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  1. #1
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    Model Release for Barely Recognizable Figures

    Just shot a whole bunch of photos at the beach. I have two or three shots of lifeguards on duty. The people in the photos are barely recognizable. Pretty much in profile. Mostly in shadow/backlit.

    From my college classes in civil liability, I learned that the rule of thumb for publishing/selling photos is based on whether or not the person is recognizable from the picture. To me, this seems like a gray area.

    I suppose, if you know who the person is, you could compare the photo I took to the person's actual likeness and make a connection but, if you don't know the person, you probably could not pick him out of a lineup.

    I think I'm going to go back to the beach and talk to the Head Lifeguard. I know him because I used to work with him, many years ago, as a lifeguard on that beach. I am planning to make small 4x6 postcard sized prints and have him give them to the lifeguard(s) in the pictures and ask for a release.

    My rationale is twofold: First, it covers my ass. Second, it helps me establish myself as a photographer who plays it by the book.

    I just wonder whether I'm worrying about minute details too much.

    What do you think?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 5891124063_c82d7c548a.jpg   5891984578_ff93697755.jpg  
    Randy S.

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  2. #2

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    If your aim is to cover your liabilities, I'd go ahead and get the release. That way, you are covered even if the said person makes a far flung claims. On the other hand, if it's barely recognizable, meaning it cannot be clearly identified and the person in the photo was incidental, not the main model, I personally wouldn't bother.

    Ah... the picture helps. I bet, if these images made to a gallery, the "models" will bring friends and proudly point out that the image is his/hers. But, if the image made it to an auction and fetch 10 million dollars, he/she will claim they are entitled to compensations....

    I'd get the release.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  3. #3

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    I think that you are worrying about minute details too much.

    Jeff

  4. #4
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    You don't need a release for those photos. I don't think anybody could recognize those people.

    What are you going to do with them anyhow?
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 07-09-2011 at 11:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

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  5. #5
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Is a model release form necessary when photographing in a public place?
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Is a model release form necessary when photographing in a public place?
    Model releases are important, regardless of the setting, if you are going to make "commercial" use of a person's image. Definition of "commercial" is not intuitive. My understanding: Selling gallery prints or editorial use (newspaper, magazine, books): not 'commercial.' Advertisement: 'commercial.' Postcards? Dunno. Calendar publishers like to see releases.

  7. #7
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    If they're in a public place and they are not the subject of the photograph then they have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath
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  8. #8

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    If the people are incidental to the photo and if there is no question about endorsement just because they happen to be in the photo, then a model release is not really necessary. [I'm not a lawyer].

    Ultimately it may be the art buyer at the other end who requests a release or not. So it could conceivably cost you a licence sale or two.

  9. #9
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    Expectation of privacy and permission to use one's likeness commercially are two separate things. Releases have to do with the latter, not the former. In a public place, you can take a stranger's photo till the cows come home. You can put the prints in a gallery, book, or newspaper, and even make a profit off of their sale in these venues. But you may not make a billboard to sell milk out of the photos.

    Release or no release doesn't have to do with where you are photographing. It has to do with whether of not the images will be used commercially.

    Prints in a gallery or fine art book do not need them, even if being sold, as they are art (photos that stand alone as photos), not commercial photos (photos that are used for the purposes of selling/promoting something else).

    News photos do not need releases, as the photos are considered as being in the public benefit (i.e. educational/informative).

    When you need them is when the images will be used to sell something else, not the photographs themselves. That pretty much defines commercial use. Releases basically allow the person's likeness to be used to make money selling something other than the likeness itself. They say, "You can use my recognizable image in perpetuity to sell whatever you want."

    But people don't need to give you permission to put their mug in a newspaper or gallery, or to use their likeness for any other purposes where the point of the photo being published is for the sake of the photo itself. It is when you use a photo as a tool to sell something other than the photo itself that it becomes commercial.

    You need property releases as well, for recognizable properties. For instance, you cannot sell a stock photo with a Disneyland ride in the background. (And they will come after you. They came after the children's hospital where I work for making Mickey mouse head waffles for the sick kids.)
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 07-09-2011 at 03:23 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  10. #10
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Is a model release form necessary when photographing in a public place?
    For commercial use, yes. Even in a place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
    Now define commercial.

    If someone is recognizable as the OP states you cannot use the photo to endorse a product without a release. This is fairly straight forward.

    For "editorial" use you are generally okay.
    Notice how I used the words editorial and general.
    This is a much grayer area.

    Hope I cleared that up

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