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Release Forms



I wanted to ask the community for advice about release forms for both models and property. It seems to be that if I took a picture of someone in the street, presented them with a model release form and asked them to sign, handing over commercial rights to me etc...what is the incentive to them? If it was me I'd be wary of suddenly signing a legal document on the hoof. Similarly, what is the interest for company's who's property we shoot for commercial gain? What is the best way to approach to secure an agreement? I understand for editorial use it is not so important ... but for commercial use it is vital. Very grateful for thoughts and tips.

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there are two main situations for us editorial photographers; either we are in the street taking views/scenes with lots of people in them, and/or lots of buildings; or we are in the street and specifically taking just a very few people, or targeting one specific building. 


I feel in the former instance, in this country at least, it is 1. impossible and 2. Unnecessary to get any releases signed whether for editorial or commercial reasons - Those type of images are almost always used for editorial usage, but occasionally are used commercially in which case it is down to the end user to decide, as you will have marked them with "no releases". My own feeling is if those images are used commercially its fine and there should be no problems.


In the latter instance, assuming you are on public ground in this country (and most countries), releases are not needed for editorial use. For commercial use however, releases would be necessary, and then in the instance with people, you just have to grit your teeth, smile and ask nicely. (Either that or use friends/relatives/paid models who will sign releases).  In the instance with a building again you just have to contact/ask the owners. I have never done this - good luck with that!


For most of us the most important thing is to mark your images as having, or not having a release.


Hope this helps



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When I first started in microstock, I was amazed how many such photographers said they would contemplate photographing a stranger in the street and then waltz up to them and ask them to sign a model release. I wouldn't have the nerve to even consider doing such a thing. As I've gained more experience I've realised that it is probably not wise to ask for releases to be signed on the spot, particularly not quickly and on the spur of the moment, even if one can find a willing subject. Few people asked to sign such a release in this way would have a full understanding of what they were agreeing to; i'e.an almost unlimited use of their image in the media, in all kinds of contexts (excluding sensitive uses, hopefully), for potentially an unlimited amount of time. In most cases such usage and the signed releases will never become an issue, but there is always the potential for a 'model' to kick up a fuss and say they had no idea they were agreeing to such and such. Probably less of an issue in the UK too, but for any country where some ofthe population views litigation as a casual pastime, I would be keeping well clear. Nowadays, I don't even use my family as models, only myself.

Edited by Joseph Clemson
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