Everything You Need to Know About Photo Release Forms: Model Release, Property Release, and Compensation

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published June 13, 2022

Do you use photos in your marketing? Protect your rights to use an image by using a photo release form.

A photo release form is an important document to have when you’re taking photos that may be used for commercial purposes. By having everyone who appears in your photos sign a release form, you can protect yourself from any legal issues that may arise later on.

There are different types of photo release forms, depending on what type of photo you are taking.

In this blog post, we go in-depth on release forms. We will also discuss the three most common types of photo releases: the model release, the property release, and the compensation agreement.

Also, provide links to download these forms for free!

What is a Photo Release form?

A photo release form is a legal document that gives permission to use someone’s photo for commercial purposes. The form should be used when the photo will be used for marketing or advertising purposes.

Model Release Form

A model release form is used when the subject of the photo is a person or contains a person’s likeness. The form must be signed by the person in the photo, or their parent or guardian if they are under 18 years old.

Property Release Form

A property release form is used when the subject of the photo is private property, such as a house or business. The form must be signed by the owner of the property and constitutes written permission.

Compensation Agreement

A compensation agreement is used when the person in the photo is being paid for their time. This form should be used in addition to the model release form.

If there is a commission structure that should be included in there also.

An example of a model release
Everything You Need to Know About Photo Release Forms: Model Release, Property Release, and Compensation 7

When do I need a Photo Release form?

You need a photo release form whenever you are taking a photo of someone or something that will be used for commercial purposes. This includes photos that will be sold, published in a book or magazine, used in an advertisement, or posted on a website.

If you are taking photos for your personal use, you do not need a photo release form. However, if you plan to post the photo online, you should use caution. If there is any doubt it’s always better to have a photo release.

If you are taking photos of children, you will need to get parental permission in addition to the model release form. The parental permission should be in the form of a signed release by the parent or guardian.

What is Commercial Use?

Commercial use is any photo that will be used to make money. This can be both directly and indirectly.

If you are taking photos for your personal use, such as family photos or vacation photos, this is not considered a commercial use.

However, if you plan to post the photo online, you should check the terms of service for the website to see if they consider this commercial use.

What about Editorial Purposes?

Editorial use is any photo that will be used for non-commercial purposes, such as in a newspaper or magazine article.

You do not need a photo release form for editorial use, but you should get permission from the subject of the photo before you take it.

It is always best to get verbal permission from the other party first, and then follow up with an email or written permission to obtain consent.

Model release example 2 | robert lowdon photography
The release of rights of the model

What happens if I don’t get a photo release form?

If you use a photo without a release, you could be sued for copyright infringement. If the photo is of a person, you could also be sued for invasion of privacy.

You may also be subject to criminal charges if the photo is of a child without parental permission.

It’s always better to err on the side of caution and get a photo release whenever you plan to use a photo for commercial purposes.

When is a photo release form is needed?

A photo release form is needed whenever you are taking a photo of someone or something that will be used for commercial purposes.

Usually, it is best to have the photo release completed at the time of the photo shoot. It must be signed by both parties involved. The photographer or photography business and the party being photographed.

Usage is based on the Expectation of Privacy

You may not take photos of someone without their permission if they have an expectation of privacy.

This includes places like private property, in their home for example.

If you are unsure whether or not you can take a photo, it is always best to ask the other party first.

Where can I get a Free Photo Release Form Template?

There are many websites that offer free photography release forms. We’ve provided some links below to a standard photo release form templates:

Model Release Form / Model photo release form: Free Photo Release Form Template

Property Release Form / Building Release Form: Free Property Release Form Template

Compensation Agreement: Free Compensation Agreement

Model release example 3 | robert lowdon photography
Note the legal terminology

Photo Release Form Apps

There are a few different photo release form apps available, and they all have their own unique features.

We’ve provided some links below to a few of the most popular photo release apps:

Model Releaser

Model Releaser is one of the most popular model release applications available. It also has a well-designed user interface that makes finding what you need simple. Its ability to allow you to attach model photos to forms is among the finest features of the Model Releaser.

Model Releaser offers a free edition, but you’ll need to purchase one of the packages to get the most out of it.

Easy Release Pro

Easy Release Pro, might just be the best release program out there. It has a unique feature that allows you to create a multi-page release. You’ll find this useful for large commercial shoots where there’s a lot of legalese involved. Of course, you may always modify them to fit your specific requirements. The app’s auto-save feature is also rather handy.

  • We currently use this product for our photoshoots

Model Release X

The Model Release X is an excellent Android release form app. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity. It’s a useful tool that can compete with other popular applications. You won’t have to type in all of the data yourself anymore because you may import Google contacts and use them to fill out the forms. The program will automatically include “Parent or Guardian” next to the minor’s name.

So, there you have it! Three of the best photo release form apps are available today. Choose the one that suits your needs and start creating releases with ease!

Model release example 4 | robert lowdon photography
That’s not my birthday

Public Property

Generally, you can photograph public property without a release. But, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

When in doubt, get a release.

Paper Release vs Digital Release

There are two main types of forms: paper and digital.

Paper release forms are the more traditional option. They are easy to find and usually free. However, they can be lost or damaged easily.

  • A print release is generally faster to use on-site but that’s the only advantage

Digital release forms are becoming more popular because they can be stored electronically. This makes them easier to keep track of and less likely to be lost. They may cost a few dollars, but they are worth it for the convenience.

We recommend using a digital release form because you can store it electronically and it is less likely to be lost. However, if you prefer paper forms, that is perfectly fine too!

Consequences of Not Using a Photography Release Form

If you choose not to use a photography release form, you could be opening yourself up to a number of legal consequences.

Without a release, the person in the photo could sue you for:

  • Intrusion of privacy
  • Defamation
  • Misappropriation of likeness
  • Violation of publicity rights
  • Breach of contract (if you had agreed not to take or use the photo)

These are just a few of the potential consequences you could face if you choose not to use a photography release form. So, it’s always better to be safe and get a release!

While it may seem like an unnecessary step at the time, taking the time to have your subjects sign a photo release form can save you a lot of headaches down the road. So be sure to get one whenever you plan on using someone’s photo for commercial purposes!

Do you have any questions about photo release forms? It’s always best to consult a law firm and this does not constitute legal advice.

Model release example 5 | robert lowdon photography
It’s important to have a witness

Is Photo Copyright Release and Photo Release Form the Same?

No, a photo release form is not the same as a photo copyright release form.

They are two separate things.

Copyright protects your photos as a professional photographer from being used without your permission.

A photo release gives someone else permission to use your photo.

Some forms will combine both elements together within one document.

Photo Copyright Release Form

A photography copyright release form is a document that transfers the copyright of a photo from the photographer to the person who wants to use the photo.

This type of photography release is only needed if you want to give someone else the right to use your photo.

Property release | robert lowdon photography
Example of a property release

Stock Photography and Releases

If you’re going to be using stock photography in your business, it’s important that you understand the requirements for releases.

There are two main types of stock photos: royalty-free and rights-managed.

Royalty-free photos can be used multiple times without having to pay additional fees. However, rights-managed photos can only be used once, and then you have to pay another fee to use them again.

Both types of stock photos usually require that you have a signed release form from the people who are in the photo.

This is because when you’re using someone’s image for commercial purposes, you need their permission.

If you don’t have a signed release, you could be sued for breach of privacy or defamation.

Editorial vs Commercial Use Stock Photography

There’s a big difference between editorial and commercial use of stock photography.

Editorial use photos can be used in magazines, newspapers, books, and other publications. They can also be used on websites, as long as the website is not selling anything.

Commercial use photos can be used for pretty much anything else. This includes using them on websites that are selling products or services, in marketing materials, and in ads.

If you’re going to be using stock photos for commercial purposes, you need to make sure that you have a signed release from the people who are in the photo. The stock agency will handle this for you – but it is very important not to use editorial for commercial purposes.

Should you use a Lawyer to Create a Release Form Template

There are a lot of different releases out there and it can be confusing to know which one you need.

If you’re going to be using someone’s photo for commercial purposes, it’s always best to consult a lawyer. They can help you understand the law and make sure that you have the right release form. That way you can avoid any legal trouble.

Do you have any questions? It’s always best to consult a law firm and this does not constitute legal advice.

Conclusion

Now that you know everything about photo releases, go out and take some amazing photos!

Just remember to get a signed photography release form from your subject before you start selling those prints. Happy snapping!

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