Though often considered unnecessary, you should obtain a signed Model Release before using any Photo including identifiable people. This is especially true for any images that may later have commercial value.
Even if the shots appear to have no commercial purpose, if there is any possibility that they may be published in the future, don’t skip the release.
As a general rule, images of identifiable people may be used for non-commercial, news, satire or educational purposes.
That ‘satire’ purpose, however, can open the publisher up to a myriad of potential legal actions.
Though a publisher or photographer may win the occasional lawsuit, it is usually painful, expensive and overall, very unpleasant. I’ve been there. I won. It cost me something more valuable than money, it cost me time, and lots of it.
I had taken photos of various celebrities at an event in DC. I sold a number of these to a National Tabloid.
That paper, however, not known for journalistic efforts, played cut and paste in PhotoShop to place two celebrities together, looking very romantic, and used it to illustrate a story on Hollywood infidelity.
Guess who got sued? Not the publisher and not the artist who did the PhotoShop work, but the photographer, ME!
To settle the issue I had to go after a publication with a stable of very expensive lawyers at their disposal.
Luckily, the celebrities involved, or at least their legal counsel, had a heart. They realized that I was as much of a victim as they were, and their counsel represented me in my part of the suit at no charge.
When the smoke cleared I ended up out-of-pocket for Two trips to the Left coast and around 100 hours of my time, though I did nothing wrong.
It could have been much worse.
Hobby photographers often do not pay remuneration for photos. As a safeguard against claims should the photo later be used for a commercial purpose, and a subject in the photo sues for modelling fees have the person sign a Unpaid Model Release Form. The unpaid model release form provides basic protection for you as the photographer.
Unpaid Model Release
Living At: _____________________________________
do hereby release my interests in photographs taken of me today by
for any purpose, including publicity and advertisements, and acknowledge that no payment has been made to, or will be demanded by myself. I acknowledge that I assign all interest in the photographs and their future use to the photographer who took the pictures.
(Subject Signature) (Date)
Note: In many cases when a person’s photo has been used without his/her prior consent the person has sued for modeling fees, invasion of privacy, or Various other reasons.
People will sometimes cross out the word electronic on a consent form if they do not want their picture to appear on the Internet and only permit their photo to be used in a print publication. Always respect their request if this is the case.
Many professional photographers use a more comprehensive form such as in this example.
Model Release Form
(A:) In consideration of $___________,(amount or nil) or other valuable consideration,
receipt of which is acknowledged, I, ______________________________________________
do hereby give,___________________________________ and his/her assigns, licensees and legal representatives the irrevocable right to use my picture, portrait or photograph in all forms of media and in all manner, including electronic media and/or composite representations, for advertising, trade, or any lawful purposes and I waive any right to inspect or approve the finished product, including written copy that may be created in connection therewith.
I am of full age*. I have read this release and are familiar with its contents.
*Delete this sentence if the subject is a minor. (The parent or guardian must sign the Consent form below)
(*B) MINOR CONSENT (if applicable for minor)
I am the parent or guardian of the minor named above and have the legal authority to execute the above release. I approve the foregoing and waive any rights in the photographs.