Would You Sign This?

[by Richard Kelly]

Getting the appropriate model releases from our subjects that appear in photographs for commercial use is what a “professional” does as part of the overall practice of business.

The standard  adult release says,
“…They have the irrevocable, perpetual and unrestricted right and permission to take, use, re-use, publish, and republish photographic portraits or pictures of me or in which I may be included, in whole or in part, or composite or distorted in character or form, without restriction as to changes or alterations, in conjunction with my own or a fictitious name, or reproductions thereof in color or otherwise, made through any medium at his/her studios or elsewhere, and in any and all media now or hereafter known, specifically including but not limited to print media and distribution over the internet for illustration, promotion, art, editorial, advertising, trade, or any other purpose whatsoever. “

Would you sign this? I am not sure that I would and yet this is the adult model release that many photographers ask their subjects to sign.

As a professional photographer I have received my fair share of over reaching contracts from clients that, more or less, say the same thing. Contractual language that will save the client from having to re-negotiate additional usage or to limit liability if somehow an image is used other than the original intention. Limiting liability I understand that, but I don’t like receiving these contracts as a photographer and I don’t like to present them to my subjects in general releases.

Releases are contracts between two consenting individuals, they are negotiable and I believe that they should be reasonable both in the request and the consideration (payment or equivalent value). In my practice, if we are working on a commercial project we discuss with the client the usage for the photographs and we mirror that in the release. In most cases, the subject and any remuneration is noted in the release and I rarely have trouble receiving the necessary permissions. In non-commercial situations I will sometimes use a general release as long as they understand and agree to the terms. I have learned that a big part of getting the release is what and how you ask for the subjects consent.

I am very protective of all my subjects, in many cases I have gone back to subjects, to ask for permission that foes beyond the scope of the release. To date I have never had anyone turn down my request. I keep very detailed contact information and utilize linkedin and Plaxo to facilitate finding subjects from my past.

You can sum up my approach to model releases as the Golden Rule of Subjects, Treat your subjects the way that you want to be treated.

ASMP has a tutorial online with samples and legal resources related to releases.

Richard Kelly is a photographer and educator living in Pittsburgh. As President of ASMP, he is a progressive advocate for copyright and professionalism.

By Richard Kelly | Posted: September 10th, 2010 | 2 comments


2 Responses to 'Would You Sign This?'

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  1. I agree Richard,
    What is an alternative release we could present?

    By Jason Wallis | Sep 12, 2010


  2. I have one worded that gives me permission to use the image for my own self promotion if that’s the only reason I need one signed for at the time. It includes permission for: ‘photographer’s portfolio, samples, self-promotion, entry in photographic contests, art exhibitions, editorial use, web site use, or for display within or outside of the photographers studio’.
    Any opinions about having a release like this available?

    By Craig Murphy | Sep 12, 2010



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