Model Release: Do I need one? Should I sign one? (England & Wales)
By MidgePhoto, written 1528824552
A release is not required in order to take and use photographs in England and Wales. In particular, the photographer as the copyright owner does not require a release to merely publish the images. Ascribing an opinion or support to the model, for instance using them as an advert of some sort or writing an article attaching views to the model pictured, is a different matter.
A publisher (should you offer or otherwise sell an image to them) is quite likely to ask for a release signed by the model.
This might be a year (or ten) after you created the photograph and last saw the model. There is some sense in collecting documents, such as a model release, in case of future usefulness. A problem is that such organisations are apt to have their own form and may not accept the one you have used.
If a model release is used, it should be presented before the shoot, so there is time for it to be considered. Signing anything complex on first sight in a hurry is not best practice.
Models under 18 years of age
For models under the age of 18 years there are a slightly different set of problems. For someone under the age of 18 years this means that someone else is consenting to the model being involved and images used, so documentation of age and of the responsible adult is desirable.
Models do not, in general, mind signing such forms. A minority may even attend with one, whereas another minority may request a fee for the additional potential usage. Such a fee would tend to be small. In the example of the RPS Nudes Workshop it appeared in 2017 to be £20 whereas personal use of images from the workshop required no release.
The Royal Photographic Society (RPS) offer a freely downloadable and usable example or model form:
- https://rps.org/media/4kvcamlr/rps-model-release-form-pdf.pdf or as a word processor file:
- https://rps.org/media/ipgo0mcb/rps-model-release-form-word-document.docx )
Another is available on the 500px website (see below). There is also at least one app for a mobile phone which is used by some photographers active on PurplePort.
Articles from other websites:
- http://danheller.blogspot.com/2011/09/commercial-uses-and-model-releases.html (Release only needed if support is attributed to the subject)
I am not a lawyer (IANAL), and this is not legal advice. Contributors to the thread mined for the core of this:-
- Peter Glynn
- Tabitha Boydell
Minor edits Jan, Feb 2020
 The scope of this article is England and Wales. As of writing this is part of the EU, but countries may differ. The law of the place the model and photographer were when the photograph was taken would usually apply, rather than the law of their home countries, but usage - publication - in other countries may be subject to some of the laws of those countries. I do not know of an EU harmonisation directive on this.
 Commercial rather than editorial. Practice in commercial use involves explicit permission, such as a release. (Technically, not so much, but it is inadvisable.)
 Easy Release app, available for Android and iOS. But not based on English law. (Thanks Glam2k; ChrisD3)
 Stock image agencies will prefer you use their own, and if you are shooting for stock, predicting this, you will find the favoured release on the agency's site, freely downloadable. (Glam2k)
 For a clearly written explanation of what will and what will not be minded by one model, see https://purpleport.com/portfolio/Joel/ (version 20180814 1853 GMT)