3 Steps To Easily Identify When You Need a Release
"Easily identifying the situations you do and don’t need a release can save time, provide better protection and help you generate more revenue from your work"
There’s always that pressing question in your mind, should I get them to sign a release? Easily identifying the situations you do and don’t need a release can save time and help you to generate more revenue from your work. This easy to follow guide will show you the things you need to consider when deciding whether or not to ask your subject to sign a release form.
How will the image be used?
Before we start, lets have a look at the images below, do they require a model release form? The correct answer is it all depends on how the images will be used. Until you know what the images will be used for, e.g. commercial, advertising, stock, editorial or self publishing, there is no way to determine if a release is required. So with this in mind the first step is to ask yourself, how will my image or recording be used? If you are only using the images for personal or editorial use then you don’t need to get a release. However if at some stage you would like to license your work for a commercial purposes, then the publisher will require a release form.
Why? Because of "association" and to protect the licensee publishing the image. When a model or property owner signs a release form they are not only agreeing to when and where the image/recording can be used, they are actually saying that their likeness can be used to promote the publishers product or service. Every time you photograph, film or capture audio of a person, property or location for commercial purposes then you should get a release form signed. The model release form is put in place to protect the publisher, as they will be made liable for any litigation.
Is the model or property identifiable?
If you can't identify the model or property then the short answer is no, you don’t need a release form. However like all things, it's never that straight forward. The easiest way to test this is the objective observer method, would a normal person be able to identify the model or property in your image/recording? There are some situations that you need to be careful with and don't get caught out unaware. Identifying a person in an image does not just come down to their face being visible, there are plenty of other factors that you should be aware of. Silhouettes can still require a release if the person can be identified, identifiable marks such as tattoos, scars and custom clothes can also be used to identify people. Nudity is one area that will highten the the necessity for a release If a model is not identifiable at all but is nude or even partially nude then you should get a release. Locations and the overall situation in the photo can also be used as a way to identify the subject even if you can't see their face. There are thousands of possible scenarios but the lesson here is make sure the person is totally unrecognisable and not the main focus of the image otherwise you should get a release form.
*Note for stock photographers: If you are predominantly a stock photographer then obtaining a release form is even more important, many stock libraries are very strict as to what constitutes a model release. The reason being is that they have to cover every conceivable use and jurisdiction so the bar to clear is raised significantly.
How and where was it captured?
The third and final step is to know how your location will affect the need for a release. Shooting in different environments like public places, homes or studios can influence the necessity for a release, photos taken in a public place allows the most latitude when it comes to selling images without a release. The reason being is that in most countries the law state that you give up your right to privacy in public places, however this does not automatically mean that you can take photos of people in public and sell the images, remember step 1 (use). The only situation where a release would not be needed is for editorial purposes, this is called "fair use." Only editorial publication are allowed to publish photos taken in public of recognisable people and publish without a release.
On the other side of the equation if your taking photos in a private controlled setting like a studio, then it's expected that the model is aware of the photo and has a right to compensation or know how and where the images will be used. A good lesson for any studio photographer, anytime you photograph someone in a studio then you should get a signed release, especially if you are paying them modelling fees.
It's always better getting a release on the shoot then wishing you did after the fact, iRelease has been created to help you obtain releases easily and in any location which allows you to generate more revenue from your work.