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Photography Question 
DENNIS E. GRANZOW
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/8/2007
 

Signed Releases for People Pictures


I would like to take more "on the street" people pictures for my portfolio, and to enter into contests. But, I'm having a problem getting them to sign releases allowing me to do so. Any tips for getting people to sign the releases.


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5/26/2008 7:00:36 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  First, ask them for permission to photograph them before you start blasting away. Engage them using a compliment like "great hat, Carmen Miranda would be proud of that one" or if you come across someone walking their pet gerble, "that's a great gerble would you mind if I photograph you?" AND offer an incentive like "I'll pay you a buck if you sign a release so I can enter it into a contest." You'd be doing well to get a 50-60% success rate.
With that approach, you avoid the panhandling scenario, complement them and offer them money in about one or two brief sentences without wasting their time. The people that agree will generally be quite pleased with your offer and flattered. Carry some cards, offer to send (not sell) them a small print of your efforts like 3x5 after you present them with the release to sign.
What you absolutely want to avoid is sniping them with a telephoto from like a block away behind a lamp post and then walking up to them and ask for after the fact permission by saying something like: "Hey dude, I just photographed you from two blocks away, sign this release." That approach tends to arouse suspicion in most people.
OK, so not everyone knows who Carmen Miranda was. Just try "nice hat".
Good luck.
M.


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5/26/2008 9:17:51 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  oh sure carmen miranda,and be up front with people.as far as snipe hunting.ya gotta have a big bag.a really big bag.the flushing them from the brush,or bush is a little more detaled.hmm.
so your not a (street) person?
go meet these people,like the dictionary says,a repoire.
you don't want to get to know them,fine.there still people and should be given the same respect you show yourself.
you might want not to group them,even though not the intent.this ain't barter town,real people.
to offer money??never.a print,fine.
probably out of line again,fine.
good night.


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5/26/2008 10:14:49 PM

 
DENNIS E. GRANZOW
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/8/2007
  Samuel, I'm not sure I understand what your point is here. When I said take more pictures of "on the street" people, I'm talking about the average person engaging in normal daily activities, not a homeless street person.


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5/27/2008 6:28:59 AM

 
Ronald H. Musser
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2006
  I think that the key to taking pictures on the street is to make eye contact. Most people will notice a photographer I smile at my intended subject and then raise my camera to take the photo, once focus I again make eye contact and take the photo. I carry a small collection of 4x6 in a small leather bound album with business cards to show them. The only time I will as permission ahead of time is if children are involved. I offer to send them a print in exchange for the release. which is the easiest way of obtaining their address, so that I can send the photos. Hope this helps, Ron


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5/28/2008 6:40:53 AM

 
Dennis C. Hirning
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  I don't think that you really need to worry so much about model releases in the situation that you are describing. I don't have a problem using a photo of someone or something taken in a publc place without a model release and using it in a competition. Now if you were going to take a picture of someone sun bathing in their backyard from a rooftop three blocks away with a big telephoto that would be a different story.

I had an image of a person dressed up in buckskins from a public demonstration that I entered into a fair without any worry about a model release. (By the way, it won first place.) When I saw a perfect location for the photo in a restaurant, I sought out and recieved the model release from the subject before I considered selling it to the restaurant.

Here is a good read on the subject of model releases: http://www.danheller.com/model-release.html#4

If you see an someone walking a dog from two blocks away that would make a great image, you won't get it if you run up and ask a person to sign a release before you snap the shutter.

Personally, I don't worry about using a photo without a model release in most situations. If I was going to sell an image that I had been paid to shoot, like a wedding, I would get permission before selling it.

I have more pressing concerns than worrying about model releases on everything that I shoot. You could spend all your time getting a release from the people in the shot, the cafe owner whose cafe is recognizable, Coca Cola because their sign is in the image. How about Ford because there is a Mustang parked on the street. Don't forget all the recognizable buildings in the background.

If I worried about all of this each time I took a shot, how would I have time to do any photography much less worry about how I was going to pay for the 100-400mm lens that I want?

If someone thinks that they can win a law suit to get enough from me to even pay the lawyer because I entered a photograph in a competition, good luck to them.

Dennis


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5/28/2008 6:44:48 AM

 
Dennis H. Hernet   I've found that being open on my intentions to shoot ... even after taking a few candids before asking ... in addition to offering the subject a CD with copies of all the photos I took, usually gets me a signed release. Total cost to me, including postage, about a buck-fifty ... the recipient is usually glad. And if the recipient asks for a special pose, do it. A small price to pay for a great photo opportunity.


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5/28/2008 8:02:11 AM

 
DENNIS E. GRANZOW
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/8/2007
  Thank you all for your comments.


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5/28/2008 11:25:26 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   Only one thing, NEVER offer money for photos. This sets up an expectation and can create an impossible situation for everyone involved. Now, the next guy will have to pay too. While in Thailand, everyone wanted money for me to photograph them. Please, please do not do this. If they say no, move on. Someone will say yes. But, don't pay them.


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5/28/2008 12:08:17 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  The responses to these kinds of questions are interesting, perhaps more or less unfortunate in that I suppose they represent a lot of "me first" or "what do I care about someone else" or the ever popular "better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission". Obviously, Dennis G wants to do things right. His work reflects that and initially I provided him with essentially the correct approach which is to obtain a release if commercial use is even anticipated.

Those who don't follow the practice are rolling the dice, trying to fly under the radar, hoping not to get caught and misrepresenting facts on entry forms where prizes, anything of value, are given away. When a good first amendment trial lawyer gets ahold of that kind of case, that kind of risk taking nowadays can cost the photographer his home, his business, and his equipment if a judgment is rendered against him/her. Speaking of time, tying you up in a federal or state court proceeding for weeks on end IS a real time buster.

The central issue here isn't just releases. It's NOT about the photographers time to get a release, having the form, taking a moment to approach people and not snipe them with a camera merely because they happen to be walking or present along a public street. None of those things.

What it IS about is the fundamental rights of adults AND children (in the U.S. anyway) to have privacy AND not have someone literally stealing/taking their image to capitalize off of it absent their consent and written permission.

While playing the odds, yes it's true you probably won't get caught. But if you win a contest, it's going to get publicized somewhere, somehow. And I have to say, if someone photgraphed me and used that image to their commercial advantage without my consent, I'd be REALLY pissed and without hesitation, would go after them and the contest promoters AND the publisher for everything they've got. It's not a mere trespass. It's theft of a likeness to be used for your purposes without permission. Stealing, not borrowing.

As for what Dennis H said, more directly, if you carefully read Heller's web site, first you'll see he's not a lawyer. Second, you'll clearly see that he advocates erring on the side of caution. When in doubt, obtain a release. I can also safely say that these days, my editors ask for releases in most situations, both for editorial work AND of course for all commercial work.

Personally, I take enough risks in my life without adding to them. This is pretty unnecessary and can usually be solved by getting over one's fear of approaching strangers and just talking to them. I've often said you meet a lot of nice people that way. You also meet some protective of their privacy and THAT alone is a reason NOT to photograph them without their consent either before or after.

As for payment, what Jerry mentioned is particular useful especially when you're working in foreign countries. Some may be insulted by the "here's a buck for letting me photograph you" approach. OTOH, it's pretty standard in the U.S., especially because people here are often a bit shy about giving out their address for a stranger to send a print to, although I'm always glad to do that and offer.

So, is it worth the risk?
Take it light ;>)
M.


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5/29/2008 8:54:46 AM

 
DENNIS E. GRANZOW
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/8/2007
  Thanks for further clarification Mark. Your taking the time to address this issue is much appreciated. Take care.


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5/29/2008 11:39:19 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   Hi Mark,

I agree with you. I wont pay, but I agree with you. The idea is they give you address info and you send them a free pic. I'd rather do that than pay. If your session fee is $300 and a high-res file is $1k, you can tell them they are getting a $1,300 value for their release.


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5/29/2008 12:46:21 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Jer !!! I know exactly what you mean but I wonder how much time is involved in offering that level of education to an innocent bystander I just shot. A lot of people these days might still just not get it.

I'm working on a book project of my own right now involving photographing people with particular items in the scene. Since I travel a lot, when I go walking around in other cities, I grab a run bag and shoot in my off time in places like Seattle, New York, Chicago, etc. I've got a stack of signed releases matched to every single frame of every single roll I've shot for this project over the past three 1/2 years. And when I approached a publisher, the second thing they asked was "did you get releases for all these people?" They wouldn't have touched this project without them. In essence, releases give value to your work unless all you want to do is hang it on your own wall at home.
M.



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5/29/2008 6:03:31 PM

 
Ronald H. Musser
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2006
  There are several states that require a written release and some that requi
re only a verbal, California being one of them. I agree with Mark it is imperative to get a release, even if you don't plan on using the photo right away. Mark do you also get a property release if you are shooting at on private property?


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5/29/2008 10:20:50 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  i took a bit of offense by that comment mark.well,the general assunption,or the inference,that all of us are not honorable and not respectful of rights,was probably not intended.
so if I go to mr wrights church,i agree with him?guilty by association?
your contributions and knowledge,great.this was just a passing thought.
even if no one else saw it that way,i did.p'd,no.
just me,sam


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6/1/2008 9:49:30 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Sam ! You got me buddy. For the first time, I don't understand what you're talking about.

I would never for a minute paint people here at BP with that broad of a brush. I think you mean what I was referring to was people who don't get releases and then enter the work in contests for prizes (commercial use) and represent that they did obtain repleases as required in the contest entry forms. If so, that in my view, IS dishonest AND disrespectful of the rights of others.

I usually don't speak in overly broad generalizations. Let me know if what I just clarified isn't what you're referring to and specifically what it is you are referring to. I'll gladly clarify it for you. No sweat. ;>)
M.


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6/1/2008 11:02:10 PM

 
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