A model release form is a type of legal document between the photographer and the individual or company who owns the photographed property. The Model Release Agreement is written permission which allows you to publish or use the image on marketing materials, blogs or websites. Sometimes, they can also include the compensation for the photographer or the model depending on the situation.

Model Release Forms

What are model release forms?

Models have the potential to become a master of different things. From walking to posing, hair, and makeup, there’s no limit to what you can do. You can even get to know the business side of the modeling business which is something that remains unknown to a lot of people.

You don’t have to feel intimidated upon hearing all of these responsibilities. Once you’ve gained enough experience in the modeling industry, the business side becomes second nature to you. If this is new to you, one of the first steps to take is to know about model release forms. This is a legal document that’s commonly used in the world of modeling.

A photography model release form is a standard document used between a model and a photographer. It indicates how the photographer will use the photos, and it releases all of the rights over to a company or a client. It also grants permission for the photos to get published. In case where the model is under the age of 18, then the parent or legal guardian of the model should sign the model release form template.

Model Release Agreements

Contents of a modern release form

A model release form isn’t a standard document. This is because they can vary in terms of the legal jargon used, the content, the protection level, and more. For most free model release form templates, you can expect these basic elements:

  • The name of the person who created the form and the date when he created the model release form PDF.
  • The name of the model.
  • The name of the entity who receives the rights to the photos. This is usually the name of the photographer, but it can also be the name of the company who wants to own the photos.
  • A description of how the entity will use the photos.
  • Where the entity will use the photos. This part can be as specific or as vague as possible. However, if the model or the photographer wants to make sure of where the photos will go, he/she can clarify this before signing.
  • How long the agreement will last.
  • Compensation details for the model and/or the photographer.
  • The name and address of the model.
  • The signature of the model and the date when he/she signed the form.

Photography Model Release Forms

Do I need a model release?

If you think that the need for a Model Release Agreement depends on the use and not on the content, you then need to answer some basic questions. First of all, you may ask “Will you use the photo commercially?” If the answer to this is yes, then you need a model release form template. But if the answer to this is no, then you won’t need one, right?

Well, it’s not that simple. When it comes to publications, this doesn’t automatically mean that the person will use the photos commercially. For instance, photos which will appear in trade or consumer publications, educational books or newspapers might not need this form because they’re considered “editorial use” or “fair use.”

Conversely, commercial usage may include catalogs, newsletters, web use, brochures, advertisements, greeting cards, and more. For licensed commercial use, you need to use a free model release form. But what is or isn’t meant for “commercial use” can be a bit confusing.

Let’s assume that you’ve taken a photo or a famous chef and you didn’t let him sign a model release form PDF. Then you have a friend who happens to be the editor of a local newspaper. He pays you for the photo because he needs it in an article which features the restaurant where the chef works.

Since the editor will use the photo as part of the paper’s news story, it’s used for an editorial purpose. Even though he paid you for the photo, this doesn’t automatically make the photo “commercially used.” But if the PR agency of the restaurant wants to make use of the photo you took in one of their ad campaigns, you need to have the release form.

Do you need a model release for street photography?

You don’t need a photography model release form when you’re taking photos from a public place. But it’s always better to err on the side of caution and still obtain the form. Although this isn’t always feasible, it’s still a more appropriate course of action.

What is a photo consent form?

In simple terms, a photo consent form is an agreement or contract between the photographer and his subject, his client, and the person who owns something in the photo. This consent form gives you legal permission to use or publish photos of property and people on online media, printed media, and everything in between.

A photo consent form can be very simple. For instance, one party allows another to publish photos for any reason and for an indefinite period of time. Or the consent form can also have specific details regarding the publication rules. The important thing is that the photo consent form guarantees that there aren’t any grey areas when it comes to using photos.

FAQs about model release forms

A model signs the model release form template to give permission to the photographer or the person who created the release. If you plan to create such a form or use it, here are some FAQs to help you understand them better:

  • Should you sign the form?
    The person who created the form will ask you to sign it before or during the photo shoot when you’re on-location. Sometimes, the person will ask you to sign after the shoot and sometimes before. If you want to make sure where your photos will end up, then it’s best to sign the form. This is especially true if you want to get paid.
  • When should you sign the form?
    Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to sign the form as soon as it’s presented to you. It’s important to read the release form carefully to make sure that all of the terms which you’ve agreed upon are in the document. If you’re not sure about something, ask the person who created the release. Also, never sign the form unless you’re sure that you’ve understood and agreed with everything.
  • Are there any exceptions to the model release form?
    The only exception applies to when you’re photographing in a public location but now when you’re standing in a public venue while taking photos of a person’s home. Even if the people in their homes have left their curtains open, that doesn’t give you the right to take their photos.
  • What can you do if public subjects don’t agree to get photographed?
    If you’re standing in a public place and the subjects don’t want their photos taken, you can still click those photos even without permission. But this only applies to when you’re in a completely public place.
  • What if you want to use the photos for different purposes?
    If you have taken photos in an area which is fully public, then you have the right to use the photos in your portfolio or sell them. If you want to include the photos in a wide-scale commercial event, you should first obtain a commercial release.
  • Does street photography pose any dangers?
    Of course, street photography poses a danger, even if you’re doing this legally. There have been several cases wherein the photographers got assaulted. So, if the subjects decline, even if you know that you have the right to keep on taking photos, it’s best to stop taking shots, especially if you feel that the subjects have a tendency to become violent.

Important things to keep in mind when it comes to model release forms

It’s important to keep your photography model release forms as long as you possibly can. The reason for this is that the forms don’t have a statute of limitations and they don’t run out. Every time you want to use the photos, you need to have the form ready. This will protect you from any issues which might arise in the future.

There are some cases when people feel hesitant when asked to sign the form. This is especially true if the release doesn’t specify when and where you plan to use the photos. If the release form states that you can use the photos for anything, anywhere, and at any time, the subject wouldn’t want to sign.

In such a case, you must respect the decision of the person. You can either find another subject or make the terms of your release more specific. That way, your subject will feel comfortable in signing the agreement, especially if he/she understands and agrees with everything on the document.

TemplateLab March 13th, 2019