Are you looking for an easier way to get models to sign a release? Many photographers feel they need to use highly detailed, complex model releases. While this is often the case, particularly if you are contributor to a stock agency, hyper detailed releases are certainly not essential in all situations. Often, a much simpler release is not only easier for the model to quickly read and sign (therefore, making it more likely for the model to comply), in many cases it may even do a better job of protecting your rights.
Comprensive, detailed release language can often work against you. When I initially got started as a photographer I used standard ASMP releases – seems safe, right? WRONG.
One of the first lines of the standard ASMP release read “…and for other good and valuable consideration herein acknowledged as received, I hereby grant the following rights and permissions to,..” This was just one of the phrases (amidst a bunch of other legal mumbo jumbo) that I failed to understand. So, what does “consideration” mean?:
Consideration is the compensation that you give to the model or property owner. Consideration can be of any value and may actually be only nominal in nature, for example, a single dollar. Therefore, if you are not compensating your model with real consideration (money not a “thank you”) then a release with a compensation clause is not valid.
Yikes, I am so glad I went through the trouble to get all those invalid releases….
Damn. Another lesson learned the hard way.
At the end of the day, a simple release often better protects a photographer more than something unwieldy and obtuse. Hyper-specificity narrows the scope in such a way that a court can rule against the photographer. For instance, if a model release indicates that these pictures can be used for a “book, journal, magazine, pamphlet, newspaper, or other printed document” it comes at the exclusion of every kind of publication not included in the list—like a fine-arts print or Internet publication. Avoid this misstep by instead employing broad terms, such as “for any purpose, including publication.”
So how did I learn all this? An indispensible figure in my self-education has been Bert Krages, one of America’s foremost photography copyright lawyers and author of Legal Handbook for Photographers. His interpretations of often-complicated legal documents have been invaluable to me. What’s more, I was lucky enough to have his expert counsel throughout the development of Top Model Release.
In his book, amongst many other valuable lessons, he outlines good release practices including offering us photographers templates for a simple, clear, to the point model releases:
Sample Adult Model Release:
I consent to be photographed on __________ (date) by _______________ (Photographer). I further authorize that the photographs may be published for any purpose and in any form.
If you are a user of Top Model Release copy and paste the below text into a custom release form creating “Simple Adult” and “Simple Minor” template forms.
I, as the model identified by the information herein, consent to be photographed in accordance with the shoot dates and other information indicated on this form. I future authorize that the photographs may be published for any purpose and in any form.
I, as the parent or legal guardian of the minor identified by the information herein, consent to photography of the minor in accordance with the shoot dates and other information indicated on this form. I future authorize that the photographs may be published for any purpose and in any form.
In summary: there is a time and place for simple vs more complex model releases. Make an educated decision on the type of release that best fits the situation and if you do use a more advanced release, make sure you understand the language.