Model & Property Release Forms For Photographers

Model release forms.

Property release forms.

What are we talking about? One of the most confusing requirements for those new to stock photography.

Model release forms can either be the bane of your existence in microstock, or just another step in the process. It will depend how you look at it and manage it.

With this guide to model & property releases, you can skip the pain and just stay focused on selling your images.

Model & Property Release Forms For Photographers

There are two main types of release forms that you will come across when submitting stock photos – model releases and property releases.

But there are also a number of other questions you will likely have.

So we have divided this guide into three main sections:

  1. Model release forms
  2. Property release forms
  3. General questions about release forms

We'll cover them all here, and provide you with a free sample release template you can download as well.

But first, let's talk about model releases.

What Is A Model Release Form?

A model release form is a signed legal document, sometimes also known as a Liability Waiver. Its purpose is to grant certain usage rights to an image by the subject of that image. This is not related to copyright, but rather privacy and consent.

For instance, a model would sign a model release form so that a stock photographer can use the images legally and sell them through various stock libraries, such as Depositphotos or Dreamstime.

Model Release Forms

What Should A Model Release Form Include?

While model release forms can vary significantly in wording and scope, there are several things that you should definitely include on any model release document:

  1. A photo of the model, similar to a passport style photo
  2. The dates of the shoot
  3. The models full legal name, address and phone number
  4. The photographers full legal name and phone number
  5. A third-party witness to verify the form
  6. Signatures from all involved
  7. Consent from legal guardian if any party is under the legal age

A model release should be filled out even if the model is a family member or close friend.

What Is A Property Release Form?

A property release is similar to a model release but deals with an object or property rather than a person. It is a legal contract between the photographer and the property’s owner stating that you have certain usage rights to the image or likeness of that property.

For instance, if you were to take photographs or video inside a private home (such as for real estate style shots) and wanted to sell these images on a stock site like Pond5 you would need a property release.

Property Release Forms

What Should A Property Release Form Include?

Property release forms can also vary significantly in wording and scope – especially if you regularly deal with physical property (such as houses) versus objects (identifiable products). But still there are several things that you should definitely include on any property release document:

  1. A photo or visual reference of the property
  2. The dates of the shoot
  3. All property details such as full address or description of the property
  4. All details of the property’s legal owner or authorised representative
  5. The photographers full legal name and phone number
  6. A third-party witness to verify the form
  7. Signatures from all involved

A property release should always be filled out, even if the property belongs to a family member or close friend.

What Else Should I Know About Release Forms?

Now that we understand what model and property releases are and what they should include, let's answer a few more common questions about releases.

We'll start with understanding why releases are required for stock photography.

Then we'll talk about when they are needed – and when they aren't.

Finally, you'll get links to free resources, including our own templates you can modify.

What You Need To Know About Model Releases

Why Are Release Forms Essential For Stock?

The answer is quite simple: whenever you photograph a person, product or property and try to sell the image certain legal implications arise.

For instance, is the person agreeable to you selling a photo of them? Would they complain if they saw their image used on a billboard? What about advertising a product that they don’t believe in? Do they even know you took the photo in the first place? Does the owner of the property know you will be earning money off their property? Do they consent to that?

Clearly, having release forms protects you legally.

But remember, microstock agencies are selling the image license to clients on your behalf. Thus they could bear some of the legal consequences if the model decides to sue. Can you imagine the microstock agencies opening themselves up to that kind of litigation on the millions of licenses they sell each year? Enter the model & property release requirement. It protects you and the agencies you will be licensing through.

When Are Releases Needed For Stock Photography?

Generally speaking, you need a model release form whenever a person is identifiable in the image. This can be a bit subjective. The safest course of action is to include a release whenever a person is in your photos, even if they may not be easily identifiable.

The only exception to this is if you are submitting editorial photos, taken in public places for news-worthy items. But these must be excluded from standard commercial licensing.

Property release forms are required in the following circumstances:

  • Identifiable images of houses, offices, buildings etc – both internal and external
  • Identifiable products
  • Images taken on private property
  • In some areas, images taken in national parks

There are some items that are completely out-of-bounds for stock (again, unless sold as royalty free editorial). Each agency will often maintain a list of products and locations that they just simply won’t accept due to the risk of litigation. 

Can I make my own release forms?

Each stock agency will provide their own form for you to use if you wish.

However, you can make your own one up that covers all the requirements for all the agencies. Then you only need to fill out 1 per model rather than 20. So yes, you can use your own model release form and we recommend this.

Bear in mind not all agencies accept digital release forms at this stage (meaning, ones created through specific apps for this purpose). So it is safer to create a great PDF version that you can fill out, sign and upload to all agencies.

Free Model & Property Release Form Templates

Now you're probably wondering, where can I get some free model and property release forms that I can customise to my needs?

Good news – we have a free PDF model release and property release form that you can download below!

The purpose of providing these free forms is to give you a general idea of how you could put together your own documents. You will need to modify it to suit your intended purposes.

Disclaimer: These release forms have not been reviewed by a lawyer and we are not law experts. You should modify these and then check them with your lawyer to ensure they meet your needs. These forms are not to be hosted anywhere else or distributed through any means other than this website. We are not responsible for any claims, damages, lawsuits, or disputes that may arise from the use of these release templates. We accept no liability on these freely provided general guides.

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