A photo release form is also called a photographer release form, photo consent form, or a model release form, and is a form of personal release document. This document clarifies an agreement between a photographer and a model that the photographer owns the images and can use them how he or she chooses, including for publication or personal portfolio samples.
When and How is a Photo Release Form Used?
The photo release form states, with a signature, that a model agrees to allow the photographer to use his or her image for publication, portfolio samples, or other projects. This document can be used for adult models or children (if their parents or guardians sign the document agreeing to the project).
Photo release forms should also be used by press photographers if they plan to publish specific images of individuals, such as at rallies or political events. These bystanders need to know, legally, that their image has been captured and may be used for a specific purpose. While there are some legal exceptions to this, it is best to inform anyone whose image you capture that they could be seen in print or online.
If you plan to publish photos of property that you do not own, especially if the images include business logos or images of specific property items, you should contact the owner of the property or business and have them sign a photo release form before publishing images of their building, home, or business sign. Even if the business owner, home owner, or real estate agent has contacted you regarding these images, you could use them for your portfolio in the future and it is best to outline these details in a photo release form so all parties understand what publication of these images means.
Types of Photo Release Forms:
In general, there are two types of photo release forms: blanket, and limited.
Blanket photo release forms cover you, the photographer, for unlimited rights to use the image as you see fit. Stock photographers often choose this image, as other people pay for the rights to the photo on a limited basis. Press photographers might also choose this type of photo release form as that could cover reprinting rights, and the photo can be republished in print, on a blog, and/or on social media.
Limited release forms specify when and how the image may be used by the photographer. Celebrities and other entertainers are often very careful how their images are distributed to the public, and will not consider a more general photo release form.
Is a Photo Release Form Legally Binding?
Written agreements between consenting adults can be upheld as legally binding in most courts, although you may wish to specify in your photo release form how you plan to use the images so that all parties understand what they are agreeing to.
If a model, property owner, or caregiver of a child model feels that you have misused a photo in a way that damages the individual’s reputation, then they could still take you to court. While the United States would protect your intellectual property rights as a photographer, if you create pornography without consent, child pornography, or explicitly violent images, then you could be sued for libel or slander. You could also face criminal charges.