25 September, 2008

Dear Natalie: Model Release Forms.

Dear Natalie,

So, I'm pretty new to this photography business and I've been shooting friends or friend's kids for practice. I have started using a "release" with them so I know I have their permission to use their pictures in my attempts to spread the word about my business. This is especially important with the kids' pictures as I have one friend who refuses to have her kids' pictures out there in the world wide web. As a mother, I can understand her perspective. How do you handle these situations? More recently, I took some pictures of a 2 year old, her mom signed the release, and a month later her mom has changed her mind about allowing me to use the pictures on my blog.

How can I ever show examples of my work if everyone is protecting their child's image by keeping it off the internet? I appreciate any input you have in this situation.


Model release forms are a very standard part of the photography industry. I'm surprised to hear you have a hard time with parents being unwilling to sign. I mean, I suppose I could understand if you were going to be selling the images for commercial use, but that doesn't sound like it's the case. I'm imagining that you're just wanting to use the images on your blog and perhaps a website. I'd say that if someone says "no I won't sign" then you kindly refer them to another photographer. UNLESS your desire for experience is greater than your desire to build your portfolio. In the which case you simply respect the parents wishes but still do the shoot just for the sake of knowledge and growth for you as the photographer. No one can make that decision but you.

Now as far as the mother you mentioned who signed the model agreement and then decided against it a month later. Well, you could put your foot down and say, "a deal's a deal." Should you do that? I wouldn't. Like you said, you're trying to build a business and a HUGE part of that is word of mouth. You want happy parents who have had a pleasant experience with you and the service you provide. You can't afford bad publicity, especially when you're just starting out! You'd be dead before you'd begun!

It is interesting to have received this question now because I have NEVER had any problems in the arena of image rights and usage until just this past week. Well, aside from one other time when I was booking my first celebrity wedding. But in that situation clearly my image usage HAS to be limited to the restrictions they already have in place with their agents, so it doesn't fall within the same category described above.

Back to the world of relevance. I had a potential groom call me this past week with a concern about the portion of my contract that discusses model release/rights of usage. He felt uncomfortable, saying that he didn't like the thought of having images of his bride or his guests used as advertisements all over the internet or in print. Here's how I handled it:

  • First, I tried to make sure he felt completely understood and validated in his concern. I explained that a model release is industry standard. It was important to me that he didn't feel like I was being unreasonable. I then explained to him the process of my image usage. Once he was completely clear on how the images would be used exactly, he was totally fine. TOTALLY. He signed and the contract and my check for his wedding next July is in the mail!

Good luck!
I hope this wordy response is helpful!




jane b said...

Hi Natalie:

I've been a blog stalker and reader of your DPS posts - very helpful to me! This post was also very helpful, but can I ask you how you came up with the wording for your model release? Are there samples online or should you have it written up professionally? Just curious - I'm getting to the point where I will need to start using them! Thanks in advance for any info you can provide :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie,
First off, your blog is fantastic, extreamly helpful and your photography is inspiring.
I to am in the same situation as jane b and would love some helpful info on the release forms to.
Keep up the great work.