Taking pictures can be an outstanding way to make a living or create a side hustle. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as point and click. It takes talent and more than a little business savvy to sell photographs. Every photographer should have a good photo release form on hand before they ever pick up their equipment. A high-quality photo release form template will save you time and help you create a customized document to use when you need new images. Composing these forms requires specialized knowledge, which is why a template is helpful. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know to ensure your photo release forms give you the legal rights to the images you want.
What Is a Photo Release Form?
A photo release form is a legal document that permits you to use someone else’s photograph or image. This could be a picture of a person, a pet, or a landscape. When you want to use a photo you did not take yourself, you need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright to that photo.
When is a Photo Release Form Needed?
A photo release form is needed whenever you take pictures in private or for commercial use. If you want to use or sell a photo, you need a release from the subject and the photographer. However, in many cases, the photographer has already received permission and can sell the images they take for commercial use.
Taking a picture may seem harmless, but it’s more complex than you might expect. Because people have the right to their own image, you often have to ask to take the photo. The individuals or subjects also control the commercial use of their photographs, names, and likenesses, so you need permission to sell photos based on who is in them, regardless of who takes them. Implied or verbal consent is typically not enough; even if you have one or both, they do not extend the right to commercial use.
Pro Tip: A photo release form is not always needed. For example, if you are taking a photo of a public figure out in public, you do not need their permission to use it. However, if you are taking a photo of a person who is not a public figure, you may need their permission before using it. Moreover, taking pictures in public is usually alright, especially those of large crowds, since so many people make it virtually impossible to gain individual permission.
Why is a Photo Release Form Important?
Whenever you plan to use any photographs taken by (or of) someone else, it is vital to have a signed photo release form from the photographer. A photo release form grants you legal permission to use the photograph in your desired way. It protects you from potential legal issues arising from using someone else’s picture without their consent.
Types of Photo Release Forms
There are many types of photo release forms, so choosing the one that is right for your situation is essential. Please note that these titles are sometimes used interchangeably, so you must pay attention to the release’s content, especially when you are the buyer. Here are some of the most common types of photo release forms and what they are used for.
- Minor Release Forms- You will need permission from the parents or guardians of a minor if you want to display or sell their image.
- Model Release- Model release forms are standard for fashion photographers and others who take pictures of people, but you may also need this when photographing pets.
- Likeness Release Form- This is another name for a photo release form, but it also covers videos, drawings, and other types of images.
- Photo Copyright Release Form- A copyright release grants permission to use a copyrighted photograph. These include famous images as well as lesser-known or unknown works.
- Photo Consent Form- A photo consent form is merely the permission to take a photo of the subject, not the license to sell it unless it has additional provisions.
- Print Release Forms- Print release forms are for the subject to make copies of photos someone else took that have their image on them.
- Property Release Forms- Property release forms typically involve permission for a photographer to take pictures of non-humans. This may mean pets, wildlife, private homes, and other property.
Essential Elements of a Photo Release Form
The essential elements of a photo release form aren’t excessive like some releases, but they are critical. We’ve created an outline below to show you what to put on the page and where it belongs in descending order.
- Title- A title that says the form is a “Photo Release Form” so the reader knows at a glance what they are signing
- Logo- (Optional but strongly recommended) Business Logo
- Owner- Photographer (aka the Releasee) and contact information
- Subject- Name of the person in the photo (aka Model or Releasor)
- Intent- Details of how the photographs will be used
- Content- Description of the exact images being released
- Length of Agreement- Duration of the permission, whether it is single-use, permanent, or in between
- Terms- Any conditions or compensation
- Agreement- Signature and date
Pro Tips For Writing a Better Photo Release Form
- Use a professionally created template. This will save you time and ensure you get all the correct information.
- Choose a font that is easy to read instead of one that is ‘fun’ but could potentially lead to misunderstandings.
- Double-check the language with an attorney and your local laws.
What Not to Put on a Photo Release Form
- Spelling and grammar errors
- Do not include any personal opinions
- Skip the lengthy explanations of your project
Consequences of Not Using a Photo Release Form
Not using a photo release form can have serious consequences. If you use a photograph without the photographer’s permission, you could be sued for copyright infringement. You could also be sued for invasion of privacy if the picture depicts a private moment or contains confidential information. The consequences are slightly different for buyers versus photographers, so we’ve detailed both below to help you out.
When planning to use someone else’s photograph, be sure to get a signed photo release form from the photographer. It’s the best way to protect yourself from legal trouble down the road. If you’re sued, you could be required to pay damages to the subject or owner of the photo, plus all the associated court fees for both sides. You could also be barred from using the picture in any way. And in some cases, you may even be required to destroy the photo. Moreover, you may face social or business repercussions in the form of damage to your reputation that could cause lost business.
If you are a professional photographer, a release form ensures that the person or company who purchases your photo has the right to use it in their business. The purchaser could face legal consequences for using your image unless there’s a signed release form. They will be upset with you and even take you to court for damages.
Without the subject’s signed permission, you could be sued for defamation, invasion of privacy, or even copyright infringement. This is especially true when you plan to sell the photo. However, it’s not just buyers who can have problems. If you use a picture you took for commercial purposes, like showing customers your work or advertising your own business without permission from the subject, you can still be sued.
A photo release form is essential anytime you use a picture for commercial purposes. In some cases, you also need a release for private prints. Not only do photographers use these critical legal documents, but businesses also need them for advertising. Creating a photo release is quick and straightforward, especially when you use a preformatted, professionally designed template. You can modify the template to make it customized for your business. Best of all, a template ensures that you have all the correct information. Hence, your form covers you legally and prevents the subject from accusing you of defamation or other illegal use.