5. Model and Property Releases

Monday, July 1, 2013 by KeyImageryStocks| 712 Views

All photographs where an identifiable human face is present, as the subject of the image, will usually require a model release, and some buildings and most works of art/sculptures will usually require a property release. There are exceptions however so the following checklist should help you determine whether one is required. All photographs where an identifiable human face is present will usually require a model release, and some buildings and works of art/sculptures will usually require a property release. There are exceptions however so the following checklist should help you determine whether one is required.

Are people identifiable?

In an example of photographing a soccer game at your kids school, we can assume the people are identifiable. This does not mean that you need a release; it just means that we haven't ruled it out yet. Other factors now have to be considered.

Identification isn't enough—it has to be unique. Most people can't really identify one Golden Retriever from another, even though the owner can. The issue for consideration is whether a third-party objective observer could.

Lets assume you have a clearly identifiable person as the subject for your photo. If you established that you do need a release and you don't have one, you will need to follow-up with that person and obtain a signed release.

What is the subject of the photo? 

In the example above, lets say you just shot a general picture of the entire soccer field because there was a great sunset. Although you can still identify some people individually, you do not need a release. It's been successfully argued that if the point of the photo is not a specific person, but a broader scene, then a release is not necessary. Tying a person to a promotion of an idea isn't permitted, and a crowd dilutes the perception that a particular person is tied closely. (If the crowd were a cohesive group—like a particular religious congregation—then there may be case for their making a claim as a group (or their organization can on their behalf).

Where was the photo taken?

One thing about the soccer photo example that's easy to understand is that it was taken on school property. For this example, we're assuming a public school, which makes it public property. The photo does not need a release in this case. But, what about a picture that was taken of kids playing soccer at a private school, or more to the point, in their own backyard? In the case of private property, the question is then, "how did you get the picture?" If you broke into their property and planted a camera, that would be illegal, and you cannot sell the photo to anyone - even to the media - without a release. If you used a long lens from outside their property—even on your own property—you may still be in violation of the law, if you were found to be a 'peeping tom'.

Model Releases in short:

  • All photographs where an identifiable human face is present and they are the subject of the photography will require a model release.
  • If the photograph is of a minor (a child under the age of 18), a model release must be signed by a parent or legal guardian.
  • If the photo is of the photographer (a self portrait), a model release is still required.
  • A model release should be uploaded with each file. If you're uploading successive shots of the same model, the model release should be uploaded with each shot.
  • A valid witness signature must appear on the model release. It must be someone other than the photographer.

Property Releases in short:

  • A property release should be obtained when the image contains identifiable property wherever possible (this isn't just for houses, it could apply to pets, cars and other personal property. The more recognisable and unique the property (and the more the owner's identity might be connected to or determined from the property) the greater the need for a property release.
  • The property release needs to signed by the legal and beneficial owner(s) of the property or their authorised agent.

We have created both Model Release and Property Release forms for you to use. Please: