Model Release Form

What is a model release form?

A model release form is a business agreement between a model (the subject of the photograph), the photographer, and the owner of the photograph. It grants the owner the express permission to use both the model’s image and the photographers work. Typically such release forms work by having the model sign over any rights to the image. They usually outline compensation for both the model and/or the photographer depending on the specific context.

Anytime someone’s image or likeness will be recognizable in a photograph, a model release form should be used. This includes any identifiable feature like a famous profile, birthmark, tattoo, etc. This likeness is owned by the individual unless expressly granted to the owner of the photograph in a written model release form. Therefore, this is an essential document for anyone intending to work in photography with human models – even if they are just people who happen to appear in your photography and not a professional model or actor.

Why should you use a model release form?

There is no better way to protect against issues that may arise after the photo shoot than with a model release form. Liabilities and exposures to civil lawsuits can be minimized or curtailed altogether by having models sign a form that covers all applicable issues prior to using their work.  If at any future time you want to license the work, this release form will also provide protection, so all model release forms should be saved. Make sure to include sections that address the following:

  • Have the model sign over all copyrights to the owner along with the right to reproduce.
  • Have the model grant permission for any all changes to their appearance (retouching, changing the color of their hair, etc.) that may be necessary one day though not apparent at the time of shooting.
  • Have the model agree to not prosecute or initiate proceedings against the new owner for anything their image is used to promote or advertise.

What can happen if you don’t use a model release form?

The world of working with professional, and even amateur models, is complex and thick with contract law. There are all kinds of civil exposures a business, group, or organization that uses a model’s image who hasn’t signed a model release form risks. In many cases, models are represented by agents who know contract law well and will not hesitate to seize an opportunity to litigate for their model if so inclined. With the high number of professional models willing to sign a model release form, there is simply no reason to risk exposure by seeking model talent elsewhere.

Model Release Form
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