Last summer I was traveling in Central America and as a photographer, it was obvious to me that I will take this as an opportunity to add photos to my portfolio.
In the past, I’ve already licensed, sold & published some of my photos and was sure that I know all the details & restrictions about licensing a photo and whether I need to have a model release (written permission to use my photos for any purpose) or not.
When I arrived to the beach town Puerto Viejo I started photographing surfers and tourists and since I knew that I was not gonna start signing each and every one of them on a model release form, I made sure to photograph them from angles that did not reveal their faces. I assumed that this was my subjects will not be recognizable and I won’t need a model release. Boy I was wrong (:
Months passed by and I got an email from Getty Images (the biggest stock photos agency in the world). They want to use some of my photographs commercially – including the two photographs included here, and they asked for the model release.
Since there were no faces in the photographs I sent Getty an email about it and asked them how come? Their answer surprised me, and I think they will surprise you too. Sit back and enjoy learning from my mistakes for the next time you are taking photographs of strangers.
Regarding the tattooed girl, Getty claimed that with this unique tattoo she would be completely recognizable to herself and anyone who knew her. Regarding the surfer they claimed that the fact that one can see at least 1/3 of her face, hairstyle, swimsuit & the type of surfboard – all of those work together in varying amounts to make her unique.
You may say that Getty they are over cautious but I learned my lesson and next time I’ll make sure to sign each subject on a model release. Each subject that I think I may want to use commercially of course.
Hope you can learn from my story and won’t find yourself in the future get upset like me and start looking through the Internet for a tattooed girl from Costa Rica without a face by shares in Facebook, forums about tattoos and the Google picture search tool and if somehow you do recognize one of these nice ladies, please tell them that I am still looking to them. (or just leave a comment on the post)
So, where can you get a model release? Good question! You can find a good model release form in this link.While it looks pretty intimidating, make sure you explain in friendly words what the form is all about to the model and consider offering them some compensation if the photograph is ever used.
If you don’t want to carry a bunch of papers around, there are even a few iPhone and iPad apps that you can use to sign your potential model so your don’t really need to go for the Costa Rican beach with a bag full of paper. I would recommend you to check easy release app which is approved by most of the stock agencies.
About The Author
Guy Prives is a photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Guy discovered his love of photography during a long trip to South America, and now this passion to capture the moment with a click of the camera has been with him ever since. Check out more of his work at his website and Facebook page.