Kathleen K. Parker
Releases, Model and Otherwise
I often shoot candid shots on the streets of my city. Lots of tourists are mixed in with locals, in some areas.
Also, most everyone I ask if I can shoot their photo for my gallery says fine. However, when it comes to the signing of releases, they wonder about all of this. What essentials must I have in a release, and how can I present this paper without fanfare and without scaring the daylights out of the subjects? I also find that if I tell them about the signed release before the shot that their previous nonchalance and free expressions start to disappear, and and it takes the person's character out of the image. I hate that! I do ask up front if I can take their photo for my online gallery and give them my card.
So, I want to know the following please: First, minimum requirements of release. Second, when to sign. I go by my feel of the person/situation, but I want to have a routine way of doing this. Sometimes I get candid shots of people --tourists--people walking down a street,at Mardi Gras hanging off a balcony up high--people I never will see again and sometimes cannot get to physically, and I realize I cannot use the photos for much of anything, or can I? Public events such as Mardi Gras...what would be ok to use without a signed release? What about showing photos in a gallery, not for sale, just a showing. What do I need to be able to do that? Thanks all! KK Parker
As I recall, it was either Cartier-Bresson or Frank Capra, both also photojournalists, who said: "If your photos aren't good enough, you're not getting close enough."
In that respect, when I'm required to do street photography, I always and I mean always, contact the subject BEFORE I photograph them. Not after, to tell them what I'm doing, ask for their permission and have them sign a short-form release that I get from one of the stock agencies that represents my work. You can also find them in books put out by ASMP.org, at bhphotovideo.com, and other sites.
Public events, public places, private events held in private venues with public in attendance, etc., do not grant photographers a license to photograph AND publish those images. If the people are recognizable in any manner or form, in order to publish (either in print (including gallery showings) or electronically) you need a signed release. Failure to get one, could get you sued for invasion of privacy or misappropriation of a person's likeness or perhaps just plain old fashioned defamation.
Notwistanding having a release, while it won't prevent you from being sued, it will serve as a good first line of defense in the event you are sued. And, just to make sure you get the correct scoop for the jurisdiction you live in, you should get an opinion letter from a lawyer who, specializes in intellectual property. Won't cost you more than a couple of hours of their time and it's worth it unless of course you happen to be a lawyer too. ;>) In that case, I doubt you'd be asking us this one.
Oh, and the release forms are available all over the internet. Just Google something like "Model Release Forms" or model release short forms.
Have fun. Take it light
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