Reading time: 6 minutes

A model release document gives the photographer the right to publish any photos of other property or people. The document’s length can range from a paragraph to a full-blown contract with complex terms and conditions, full details as to both parties’ rights, and the consequences for a breach of the contract. The details and complexity of the contract depends on what you and the other parties have agreed to. It would be best if you had a contract lawyer draw this up to ensure it is legally effective. This article will cover:

  • what a release form is;
  • why they are important; and
  • when you should use one. 

What is a  Model Release Form?

It is a written document whereby the model releases the photographer against claims for the use of the photograph. This includes any claims the model may have to future compensation. It should outline what you can and cannot do with the images. This will protect:

  • you;
  • your client; and
  • those you are photographing.

Using a model release form also ensures that you own the images you take. It can be included as part of a contract with the model or as a separate document.

Remember to keep the form safe as it will not expire, and you will need to present it whenever you want to use or sell your photograph. 

If you decide to use a model release form, you should have it completed and signed before the photography session occurs. This avoids wasting any time or cost if they refuse to sign. However, it will still be effective if they sign it after the shoot. 

Why Is A Model Release Form Important?

Keep in mind, a person’s verbal promise will not be sufficient to hold up in court. A party might repeatedly tell you that they permit your use of the photos. However,  if one party changes his or her mind, you will struggle to find a legal leg to stand on. The moral of the story: have everything in writing.

Any indication of your agreement, whether in a formal contract, a casual email, a post-it note or something else written is better than nothing. Otherwise, it is your word against theirs. A court will more often than not decide against the party using the photos without express permission.

Is it Compulsory to Use a Model Release?

There is no legal requirement to get one in Australia. However, it will set out your legal rights and lower your risk of any unexpected and unwanted repercussions. In particular, if you are planning on selling or leasing a photo, such as for:

  • a magazine;
  • a website;
  • a catalogue; or
  • otherwise.

Or alternatively, using it for advertising, you should get a model release form from each model you are photographing. 

When deciding whether to use a model release form, you should consider how you will use the photograph.

If your photo is to be used in an educational context, typically a model release will not be required due to the informative nature of the photo. Examples may include photography in a:

  • journal;
  • industry newsletter; or
  • newspaper.  

For example, you photograph a sportsman at a charity event but did not get a model release. You sell the image to a local newspaper, who use the image to accompany an article about the sportsman. This is editorial usage as the photograph appears alongside the news story,  so no release is required. 

However, if you sell your photos to a person planning to use them in an educational book or magazine, you will still have to obtain a model release form. This is because you are still planning to sell the photos and make a profit. Similarly, if the person who appears in the photograph (such as the sportsman in the example above), wishes to use the image for an advertising campaign, a form is required.

If you are not sure whether or not you will use your photographs for commercial purposes, such as advertising, it is best to get a model release form. This is because it will allow you to use it for those purposes if you decide to later on. Additionally, it will be a lot easier to obtain the release at the time of the shoot.  

Are the Rules the Same if the Person is Famous?

Does it make a difference if you are snapping a celebrity or public figurehead? In some cases, celebrities have even less of a right to privacy. However,  normally the same rule will apply: if you are providing the photo to a local paper or online columnist as part of a story, you will not need a model release. However, if you are using the photo in advertisements for a business, you will need one.

Do I Need a Model Release to Publish My Photos on Social Media?

You can generally publish photos of people on social media without a model release form. However, if your post is advertising your services, then you will need one.

Do I Need a Release Form for Children?

If your photographs include children and you intend to use the images for commercial purposes, including advertising, you should use a model release form. The child’s parent or guardian will sign on behalf of the child. 

What About if I Use a Drone?

You require consent for aerial drone photography. If you plan on providing any drone or similar photography services, you must get consent from each person located within 30m of a remote device. 

Where Can I Get a Model Release?

The Arts Law Centre of Australia has a model release that you can use free of charge that is quite comprehensive. If you are unsure whether your use of your photos is legal or not, you should seek legal advice. 

Key Takeaways

A model release form offers contractual protection for photographers from incurring any claims for the use of their images. Whilst it is not always legally required, it is often a good idea to obtain one to ensure you own your images and that you have no further obligations to get consent for the use of the images or to pay any fees. For help drafting a comprehensive but straightforward release, contact LegalVision’s contract lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a model release form?

A model release form is a document that the model signs to release the photographer against claims for the use of the photograph. It outlines what you can and cannot do with the images in order to protect all of the parties involved.

Is it compulsory to use a model release form?

It is not compulsory in Australia to use a model release form. However, it is strongly suggested as it will lower your risk of any unexpected and unwanted repercussions. 

Do I need a model release form for children?

If you intend to use images of children for commercial purposes, such as advertising, you should use a model release form. A parent or guardian of the child must sign on their behalf. 

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer