Production

Free Model Release Forms & Templates You Need

Assemble

By Assemble

March 8, 2022

If you are a filmmaker or photographer working with models, actors, public figures or any type of talent, a model release form is needed for legal protection to distribute your work.  Depending on the shoot, it could be a simple document or may need to include more complicated legal terms.  In this article, we’ll take you through the different types of model release forms, when you’ll need a model release agreement, and what should be included. 

For a comprehensive model release, please download this template below.

What is a Model Release Form?

A model release form establishes a contract between photographer and model by defining how and where photographs may be used for commercial purposes. This protects both parties. The model is protected by agreeing to how their image is used and the photographer has legal permission to license the model’s image.

Why You Need a Model Release Contract

A model release contract  is all about privacy. There are state laws on legal rights to privacy, therefore a photography business can’t simply benefit from using a person’s likeness. The exception is if a photo was taken in a public place where there really isn’t an expectation of privacy.  

However, here’s a disclaimer regarding street photography; A photographer should be careful because some seemingly public places, including  shopping malls, theaters, amusement parks, airplanes, trains, building lobbies and hotels, for example, are private. Since the legal definition of “reasonable expectation of privacy” can be arguable, whenever you can, it’s best to get a model release.

To truly understand privacy rights, publicity rights and copyright, visit the Library of Congress  which has an excellent page. 

When To Use a Model Release Form

In the case where a photographer is hiring a model, the relationship to the subject is clear and a model release is essential. The best way to think of the model release is as a written form of consent to use the photographs in agreed-upon public uses. It accomplishes two main goals:

  • The photographer will own all the rights to the photographs of the model (unless otherwise negotiated).
  • The model gives the photographer permission to use the photo for distribution. These rights can be negotiated in terms of the method or scope of said distribution.

With these two conditions in writing, the photographer owns not just the copyright, but also the right to publish the photos.

What Should Be Included In a Model Release Form

It’s easy to find free model release form templates, but an important aspect to consider with any model release form is that the release meets the requirements for your specific situation.  Since a contract is a legal document, depending on the scope of your project you may want to consult a lawyer for legal advice to make sure all your needs are covered. However, here is what would generally be found in a model release form template:

  • Your name and business name.
  • Your business address and phone number.
  • A release of all claims against your company.
  • Whether you want to release claims from other companies or assignees that buy, use, or obtain the licenses for your photos.  
  • A list of potential claims covered by the model release form (i.e., copyright infringement, defamation, invasion of privacy, and rights of publicity).
  • The terms of any compensation paid to a model or client.
  • Whether the model will be allowed to inspect photos prior to publication.
  • The name of the model, as well as whether their name can be published and under what circumstances.
  • Whether the form has an expiration date and what should happen after that time. If you don’t want the form to have an expiration date, state that the terms are irrevocable and can be exercised in perpetuity. 
  • An affirmation that the model understands and agrees to the terms of the form.
  • An acknowledgement that the model or client signing the form is at least 18 years of age.
  • If you take a picture of a minor, the signature of a parent or legal guardian. By signing the form, the parent or guardian must acknowledge all of the outlined terms and conditions, as well as affirm that they have the legal authority to sign on a minor’s behalf since they are not of legal age. 
  • Signatures of witnesses to the agreement.
  • Dates indicating when the form was signed.

Model Release Form Templates You Need For Production

The type of shoot will determine what kind of model release form you’ll need for production. Here are some common forms and templates.

Generic Model Release Form Template 

Assemble reached out to LA based photographer Brian To, who shoots fashion, beauty, editorial, headshots, advertising, fitness, and celebrity event photography to provide a simple model release template.

"I took the advice of a pretty famous photographer a long time ago who said to keep the model release straightforward and simple, so people you shoot are not scared of any complex hard-to-understand legal language.”

As Brian’s template illustrates, the model release form does not need to be overly complicated, but if your particular shoot has any special considerations, those should be included and addressed.  For example:The model release form template

As Brian’s template illustrates, the model release form does not need to be overly complicated, but if your particular shoot has any special considerations, those should be included and addressed. For example:

  • If the photos are to be used in an ad campaign showing the model with a medical condition they don’t actually have, you want to make sure the model consents to how the photos will be used and represented.
  • As most digital images are often subject to retouching, you may want to also include a digital manipulation clause that gives you permission to alter the image in any way needed.
  • If you are working with minors, you’ll need to adapt to a parental consent form, which would mirror a model release, but include a parent or guardian’s signature since anyone under the age of 18 is not legally allowed to sign contracts. You will also need to verify that the parents have set up a Coogan Account (blocked trust account) if you are working in the State of California, New York, Illinois, Louisiana and New Mexico. This protects the minor’s earnings until they are an adult.

Professional Photography Model Release Form

Going beyond the simple photography model release form, Assemble created a free comprehensive version.  In this model release form for photographers, you’ll find detailed language that offers protection for these key concerns. 

  • Model gives the photographer and affiliates, agents, successors, assignees and licensees permission to use likeness.
  • The model gives the photographer the perpetual and irrevocable right to copyright and use, re-use, publish, and republish images.
  • The model agrees to release the photographer from any liability.
  • The model and photographer’s agreed compensation.
  • Warrant of legal age or represented by legal guardian.

To download this model release, please see the Model Contract for a Photo Shoot link above.

Boudoir Model Release Form

Since boudoir photography is a photographic style that features intimate or sometimes erotic images of its subjects, it’s imperative that language is added to a regular model release form that states the model or client is willingly participating in a boudoir photo shoot and understands that it may or may not include partial nudity, implied nudity, or even full nudity. 

Given the sensitive nature of the photographs, being very clear on the intention and distribution of the photos will protect the photographer from legal liability. In general, boudoir photography will have three types of model releases.

  1. General Model Release - This release grants permission to the photographer to use all the images from the photo shoot. 
  2. Limited Model Release - Under the limited model release, the model decides which images they will allow the photographer to use, or in some cases, the model and photographer decide and agree upon them together. 
  3. Anonymous Model Release - The anonymous model release is made up of images where you can’t see the face of the model, rendering them unidentifiable. 

Photo and Video Release Form

Just as with a standard photo release form, should your shoot include video footage, you’ll want an adaptation to a photo and video release form. This photography and video release form should include language that grants permission to distribute the video footage for commercial use or for promotion, presentation or advertisement of the photographer's work.

Final Takeaways for Photographers on Model Contracts

Taking photographs is a business. Professional photographers need to protect their copyright and their ability to distribute their work. It’s best to handle all the paperwork in advance of the shoot. You can start with a template, but add layers of protections that are unique to each assignment. The key is to be organized, preferably with a cloud based management system so that on the day of the shoot the focus is solely on the creative side of the work.  

FAQS

Do Model Releases Expire?

A photo copyright release is an authorization to copy, distribute, or otherwise use specified copyrighted photos at will. This authorization is given by the owner of these images (the “releasor”) to another person (the “releasee”). The length of the usage is negotiated, unless stated that it is in perpetuity, in which case the model release does not expire.  

Who Does a Model Release Form Protect?

A model release form protects both the photographer and the model.  With a model release form, there is a written document that grants the photographer permission for a subject’s image to be used for commercial use, and the model has agreed upon defined terms of what can be used.

Do You Need a Witness for Model Release?

You are not required by law to have a witness, but it is advisable to have a third party (which can be another model at the session) sign the document.  The signature of a witness offers reassurance to a prospective buyer who may feel the release is more secure by virtue of being witnessed by a third party.

The Model Release vs The Photography Release

A model release protects the photographer and a photography release protects the model.

A photography release form is sometimes called a photo release or print release. Whereas a model release gives the photographer ownership and the ability to distribute the image, a photographer release protects the client or model.  If the client is a well known celebrity for example and hires the photographer for the photo shoot, the celebrity can stipulate where the photographer is allowed to display the photograph.



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