Photographers face a unique challenge when practicing their craft. Unlike most forms of art, which often come directly from the creator’s mind, photography captures the artist’s vision by making images out of things already present, which often includes people. This means that photographers may have to ask permission from their subjects. Sometimes words are enough, and the privacy rules are much different in public settings. However, it’s always a good idea to have a photo release consent form to protect the photographer and show that the subject agreed to be in the images. Professionals design our photo release consent forms so you can snap away without worrying about possible repercussions.
What Is a Photo Release Consent Form?
A photo release consent form is a contract between the photographer and subject or the photographer and a buyer who is not in the actual picture. When the consent form is between the artist and subject, it states that the subject gives permission for privately taken photos to be created and used. These may be commissioned, such as wedding photos or school pictures, or they can be initiated and solicited by the photographer who requests a model or other person to let them take pictures. In either case, the form must clearly state whether someone has been paid and whether the subject can revoke permission to display or sell those pictures later. A consent form from a photographer to a buyer is similar, but instead of the subject in the image giving permission, the artist permits a third party to have and use those photos.
Types of Photo Release Consent Forms
Any photo release form can fall under the generic title ‘photo release form.’ However, there are several specific categories as well, which we’ve detailed below.
- Copyright Release Forms- A copyright release form happens when a photographer gives a third-party permission to use pictures they own the rights to.
- Property Release Forms- A property release form is between an owner and a photographer and releases permission for pictures of things other than people. This can include animals, artworks, homes, cars, nature shots on private property, and anything else that is not human.
- Minor Release Forms- Minors cannot sign their own consent forms, so anytime you plan to take images of someone under 18, you will need a minor release form from their parents or guardians.
- Model Release Forms- Model release forms are often used in professional settings like studios. However, they can also apply to people you wish to take pictures of if they consent to ‘model’ for those images.
- Print Release Forms- A print release is between a photographer and the subject of their photos and permits the subject to print images for private use.
When is a Photo Release Consent Form Needed?
As a photographer, understanding when you need a photo consent release form is crucial. Anytime you are in a private setting, like a studio or home, you need to ask permission from the subjects of your pictures. Likewise, a business that wants your photographs for advertising or to frame and display would need to ask for consent before simply using your images. Below is a list of some of the most common times you need a photo release consent form.
- When you plan to distribute a recognizable image of a person
- Children’s school pictures and other groups, such as charities and clubs
- Any photo taken for commercial use or profit (except those taken in public spaces)
- Images that may be considered defamatory or an invasion of privacy
- When you take a photo on private property
- Nude photography
The Right To Privacy and Photography
People have the right to privacy in their homes and on private property, so intentionally taking pictures from a public space like a street that shows people inside their homes often requires consent. There are times and places when you do not have to ask permission, like when you are taking pictures of other people in a park. City streets, public roads, public land, festivals, and most other places where a person would not reasonably expect to have the same privacy they are entitled to at home are all fine without the forms. After all, it would be hard to report news, give tours of historic areas, or perform most daily tasks if every person who might pass by a camera in public had to sign a form each time.
Additionally, it is important to understand that laws vary wildly. Some areas may allow you to take certain types of images without permission. For example, some states allow photos, videos, and audio recordings without consent if you believe you are documenting a crime in progress. Meanwhile, in Canada, you can only sell publicly taken images as art, but you cannot use them for commercial purposes such as advertising campaigns. Always check your local laws if you are uncertain whether you need a photo release consent form.
Essential Elements of a Photo Release Consent Form
The essential elements of a photo release form are straightforward. Although the wording varies based on the type of photo release, they all have the exact basic requirements. Here you’ll find all the necessary aspects listed in the order they appear on the page.
- Title- A title states that it is a photo release form and may specify the type, like “Model Photography Release Form.” This should always be in large, boldface print at the top of the page to show that the person signing knows what it is for.
- Photographer Information- Your name and contact information should always be at the top.
- Parties– Make sure that your form clearly shows who is permitting whom. Use full names.
- Terms- This is where you would include any payment information or state that there is no compensation. Moreover, the terms should clearly note whether the releasor has the right to revoke their consent.
- Photo Descriptions- It’s essential to include a description of what is in the photos. This can be as simple as ‘(Model Name) pictures taken in (Studio or other private settings) for (reason),’ or it can include a detailed description of what each picture’s composition will be.
- Agreement- Add a statement at the end that says the subject has read and understands these terms and agrees to them.
- Signatures- At the bottom of the page, print the name of the model or property owner, then have them sign the form with a black or blue ink pen to make it legal.
- The Date- Since copyrights do expire, and some consent forms are revocable, it is vital to include the date beside the signature on every photo release consent form.
Example of a Photo Release Consent Form
Although a photo consent form can be much more extensive, this example shows a basic outline of a simple photo release consent form. The photographer in our example is creating an artistic series and has recruited the signor to wear their work uniform in a private location. The description shows that they are part of that series of photos, they are being paid, they cannot revoke the permission, and the agreement statement indicates that they’ve read all the fine print.
Narwahl Studios Photo Release Consent Form
Photographer: Sally Narwahl
123 West Maine Street
Anderson, SC, 89304
Phone: (555) 555- 6302
I (full name of model/owner) agree to have my picture taken by Sally Narwahl for her series of artistic photographs picturing everyday people in work uniforms standing in extraordinary surroundings. Further, I understand that I will be paid a one-time fee of $100 for my time and image use and that I may not revoke permission to use these images once paid.
I (Your name here) have read and understand the terms and conditions of this photography release consent form and agree to the above.
Signature: _____________ Date: __________
Getting a photo consent release form is essential in many situations, but you don’t always need one. Below we’ve answered the top questions about this type of consent form so you know when and where you can take pictures freely and when you need to bring release forms.
There are numerous reasons why photo consent is important. Generally, photos taken in public spaces do not require permission, but it’s still a good idea to ask. Photos taken in a private setting require consent for legal reasons. You cannot simply post private images of someone without their permission. Additionally, there’s an issue of respect and safety. Everyone has the right to refuse to be a photo subject or not to have their images on display. However, it’s more serious in some cases, such as when a person moves to a new city to avoid a dangerous stalker. Since a basic google image search could locate that person in seconds and put their lives in danger, asking for permission could save lives.
You can withdraw consent for a photo in most circumstances. However, if you were paid for the use of the image, then it can become a legal issue. For example, an actor in a movie consents to be paid and have their image used on-screen and in promotional items. Once paid, they cannot revoke that consent because it was purchased for use associated with the film, and removing it would be like theft since the production needs those images and bought them outright
You need permission to publish a photo of someone if it was taken privately. Pictures of people on the street or in public spaces are generally considered ‘fair game’ and do not require consent in the USA. Privacy laws do not extend to public areas.
Photo consent lasts forever unless otherwise noted in the initial agreement. Typically, if you give a photographer consent to take your picture and use it, the image becomes a part of their body of work. In that case, the copyright protection lasts for the life of the artist (photographer) plus 70 years. This applies to all works created after January 1, 1978.
You should ask permission before taking someone’s photo out of basic courtesy. Most people are thrilled or at least willing to have a picture taken. However, sometimes it is not practical to do so, like when you are photographing a crowd.
Usually, if you took the photo yourself and it was taken in a public place, then you do not need explicit permission to post pictures on social media. However, for private photos, like those taken inside a home, you technically need written consent from both the people and, if applicable, the owner. That said, it is not common practice to get photo consent forms signed if you take pictures of friends and family who have expressed no concern about you posting them.
Photo consent release forms are vital for all photographers, even if you’re not a professional. Getting permission to take and display images of other people is an intelligent way to keep yourself out of legal trouble. Moreover, having those release forms can stop potential problems in their tracks. So long as your subject consents to be photographed and they sign the form, you can keep your art private, sell it, or show it to the world. Without that consent, pictures, at least those taken in private settings, are not entirely, legally yours to use because the subject has a right to refuse to have images of their face or body displayed or sold.