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Model Release

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The Model Release is a very important contract that is almost always overlooked. I've worked with very experienced models, and even they tell me that a vast majority of photographers don't get a model release from them.


The model release does two major things:

  1. Protects the Photographer: Allows you publish and sell your work/
  2. Protects the Model: Allows her to have compensation of her work and sell of her image

Those are just in simplistic terms.

Now, do you need a model release for simple, basic, test, works? If you want to be able to do anything with them, then yes!


To protect the model:

I also have a section in my Standard Release, that reads:

  • In the event that any nudity is captured, that is not described in the details of the shoot, said images of nudity will not be published in any form and are not authorized for publication within this release.

What does this do? Simple as it reads, and here is why its needed. If a model is on a photo shoot, there is a model release that describes the model, date, location, and the model signs away full rights to the photos to the photographer for X compensation.

Now when the photographer gets back to review the images, he may find a boob slip on a bikini shot, or perhaps caught a model changing while doing test shots. What if this model is famous? Guess what, he already has rights to all the photos, and a partial nude photo is work more sometimes than the original shoot. This is what happens when a model does a shoot, and 20 years later those shots surface when they are famous.

Why do I have this clause? For many reasons, one, I am not a photographer that would do that, two, I want my models comfortable with me, and know I respect and protect them as well.

I actually had several boob slips with a model that does not do nudes at all, and she was comfortable with me, as she knew those photos are not going to get out.


Why we need to protect the Photographer:

I sometimes use models to do test shoots. This allows me to try new lighting, test new equipment, etc... I buy lunch for everyone and we have a fun creative day, everyone has new portfolio photos, and everyone wins.

One day, I was testing out some brand new studio strobes, I wanted to see how fast the duration was, and see what kind of stop motion we could get.

So the model I used was a fan of silly genre mocking, and she was a new comer to modeling. So we did a silly fun shoot of her pouring milk all over herself, not a sexy shoot, but a fun mocking of those shoots.

Well, we actually nailed some pretty amazing photos. I thought we both had some great shots, and we could both add to our portfolios.

Now the sad part, she showed her friends her new photos, and all of them asked how much she got paid. Well, these photos were never part of a paid job, and the only compensation was lunch and fun day of photos. Her friends convinced her she should receive a large payment. This escalated to no payment, no use of photos.

Sadly, no one will ever get to see those photos.

Bottom line, get a model release!

Mike Bradley

Author: Mike Bradley

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