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Managing and collecting model releases might become a tiresome job, specially for hobby photographers like me. Asking a stranger to sign a paper might become trick in most cases, specially in a 3rd world country where most people cannot read written english. So, is there any effecient workflow for collecting and managing model releases? Do I ask for the sign before or after the shooting session? Also, in case of a complete stranger in a street how do I approach? Do I need to collect model releases for every person I shoot even without knowing whether I will use their image in a commercial way or not?

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the whole field of model releases unless it's an actual 'model shoot' seems to be a nightmare. ive seen many shots on getty's site that i am pretty/very sure people have no model releases for. people posing in 3rd world countries, sports players, etc etc. i guess it only becomes a problem if they see themsleves in a magazine or on a billboard :-/ – user6782 Nov 20 '11 at 18:54
So you're saying its safe to make fake releases as long as the models wont see themselves? – fahad.hasan Nov 21 '11 at 1:56
Getty requires model releases unless the image is editorial. It is not safe to fake anything. – Steve Ross Nov 21 '11 at 19:42
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Images used for news or artistic works do not normally require a model release. In the first case, it would be unrealistic to expect a newspaper, for example, to get model releases before publishing pictures of a large group of people in a protest. For artistic purposes, there are a large number of street photographers taking pictures of people on the streets for artistic purposes, again without release. Now, in that case, if there was a desire for the image to be used for commercial purposes, such as stock for Getty (which is where I think you're going based on your previous question), they'd be out of luck.

So, for candid photography, getting a model release does give you some additional flexibility in the use of the image, but it's not actually required if the image isn't going to be used for commercial purposes. As for approaching them, well, that's tough... I'd have a hard time with it, I think, but not everyone does.

For actual working shoots, and I've only done a couple, the answer is sign everything before shooting. This includes any model releases, and possibly the buyer contracts, that stipulates the usage rights and other details, including payment. Never do the work until you have all those figured out, it protects you and it protects the models. Don't worry, people modeling for commercial purposes generally expect the release and they won't be shocked by the contents of it.

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Be careful. Privacy legislation varies wildly from one country to another. For example, in Spain it is OK to shoot at people at a protest/public event without permission, but it is in general forbidden in any other circumstance. Publishing candid shots is definitely illegal without a model release. – pau.estalella Nov 20 '11 at 15:15
@pau.estalella - There are exceptions in Spain as well, a lot of which depends on whether or not they're the subject rather than incidental. It is true, however, that one should always seek legal advice before use if you're not sure, but by and large the guidelines I listed above are typical in my experience. – John Cavan Nov 20 '11 at 15:23
Just to clarify: (in the US) "it would be unrealistic" is not the reason that newspapers don't need releases for events they cover. They don't need model releases when events are newsworthy ( because, as I understand it, the public's legitimate interest in the news ( chapter 2) outweighs the privacy of the individuals involved. Any time you're legally required to do something (like obtain a model release), whining "but that would be hard" is not a sufficient reason to avoid your obligations. – drewbenn Nov 21 '11 at 7:03
@drewbenn - Good point. Mind you, it's not just hard, it's impossible, so probably a good thing the law has other expectations. :) – John Cavan Nov 21 '11 at 13:51

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