This question might have multiple layers to it.


I have been taking photos of people for the past two years. These people of course have verbaly consented to this. You could call them amateur models.

For the past year, I have been told by various people that I should release some of the photographs, as they are really good.

Most models are adults, but some are minors (17 yrs old). There is no nudity involved, naturally.

My Plan

To promote my pictures locally, I intend to print some of them on Postcards. As I have resolved the technical issues and am about to sign a contract with a professional printing service, the legal issues have come to bugger me.

I don't intend to earn a lot of money with these postcards. But I do want to cover my expenses by selling them for a minor amount of money.

I don't know if that already qualifies as a commercial endevour.

All models have given me verbal consent on printing their pictures.

I did however read that I should let them sign a release form. But only if I intend to sell the postcards in a comercial fashion.

Also I've read that for my underage models I need a written consent of their parents.

The Question

Do I need written consent from the adult models? Even if I don't intend to make money of their pictures.

And do I need written consent from the parents of my underage models, aswell?

Post Script: I currently live in Germany.


I guess the relevant portion of the question is:

Does selling the postcards for an amount of moeny that covers their production cost constitute making money?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Were the photos taken in a public place or in a place where the model did not have an expectation of privacy? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2016 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ The photos were taken in my improvised studio \$\endgroup\$
    – MrPaulch
    Mar 18, 2016 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Short answer, sometimes. If you only intend to upload them online, then you generally don't need written permission (some websites do require it though) however it can be a good idea to get permission anyway especially if you are photographing people you don't know well or at all. This will protect you should someone change their mind about having his/her photo posted online and sue you for supposedly not obtaining their consent. Extreme scenario, but it can happen and it's better safe than sorry.

If you are going to be making any money at all, then yes definitely. Though some jurisdictions may not require it (depending on the circumstances), it is a good idea nonetheless as without it, a model can change his/her mind and take you to court over it. You have no proof he/she ever consented in the first place. Again, it's an extreme scenario but it can happen.

You need to make sure the consent form contains all relevant information regarding the shoot including whether the model is being paid, whether the model will receive a portion of the sales profits and how much, etc. If the model is a minor (where I live, under 18 is considered minor, however this varies by jurisdictions) then the parent must sign the form not the model him/herself. Make sure you adhere strictly to the consent form because if you do something outside of what the consent form allows, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, you are in breach and the model has the right to take legal action against you

Remember, laws vary by jurisdiction, so my advice is to do some research including studying sample model release forms which can be found online easily

If you need any further clarification, just say so

  • \$\begingroup\$ "any money at all" isn't accurate, but jurisdiction matters. Dan Heller has some very good resources here, but are US centric: danheller.com/model-release.html \$\endgroup\$
    – rrauenza
    Mar 18, 2016 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I understand what you mean by not accurate. Can you explain please? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2016 at 18:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Sure -- in the US you can sell pictures of people without consent and sell them as artwork ("Editorial"). What you can't do is promote a product/service ("Commercial") that implies they are endorsing it without their permission. A photographer using client photos to promote their photography business isn't necessarily "commerical." I am not a lawyer, your mileage may vary, yada, yada, ... \$\endgroup\$
    – rrauenza
    Mar 18, 2016 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a better (more concise) article by Dan: danheller.com/model-release-primer \$\endgroup\$
    – rrauenza
    Mar 18, 2016 at 19:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense. Though it is always a good idea to get written consent anyway, that way there is no room for the model to say 'hey, I never gave you permission to sell photos of me' \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2016 at 19:01

It depends.

Dan Heller's model release primer (and other articles) give a lot of background and things to consider. To quote Dan, in short,

  • You never need releases to take pictures.
  • You don't need releases to buy or sell pictures. [...]
  • How a person or thing is "portrayed" is what determines whether a release is required.
  • Whoever publishes the photo may need a model release.
  • The photographer is usually not the publisher, but gets the release anyway, which he then "assigns" to the buyer upon sale or license of the image.
  • The photographer is not culpable for unreleased images that are published by someone else.
  • Photographers get releases because it makes photos easier to sell to publishers, because publishers need releases.

Another good resource are The Copyright Zone guys. They have videos published via B&H as well:

edit: These are all from the US perspective -- just noticed you are in Germany.

Additionally -- sometimes it isn't the law you want to follow, but rather common courtesy. While it may be legal to do something, it might not be good business and could hurt your ability to get client references, etc.


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