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What is a Model Release?

The McMurphy Family

When you hire a professional photographer, you will receive a contract covering the terms of your photography session such as booking and payment, cancellation or rescheduling, styling, etc. You will also more than likely be asked to sign a model release. As a client it is important that you know what this release is, and what it isn’t.

A model release is a legal release which gives the photographer permission to publish the image(s) from a photography session in a variety of ways such as for promotion/advertising of a product/service or for a portfolio of sample images. A model release will outline the specific ways in which the photographer intends on using the images – i.e., printed promotional materials; printed portfolio samples; online for social media, website or blog display. The model release also ensures both you and the photographer are both on the same page when it comes to the expectations of the use of the images and helps to eliminate any unknown issues surrounding the publication of the images.

The De La O Family

Who Signs a Model Release?

Adult clients will each sign their own model release. For minors, the parent/guardians will be given a Minor Model Release Clause as well as a Model Release Agreement for the minors.

Flowers - PA

Is a Model Release Required to Take a Photo?

No – a model release is not necessary to take the photo, regardless of who the photo may be of. However, a model release is needed if the photographer plans on publishing the photo and the person in the photo is identifiable (meaning if the photo is of an nondescript hand, it is not necessary – but if there is a unique marking, like a tattoo, that could be used to identify the subject, then it is needed).


Why Are Model Releases Important for You to Look for From a Photographer?

When you hire a professional photographer, you know you are hiring someone who will not only create beautiful images for you but will do so in a legally responsible way. A model release provides appropriate legal protection for you and the photographer. It also shows that the photographer is a credible business owner who cares about their business as much as their care about the protection of the images from your photography session.

Taylor and Sean

What a Model Release Isn’t

A model release does not release ownership/rights (see next section) of the images to the client. A model release does not grant print rights to the client – that is what a print release is for. A model release is not a property release, which is needed when photographing certain physical landmarks/buildings.

Flowers - PA

What is Copyright and Who Owns it For Photos?

This could be a very long article all on its own, but I will keep it brief. The Professional Photographer’s of America define copyright as: “A copyright is the exclusive legal right of creators, or assigned copyright owners, to reproduce, distribute, publicly display, or create derivative works from an original work. A copyright also gives its owner the exclusive right to license those usage rights to others” [1]

In most cases, the photographer owns the copyright to each photograph they take, and the copyright starts the moment the photo is taken and lasts for the duration of the life of the photographer plus 70 years. You, as the client, do not own the rights to the photograph. Some photographers may give you a print release which gives you limited permission to print your images and/or use on social media, but the photographer retains the rights to the images.

Carolyn and Tim

Can a Model Release be Adjusted to Fit My Needs?

Absolutely! If there is specific language in the model release you are uncomfortable with, speak with your photographer to make the appropriate adjustments before you sign it.

I know this is a lot of information, so please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. You can either post your comments or questions below or send me an email.

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