Photo Release Forms (7)

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Updated May 17, 2023

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A photo release form allows an individual or photographer to obtain consent from the other party in order to use photographs for personal or commercial use. The releasing party, the “releasor,” can choose to give away the rights to the images for free or charge a fee or royalty. In the case where there is payment involved, the rights of ownership to the images do not become final until the payment has been made and the release form has been authorized.

Table of Contents

By Type (7)

What is a Photo Release Form?

A photo release form is a legally binding document that grants a photographer, business entity, or specified individual (the “Releasee”) authorization to obtain photographs for personal or commercial use. The model or specified individual (the “Releasor”) provides authorization, can request payment, royalties or can provide the rights to future use, free of charge.

When is a Photo Release Form Needed?

A photo release form is needed when a recognizable image of an individual will be utilized in an attempt to receive profit. Profit may be defined as money, promotion of services, or publication (i.e. a brochure or business card). Anytime an individual is hired as a model (can be defined as an employee or independent contractor), a photo release form will be needed in order to distribute and use those photos for profit.

A photo release form is NOT needed when taking photos in public. If a photo release form was needed for every individual captured in a picture, YouTubers and most media outlets would be in serious trouble. Normally on public property, it is perfectly legal to take pictures without a photo release form.

How to Make a Photo Release Form

This type of release is designated for individuals seeking to obtain ownership of photos they have requested or were taken. If the photos were taken by a photographer, the form grants ownership of the form to the buyer which usually involves removing any copyright watermarks.

If the photos were of someone else, the form acts as a release allowing someone else to use the individual in the image for commercial or promotional use.

Step 1 – Download the Appropriate Photo Release Form

person filling out photo release form on laptop

There are many types of photo release forms depending on the subject being photographed. The most popular form being the Model Photo Release Form. Most forms include the following general information:

  • Name of Photographer or Releasee
  • Name of Model or Releasor
  • Address and phone number
  • Description of specified photographs
  • Longevity of the validity of the form
  • Detailed intent of photographic use
  • Conditions of participation

Step 2 – Give Clear Instructions to the Client (Releasor)

person explaining photo release form to client

The Photo Release Form should be discussed between the Releasee and the Releasor to confer and ensure understanding of the intent of the photographic image and distribution intention (i.e., advertising, commercial business purpose – calendar, website, poster, etc.) as well as how and when the payment (amount and date of payment must be specified) will be made or what will be exchanged, if applicable. Additionally, instructions should be provided to the client if revocation of the Photo Release Form is allowed, and under what circumstances it can be done, any royalties to be received by the releasor should be identified on the form, along with where to sign and who is required to sign.

Step 3 – Sign and Begin Taking Photos

releasee signing photo release form

A photo release form is easy enough, typically 1 page in length, that a lawyer is not needed for consulting. A photographer will normally have a large batch full of model release forms in a folder when showing up for a job. A model will typically sign the form just prior to the shoot being filmed. Once signed, the photographer should safely store the form away in their bag or folder.

Using with Minors

When a Photo Release Form will be involving a subject not of legal age, at least one parent or legal guardian will be required to also sign and be in agreement with the form. Adulthood determining age is defined by each state and local laws should be referred or legal counsel can be requested. An emancipated minor will not require the additional signature of a parent or guardian.

How to Write

Download: Adobe PDF, MS Word, or OpenDocument

(1) Releasor. The Owner of the photograph this release discusses will (generally) be the model, the photographer, or both. This form will seek the release of rights to a photograph from one person but can be modified for more than one Party to grant this release. Make sure that each Party who intends to release their rights to a photograph is listed as the media’s “Releasor.” Each Person named will be expected to sign this release to place it in effect.

(2) Mailing Address. Document the mailing address where each Releasor named above can be contacted (officially). This can be the Releasor’s business address or home address. It is not recommended to use a PO box address unless absolutely necessary.

(3) Releasee. The Party or Entity that wishes to gain the right to use, display, or publish the photo must be identified as the Releasee in this agreement. If this is a Business Entity such as a PR Firm, then include its applicable status suffix if applicable (i.e. “Corp.,” “Inc.,” “LLP.”).

(4) Photo To Release. Naturally, the photo being discussed must be defined. This can be done with a specific description of its content however, if possible make sure to include the date the photo was taken, the location of the shoot, and any metadata or EXIF (exchangeable image file format) data the Photographer may have assigned when the photo was taken.

I. Payment

(5) Payment. Oftentimes, payment will be required of the Releasee to the Releasor prior to being given the right to access and use the photo. In such a case, this release will need to define such a payment. To do so, select the checkbox corresponding to the first statement in Article I. This statement will only apply if a record of the amount of money that must be paid is produced to the space provided.

(6) No Payment Required. If the Releasee will not require a payment, then select the second checkbox of the choices presented in Article I.

II. Royalties

(7) Royalty Fee. Whether a release fee is required, some photographs may warrant that royalty payment is submitted to the Releasor whenever the photograph is displayed or used by the Releasee. Such payment must be established in this release. To this end, review the options in Article II, select the appropriate statement, then dispense the amount of royalty payment the Releasee must submit to the Releasor whenever the photograph is displayed or used.

(8) No Royalty Fee. If the Releasee will not be obligated to pay a royalty to display or use the concerned photo then, select the second statement made in Article II.

III. Revocation

(9) No Revocation Allowed. If this release will be considered finalized upon its execution and there will be no option for the Releasor to revoke or cancel it, then select the first checkbox from the third article.

(10) Option To Revoke. Select the second statement from Article III if the Releasor intends to retain the right to revoke or terminate this document in the future. This will allow the Releasor to renegotiate the terms of release or withhold release of the image if needed in the future for any reason named so long as such revocation is made in writing.

Photo Release Execution

(11) Releasor’s Signature And Printed Name. This document will only become effective if the Releasor reviews the completed form then signs his or her name. This signature will be considered proof that the intent to release the photo to the Releasee is genuine.

(12) Signature Date Of Releasor. The Releasor must date the document he or she has signed. This date must represent the day the Releasor provided the required signature.

(13) Releasee Signature And Printed Name. The Party or Entity that wishes to use or display the image being discussed must also sign this paperwork. If this is a Business Entity (i.e. Advertising Agency) then a Representative (i.e. an Agent or Officer) of this Entity may sign this paperwork to accept the release terms.

(14) Signature Date Of Releasee. The signature made by the Releasee must be dated. He or she should dispense this calendar date once the Releasee’s signature section is satisfied.