Creating a Modeling Photo Release

The modeling industry is full of contracts and the photo release is just one. Fortunately, it’s rather short and simple to understand. It’s nothing like the contract that you might sign with an agent – or a booking contract you’ll have to sign in order to get paid. Photo releases are different beasts altogether.

In short, a photo release is a photographer’s way of asking permission to use your photographs. Written as legal rights, permission is usually granted to the photographer from the model and by signing one, you grant the photographer rights to use your pictures any way that he or she sees fit.

Even though you might trust your photographer and his intentions, you’re strongly encouraged to thoroughly read a photo release before you sign it. This is especially important if you’ve never seen or signed a photo release before.

Photographers (being the artists that they are) may want to use your photographs as a separate piece of art or in an unrelated exhibition. Or maybe they would like the right to sell your photographs to a budding painter or sculptor.

Whatever the reasons are, you must be sure that you understand what’s being asked of you in a photo release. If you don’t understand something – ask about it. If you don’t like how something reads – negotiate the terms. Negotiating the terms in a photo release doesn’t require a strong personality. You simply need to discuss what it is about the release that you want to change with your photographer. When the both of your agree on what can and/or can not be changed in the agreement, you can edit the release and initial the changes.

Do be sure to get a copy of the release that you and your photographer sign before you walk out of the door. Your copy is your proof of what you and your photographer agreed to in case you decide that arbitration (legal intervention) is required.

Agencies handle press releases a little different. In fact, if a photographer asks you to sign one and you’re working through a modeling agency, your agent will handle this part of the business or give you permission to sign it. Most agencies however, forbid you from signing anything. This practice protects you from photographers who might try to strong-arm you into an agreement both you and your agency might later regret.