A signed general photo release from your subject will allow you to use the person's likeness for commercial purposes, like marketing and advertising. Although getting a photo release is not necessary in every instance, getting one signed can save you a lot of legal complications down the line.
Template for General Photo Release
Click the image below for a standard photo release form. Use this template with subjects who are of full age (adults) to get their consent to use their image for commercial purposes. Refer to these helpful tips if you need help with downloading this template.
When a Release Form Is Needed
Want to use the photographs you have taken of this person to advertise your work? Are you using the photo for any kind of advertising, promotion, or publicity, either for yourself or a third party? Are you planning on selling the image for commercial uses or even as stock photography? Are you entering the photo into a contest where they may use it commercially, for instance, to advertise a product or even the very contest itself?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you definitely want to ask your subject to sign a photo release form.
Who Should Sign It?
Any person who may be identifiable in the photograph must sign a photo release. Considering there are many ways of identifying a person, not just facial features, it is recommendable to get a photo release signed from your photography subject even if only a fraction of the person is portrayed in the photo.
Seasoned photographers get signed photo releases from most of their subjects even if they are not planning to use the images commercially at the moment. Getting a general photo release signed by the subject gives the photographer much more freedom to use the image, not only for art and editorial purposes, but also commercially at some point in the future. You may not have a commercial purpose for an image right now, but you might down the line and you don't want to have to pass on an opportunity because you are not prepared.
Customizing the Template
The photo release template provided here can be customized to meet the needs of the photographer and the subject. Some examples include:
- Personalize the template to include the photographer's name, or both the photographer's name and his/her studio's name. This way, both the photographer and the studio are allowed to use the image commercially.
- Customize the template to extend the rights to third parties. For instance, if the photographer sells the photo to another company, then the acquiring company retains the usage rights.
- Include consideration, value, or payment of some sort to the subject in exchange for the photo release. In many cases, offering value or consideration (whether monetary or otherwise) can enforce the legal value of the photo release.
You can customize the photo release template to better suit your needs, but try to follow the basic guidelines offered. When in doubt, consider legal consultation.
Storing the Photo Release Form
It is recommended to store each photo release, with the proofs of the images for which it has been granted, for as long as possible. The actual document and the proofs must be filed in your photography records and it is recommended you keep a digital copy of both in the cloud.
It is likely you will need to present a copy of the photo release every time you make a commercial transaction with the image. It is also possible that years after a transaction has been made, an issue may arise. Keep your records in order, easily accessible, and safe.
A Good Practice
There are a variety of photo release forms that can be used for different subjects, such as children, property, and buildings. Of course, commissioned work for commercial photography will certainly require you to have a dedicated photo release. However, a general photo release is a good place to start when taking photographs of people that could potentially be used for commercial purposes. It is a safe practice and easy to do when you have a template to follow.