When Do I Need A Model Release?

“I’ve recently started up my photography studio. I photographed a wedding and several portraits of friends and neighbors before I really got going, but now would like to use these to design my website. Do I need a model release?” ~Wendy

To play it safe, I would always ask for a model release, especially when displaying photographs online for the whole world to see.

model release

The general rule on model releases is:

If you will be using a photograph in an editorial format – for newspapers, educational books, trade magazines, you generally do not need a model release. They are considered to be educational or informational in nature, and you don’t need a release for that.

If you will be using a photograph in any type of commercial aspect – advertising, brochures, catalogs, websites, etc – you will need a release from your subject to get approval for its use.

So in order to cover yourself, get one any time you’ll be using a photograph for your business.

In any contract, a model release can be a simple line or clause (check with your lawyer for exact wording and to make sure you are covered):

The parties agree that ABC Photography may reproduce, publish or exhibit a judicious selection of such photographs as samples of photographic work to be shown to prospective clients, and for instructional or institutional purposes consistent with the highest standards of taste and judgment.

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2 thoughts on “When Do I Need A Model Release?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It clears up the difference between editorial and promotional for me. There is still a grey are there for me though. I have a group shot which appears in my website header area which was taken at a corporate function. There are eight people in the photo and it would have been impractical to have dealt with a model release contract with each of them. Any suggestions on how to deal with this in the future?


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