When is a model release required?
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. I AM NOT A LAWYER. DO NOT DEPEND ON THIS.
By Andrew Hudson Published: June 7, 2011 Updated: November 17, 2016
A model release is often required if a person could say: “Hey! That’s me!”
When submitting a photo to a microstock agency, an agency will generally require a model release when:
- A person is pertinent to the image in some way, and;
- A person could conceivably in any way identify themself in the photo.
Model releases for each person in a photo must be dated and witnessed, and a copy submitted with each photo.
When is a Model Release Not Required?
You don’t need a model release when:
- The person cannot be identified in any way, for example, when a general body part such as an arm is shown.
- The person is not a signficant part of the image, for example, when they are part of a general crowd.
- You are using the photo for personal use only, such as in a private photo album.
- The photo is used strictly for fair use purposes such as editorial news stories.
When Do Microstock Agencies Require Model Releases?
Anytime the person is a significant part of the image and can be identified in any way. This includes a silhouette with defining features, a tattoo, their relationship to you. If the person is merely in the photo but is incidental to the photo and not a significant part of the image, then you may be OK without a release.
Here is what iStockphoto says:
The most important things to remember are:
- If the main subject of the image is a person — even if the person’s face is not visible — it will require a model release. Images of people photographed from behind or without their permission or awareness will generally not be acceptable.
- 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.
- A complete model release must be uploaded with each file that requires one.
- If you’re uploading successive shots of the same model, the model release must be included with each image.
- A model release must include the date the shoot took place.
- A valid witness signature must appear on the model release. It must be from a third part — someone other than the photographer or the model/parent.
- If the photo is of the photographer (a self portrait), a model release is still required. A model release for self portraits does not expire; you can have an unlimited date range on your self-portrait model release.
When is a model release always required?
- When the model’s face is visible.
- When unique features are visible (tatoos, scars, custom clothes, etc.).
- When the photo is suggestive or has nudity.
- When the overall situation in the photo (location, events, etc.) would make the subject recognize herself with little difficulty.
- When the model is participating in a professional or semi-professional sport or activity (motor cross, rodeo, basketball, etc.).
When might a model release be needed?
- If the person is the main subject of the photo.
- If the person is a secondary subject, that is still essential to the overall photo.
- If the person in the photo is doing something, most people would rather not see pictures of themselves doing (scratching their privates, slipping on a banana peel, etc.).
A couple of general rules:
- Always submit a release if you can. In the end it makes everything better for everyone involved.
- Don’t be a jerk. If you think the person in your viewfinder wouldn’t sign a release, don’t take their picture with a “creative crop” and sell it as stock.