Legalities of Model Release.

For the protection of the model and the photographer, it is best practice to ensure full understanding of intentions before shooting begins. A model release form covers the rights of the model and the photographer.  Through college and now university, I have been repeatedly told by tutors that a model release is a correct way to go for the protection of all parties, but repeated readings imply that it is not a legal requirement of law, even for children, and that even a verbal agreement is not required but merely a courtesy.


A model release is simply confirmation of consent given to a photographer by the person in the photograph that the image may be used for various purposes – and it is not a requirement of the law. There are currently no standalone ‘image rights’ in the UK, but please note that they may exist in other countries.”

  • Fact #1: You do not need a model release to take pictures.
  • Fact #2 You do not need a model release to sell pictures. And “profit” has no effect on whether a release is required.
  • Fact #3 You do not need a model release to make photos available for sale, either on your own website or through a stock agency.
  • Fact #4: A “property release” is NOT required to sell or buy photos of buildings or people’s personal property (like land).
  • Fact #5: You usually do not need permission to shoot pictures of (or on) private property.
  • Fact #6: You do not need releases for Art, Books, Exhibitions, Presentations, Fairs, Contests, Postcards, Calendars, Etc
  • Fact #7: Photographers do not need releases for photos in their portfolio.
  • Fact #8: Posting photos online is just another form of publishing.
  • Fact #9 Ownership of physical pictures and ownership of rights are different.

The reality is that photographers (and stock agencies) don’t get sued for the publication of an unreleased image. And given the very high cost of suing someone, litigants are usually told by their lawyers to go after the “publishers” of the images in question, as they are the ones who bear the true legal liability.”

The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) on the other hand feel “increased public concerns over privacy and the need for photographers to protect themselves and the people they photograph” requires a release form and they supply a version that they state has been conferred with ‘top UK lawyers’. They then continue to list possibilities, some with current law references that they feel needs the protection of a release form.

“1 Section 85 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 which provides that a person commissioning a photograph for private and domestic purposes has the right to prevent copies being publicly issued.

2 The Data Protection Act 1998 under which an image, particularly used in association with the model’s name, could amount personal data and therefore use without the model’s consent could amount to a breach of that Act.

3 Breach of confidence. Whilst there is no law of privacy in the UK, case law relating to breach of confidence is gradually being developed to prevent unauthorised publication of an individual’s image (usually a celebrity).

4 The law of contract. The engagement of a model would usually amount to a contract. Express or implied contract terms may govern what may or may not be done with a photographic image.”

They include a liability disclaimer and also fail to name which law firm they approached for this advice. The 6-page form also notes that the form does not bind as a contract unless the model is compensated in some way.

“Accordingly The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) makes no representation, warranty or guarantee of any kind concerning the accuracy or completeness of any of the information contained in this guidance and instructions or that any statement of law is current.”

 ModelRelease   If simply for a courtesy, the form will allow us to explain fully to our model any possible uses for the images we intend and they do offer the model a feeling of security – if possibly somewhat falsely – and perhaps if law is considered at a later date our images will be covered under the agreement.