What Is a Model Release Form?

  • Esther O'Leary

Whether you are new to the industry or have been working as a model for some time, you may well have been asked to sign a free model release form. There can be some confusion amongst models and professional photographers about the need for and protection offered by such legal documents. We have compiled a brief guide to help you decide whether or not to sign (though this does not constitute as legal advice).

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What Is a Model Release Form?

A model release form offers written permission for the photographer to use images taken during a photoshoot, for commercial purposes. If the model is under 18 years of age then the form must be signed by a parent or legal guardian. Child models need their parents consent to take part in any kind of modelling.

The form offers protection to models and photographers and it is essential that both are aware of the legal document whilst working in the industry.


When Are They Used?

Such forms are generally used when the images feature a clearly identifiable subject (model) who is featured in part, or all, of the main image. They are less likely to be used if the images are not being created for commercial use.

Do not feel intimidated or nervous to ask for a model release form if the organisers or professional photographer in charge does not present the legal contract. It is up to you as a model and your parent/guardian to act savvy and speak up for what you are entitled to.

What Is Commercial Use?

This can be a grey area but usually relates to photos that are used to promote, advertise or otherwise support a product or service. The term commercial might suggest that it only applies to images that are sold, but that is not always the case.

Whilst photographers often sell their work, an image could be given away for free and still require your signed consent. Even if a free image is used in an advertising campaign then it becomes commercial.

Make sure you are clued up on the usage of the photos. Once the document is signed you are releasing the images for commercial use, which spans a wide umbrella. Ask as many questions as you feel necessary to feel reassured and confident.


What Are the Advantages?

The commercial purpose of any photographs you appear in is usually made clear when you are booked for a modelling job. However, you might want to use the form to add specific restrictions to the use of your image. You may not want your identity to be associated with a particular product, subject or service. For example, to avoid association with sex, drugs or violence you can state it on the form.

The official document gives you a sense of control over your modelling career. It protects you from scam artists who may use the image in an inappropriate way that cannot be challenged if the contract is left unsigned. Always ask for your own copy for your own protection.

Should I Sign One or Not?

Ultimately, whether or not you wish to sign the release is entirely your decision. Some photographers will insist on it whilst others will be more relaxed. Signing the form could reduce the likelihood of your image being used in a way you might not be happy about. Not signing one does not guarantee that your image will stay out of the public domain. It could still be passed on to magazines, websites and other third parties for editorial use without your consent.

The document is intended to offer legal protection for both you and the photographer. Therefore, it is important to fully understand the consequences. Young models can sometimes act in a naive way that puts them at risk. They are afraid to speak up in case the opportunity is taken away. However, models need to be business minded to navigate the industry successfully. Carry out research and take your career into your own hands.


What Does a Model Release Form Look Like?

Many aspiring models are new to the industry and are most likely unfamiliar of what the document looks like. Depending on the company that you are working with each form will look slightly different. However, the intention is the same to hand over permission of the images that you feature in.

Expect to find:

  • A paragraph (or two) written at the top of the page stating the photographers name and what you are giving permission to. For example, where the photo can be used, how the image can be altered and handing over the rights of the shot to the photographer.
  • The rest is left blank for the model to fill in with prompts of what should be written in each space. It is usually your personal data e.g. name of model, telephone number etc
  • Photoshoot information – date and location.
  • Models signature.
  • Print your name for legibility.
  • State your date of birth.
  • Declare your current address.
  • Provide your email address.
  • State the current date.
  • If under 18, there is an option for your legal guardian to sign the document and print their name.
  • 2 witness are usually required to sign the form and to write their address.

Please find a model release form template here. There are many free templates online to gauge what the document should look like if you are unsure.


UK Models Can Help

Modelling industry experts such as UK Models can offer further advice on completing the paperwork required when working as a model. However, you may also want to seek professional legal advice if you have specific questions or concerns. The same goes for any client contracts that you need looking over. It is better to address these queries prior to the shoot. Leaving it until later may lead to some legal issues.

Always make sure that you fully understand every detail of the form and that you are happy to proceed. Never feel pressured or obliged to sign the document as you need to feel confident in your decision. Ask a friend or relative for advice also for a second opinion. A fresh pair of eyes may spot something that you missed.

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