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A photo release form, also known as a photo consent form, is a type of legally binding contract that is signed by the photographer and the subject of the photograph which specifies the ways in which the photo can be used and by whom.
It defines the ways in which the client or the photographer can use the photograph in the future, and who retains the rights to it; be it for commercial or other uses, such as for social media self promotion, business or exhibition purposes.
It’s a good idea to use the correct photo release form so that there can be no future confusion if you or the client share the photo, publish it later or make use of it for any commercial purpose. It is wise to use a release form even if you don’t think it’s necessary, particularly if the photography is going to be used for commercial purposes.
There are however a number of different types of photo release forms that you should be aware of so that you can use the correct one in the right situations to avoid problems down the line.
The Different Types of Photographer Release Forms.
There are many different types of release forms that are related to photography.
Photography Copyright Release Form.
This is a form that releases the image’s copyright to the client from the photographer. This means that after it has been signed the photographer has no rights to use the photo in any context while the client has full use of it in any way that they wish.
For photographers this is an agreement that the photo cannot be used in their portfolios, on their websites or anywhere else unless they get the express permission of the client, who is now the holder of all the rights to that image.
Photo Print Release Form.
This is a contract that allows the client to make prints of the photo for their own use while the copyright remains in the hands of the photographer. This means that the client can make as many prints of the image as they wish for their home photo albums or other non commercial uses.
However, the photographer can still use the picture in their own portfolios because they still own the copyright. This allows the photographer to give their client the ability to make copies of the image, which may be what they want, while maintaining rights to the image. The client is not allowed to make changes to image and the photographer can use the image for any future purposes.
Model Release Form.
This is a commonly used type of photo release form which enables the photographer to use the photos of the model for commercial purposes. This would include the photographers online portfolio, future exhibitions or any type of commercial purpose, including photo books, sales of prints and social media marketing.
A model release form can also stipulate certain conditions for future use, which can protect the model and will avoid future disputes. Such a limitation could include the conditions of printing the photo for commercial purposes where the model may, for example, require a percentage fee from any proceeds.
Minor Release Photo Form.
In the United States, and most other countries in the world, anyone under the age of 18 cannot sign a photo release form. In these cases their parents or guardian must sign on their behalf to determine the future ownership of the copyright of the image and the way it will be used. This is common practise in the advertising industry for instance where minors may feature in an advert for children’s clothing. The photographer would require the consent of the minor’s parents to use the photos for commercial purposes.
Property Release Form.
It may come as a surprise but if you are planning to publish or use photos of someone else’s property you will need to have the owner sign a property release form. This applies to a photo of your neighbor’s property, and even their car!
In the United States animals, such as pets, are considered, legally speaking, to be property. This means you will need a property release form to use pictures of someone else’s pets for commercial purposes.
Building Release Form.
Many famous buildings and landmarks will require you to submit a building release form if you wish to use the photos for commercial purposes. It’s always worth checking in advance so that you stay out of legal trouble.
Some iconic landmarks are unlikely to give you permission to use their building’s images for commercial purposes. The Louvre, in Paris, and the Sydney Opera House are two surprising examples of this practise. This is not to say that you can’t put a picture of these places on your social media but they prefer to represent themselves in commercial terms by employing their own private photographers to create calendars and other commercial photography.
Making sure you cover yourself legally will save you time and money in the long run.
When you are taking photographs of various subjects always make sure that you cover yourself legally. This is especially important if you are working as a professional or freelance photographer because a copyright lawsuit could be hugely costly and damage your reputation. It’s always better to be safe and to respect the rights of your subjects and so making use of a variety of release forms will mean that you are safe to operate commercially.
Many photographers have a stack of pre printed forms that they carry around with their camera equipment so that in case a great opportunity arises they are able to quickly deal with the legal aspects of the photo once it is taken!
Although this may sound like a hassle it’s really not a problem if you keep on top of things by being prepared in advance, explain the details of the contracts to your subjects and keep files of previous release agreements. Keeping the legal side of your operations above board will ensure that your workflow is not interrupted and you can continue to work with peace of mind and good relations with your subjects and clients.
Do you use any of the above release forms?