What is a Model Release and why why do I need one?
If you are a model or just starting in the business you undoubtedly run into model releases. They are not all the same and have an important part to play in the world of photography. We could write entire books on this subject and in fact there are several out there. This page will not make you a lawyer, and it will not cover every part of a model release so if this sparks an interest you should definitely do further research on the subject. (Starting with Wiki for general defintion). But what we do here is give an understanding of the concepts behind what is involved in something so simple as just taking a picture.
So let's start at beginning. You arrive at the studio for your modeling gig and walk into the studio and meet the photographer, assistant, or staff. You may have an agent who handles all of the paperwork but these days it is more likely you show up solo or with a friend to watch your purse while you work. At some point before or after the shoot you will be asked to sign the Modeling Release. This is true whether you are paid or working TFP or even working for free. So why is that?
Well that is pretty simple -- every picture is a work of art, an expression of the photographers eye for all of the elements that form a photograph. And accordingly he owns the copyrights of each and every picture with every snap of the camera. (There are some circumstances where this is not always true but that is for another day). While he may own the pictures of you-- what he does with them becomes the subject of publicity complex law. Does he publish them on the Web, or print, or sell them to a commercial entity. Are they photo news, for the newspaper?
If the answer is the most likely course; that it is for a job where he intends to make money by selling them, then before he can use them, you the model must allow your image to be "released" from its privacy protection under our existing laws. Note: that every country is not the same and shooting in Europe has some different twists but the idea is the same - a recognizable face has privacy rights. So what that piece of paper allows is the agreement in whole or in part as to your allowing the use of your image for the purpose of commercial publishing. So before the photographer can sell the photographs with your recognizable likeness on a stock photography site, commercial ad, or any other deal he must have the model release. In fact these days, the stock sites will require a model release for just about everything if it has a face in it.
In exchange for the release you the model are compensated for the release of your rights. You may think that you are being paid for hours worked on the shoot, or time spent in front of the camera (and that is how we would normally agree to payment rates) but really what we have is a contract where the photographer is buying rights to use the images he owns from the shoot.
So what if the shoot is not for commercial work, but some other event. Well this is not likely for modeling but if you become famous - a star- then you will have legions of picture takers all wanting to sell your embarrassing photo moments (and your privacy goes out the window) to the news organizations and they will not be asking you for that model release. News has it own protection from the privacy laws. Same is true for displays of art.
This is a deep subject with laws, legal opinion and profound impact on the industry so hopefully we have tickled your curiosity to gain further reading on the subject. Online modeling site have forums like OneModelPlace and ModelMayhem. And one of my favorites is Photo.net for Photography of all types. If you have any questions about this page please contact us.