A regular reader of my blog asked the question you’ll read below… and so I called on my friend Rachel Benke who is a photographer and lawyer to answer. I love to provide advice, but would hate to get share legal advice that might not be 100% accurate. So in this article you’re going to hear from Rachel as she talks about model releases for street photography.
Before Rachel gets started I want to mention a couple things. First, I used to keep pocket model releases in my bag whenever out with my camera. I now use my iPhone and Easy Releases which syncs via iCloud to my iPad as well. Easy Releases is also available for Android devices.
When you’re finished reading Rachel’s article please read the following two other articles:
- 3 Steps To Easily Identify When You Need a Release
- Model Releases: What You Need to Know (With Samples)
Thank you for reading and on to you, Rachel.
So if I’m doing Street Photography – I understand that I don’t need model release forms if I’m just posting the photos online (like to my blog and facebook). But what if I:
- Offer the prints for sale where 100% of the profit goes to charity?
- Use the image as part of a book which I sell for my own profit?
Would love to know this one.
Do I need a model release in street photography?
The general answer is no you don’t need a release when photographing a public location, however, it is always best to error on side of caution and obtain a model release. This may not always be feasible and is appropriate to photograph even without a release in the case of street photography. An individual who is knowingly exposing themselves to the public does not have what is called a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. In this situation, for their face and body.
In case you don’t know…
A model release is signed by the subject (or in the case of a minor, the parent or legal guardian) giving the photographer permission to publish eh photograph as defined by the release.
Are there exceptions to a model release?
The no-model-release-situation only covers photographing a public location, not standing in a public location and photographing into someone’s home. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for individuals walking down the street, but there is for individuals in their own homes – even if they leave their curtains open for the world to see. Not only is it unlawful, it is creepy to be photographing into private homes.
Note: Just because an area is open to public does not mean it is public property, therefore, a model release and permission to shoot may be required. An example of this would be a private establishment, such as a store or restaurant.
What if my public subjects decline to be photographed?
Assuming you’re in a public area and the individual attempts to decline, the photographer still has a right to photograph even without their permission. Remember the “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard we discussed above? There is none in a fully public place.
What if I want to offer prints for sale? Or include in a book I want to sell? Or what about for charity?
For all images taken in a fully public area, the photographer has the right to use these photographs in their portfolio and for sale. This would include sale of prints, inclusion in a book or video product for sale and selling prints for charity. In the event that the photographer wishes to include these photographs in a wide scale commercial activity, such as book sales, a commercial release should be obtained.
Are there dangers in street photography?
There is danger everywhere, even if you’re photographing lawfully. There have been numerous cases of photographers being assaulted. Use your common sense in photographing those who decline, even if you have a right to do it it may not always be what is best.
Rachel Brenke is a business consultant with many hats including author, photographer, lawyer, business consultant, social media marketing strategist, just to name a few. She is currently helping creative industry professionals all over the world initiate, strategize and implement strategic business and marketing plans through various mediums of consulting resources.