to Identify the Subject
After you have decided on the intended use, you need to understand whether a person in an image is uniquely recognizable and absolutely the subject of a picture. If the answer is “No”, keep relaxed as any model release form is needed.
However, the notion of “uniquely identifiable” has very vague boundaries because there is hardly a person, who can confidently say what constitutes this concept. Besides, a model can be recognized not only by her/his face. There are some other methods to determine the identity. This can be scars, birthmarks, tattoos, a uniform and even a silhouette. So, having a model release is a smart choice because it is better to be safe than sorry.
There is no one-size-fits-all model release form, as such document may include different legal terms, content, the protection level and more. If you feel like creating your own contract from scratch, consider the key elements that famous photographers recommend including in it:
A photographer’s and model’s name, phone, address and signature.
The date of the shoot.
Who the rights are released to. Typically, it is a photographer; however, sometimes it can be a client, an agency or any third-party organization interested in obtaining photos.
The way photos will be used. The model should authorize further image editing and waive any right to monitor/approve the final image and associated ad copy.
Where the photos will be used. You may either go vague meaning “any and all media” or precisely define certain types of media, for instance, digital and printed ads, posters, postcards, etc. I believe it’s better to be specific. Thus, you can be sure that you’ll get a fair payout for how much your images will be showcased.
The duration of the agreement. In general, it is 1-2 years, but you can indicate any suitable period. If you don’t want the photography model release form to have an expiry date, indicate that the terms are irrevocable and can be exercised in an unlimited period of time.
Name, and signature of a witness to the agreement, signature, date of signing.
If you deal with modeling contracts for minors, include the signature of a parent or guardian. Signing a document, a parent/a guardian acknowledges all the terms and conditions, and affirms to be a legal authority to sign on a minor’s behalf.
Remember, that if you create a model release form template yourself, you need a professional lawyer to review it and ensure you have included all the necessary paragraphs.
I think that you should pick a camera and start photographing only after a model has signed a release form. You should also bring several copies of a contract in case your companion makes a mistake. Actually, it would be great to settle things down before a model goes into make-up. If you don’t do it at this moment and he/she refuses to sign a document on the next day, your work and effort will go in vain. I also recommend signing a model release form even in those cases when you don’t initially want to use the photos for commercial purposes. Who knows how things will turn out in the future?
Definitely! Every new photoshoot requires a newly signed release form. Even if you work with one and the same model during several photo sessions, you need legal permission each time to use each new portion of photos.
Unfortunately, yes. In case there arise any misunderstandings and you will have to go to the court to prove your right, you need to present a model release form that corresponds to legal wording rules as well as contain relevant, accurately specified info. If the indicated information is incorrect, your contract is ruled void. So double-check the details model fills in.
Actually, it is impossible to memorize, especially if you are an in-demand photographer, having dozens of shootings a year. The best way out is to attach thumbnails and proofs form the shooting to the release in your files. Therefore, if somebody asks to license an image from you – you will easily find the proper release. To make things even more convenient, you can create a model release form PDF file, which contains the scan of the release and the proofs from the photo session.
Absolutely! Make it your habit. Create an electronic copy and as well as a clear photo/scan of your fully executed model release form. Find a safe place and store backups there. Secure cloud storage like Dropbox or StudioBinder, is a great option. Some shooters fully rely on a scanned release, while discarding the substantive paperwork. Still, the best way out is to keep all copies of every executed contract infinitely.
It depends on how you are going to use these pictures. If the intended use is related to trading and advertising – then yes. Prepare a model contract for photo shoot for each person, who can be recognized in photos, individually.