Running a business involves risks that are sometimes difficult to predict.
For photographers, using a person's likeness without their written consent may cause problems that reach into the legal realm. Understanding the need for a photo release waiver form and using this tool consistently with all clients is crucial to avoid legal troubles.
Businesses and non-profits that don't specialize in photography, but may use photos for promotional purposes, also typically use a photography waiver so they can legally use images featuring their clients or customers. For example, parents of school children may be asked to give permission for their kids to be photographed or videotaped throughout the course of a school day.
Photo Release Waiver forms are Standard for Professional Photographers
A photography release form is a contract between a client and a photographer. It gives the photographer permission to publish images that contain the client's property and/or likeness. With a signed photo release form, a photographer can post their work to social media channels, on their website, or in advertisements for their business.
Having photography consent forms on hand is good practice for photographers. Asking clients to a photo waiver form before starting the photo session establishes the photographer as an experienced professional.
Use a Photo Release Form if the Answer to Either of These Questions is "Yes"
- Could the photo(s) be used for promotional purposes (to showcase work, advertise services, etc) at some point in the future?
- Is the subject of the photo clearly a person or group of people?
Parts of a Photo Release Waiver Form
A photo release waiver form should include the full legal name of the person or people involved in the photo session. If the photoshoot involves minors, their names and ages should be listed on the form, as well. A person over the age of 18 taking responsibility for the minor listed on the form should sign.
Example of the Identifying Part of a Typical Photo Waiver
Patrick Fashinbom gives consent to Masterful Photos and associates of Masterful Photos, Inc to use, reproduce, or publish images featuring Patrick Fashinbom and his children, Allison Fashinbom, Claire Fashinbom, and Mickey Fashinbom, for commercial use.
The underlined portions of this example would typically be left blank, so a photographer can keep photography waivers on hand at all times for immediate use.
A photography consent form would also include details about the images and the date of the photoshoot:
Family photos and portraits taken by Masterful Photos, Inc on June 12, 2019.
The phot waiver form also offers specifics about how, why, and when the images may be used by the photographer:
Patrick Fashinbom gives Masterful Photos, Inc permission to use these images for promotion on the Masterful Photo, Inc website, and/or its social media channels, and/or in their portfolio or studio, and/or in any other promotional venue such as trade shows with or without identification of subjects and with no expectation of payment for the use of these images.
Be Sure to Leave Room for Signatures and Dates
There should be a place for the subject(s) to sign and date the photography release form. It's a good idea to include a line where they can print their name(s), as well. The photographer should sign and date the photo waiver form at the same time.
Templates for photo release forms are available online. Photographers should read through several versions to find components that they would like to include in their release form. It may be worth paying extra to have a lawyer who specializes in small business matters look over the release form.
While some types of business insurance may cover a photographer who has legal problems with a client, it's always best to avoid the situation by consistently using a well-thought-out photo release form.
Using Client Photos for Advertisement
Highlighting a recent photoshoot on Instagram, Facebook, or any social media sharing site is a great way to promote a business.
It's free, fun, and engages potential clients by showing off the highlights of a photo session. Clients may share posts featuring themselves or their family and friends throughout their own social media channels, which is a great way to promote a photography studio.
If a photographer doesn't have a client's permission to use photos on their social media sites in the form of a signed photo waiver, doing so could cause problems. A photo release waiver protects the photographer from misunderstandings about how, when, and why they may use a photo of clients as they promote their photography business.
Protecting a Business from a Lawsuit
While a photography consent form may not be enough to protect a business from every situation where legal problems may occur, it will prevent many issues.
If a person does not want to have their likeness published or they aren't comfortable with their children's images being put on a business' social media channel, they have the chance to voice their objection by refusing to sign the waiver before the photo is published.
A photographer can modify the photograph waiver to meet the needs and wants of their subject, which could prevent misunderstandings about when and where the photo may appear.
Without a signed photography release form, a business must address potential complaints from people who appear in photos used for commercial use. For some, taking down the image isn't enough to satisfy the person who perceives that they were harmed by their image being used without their explicit permission.
Protecting a Business During High-Stress Events
People tend to hire a professional photographer to document specific milestones. Weddings, welcoming a new baby into a home, and graduations are emotionally weighty times. When things don't go quite right, a photographer can find themselves involved in a difficult situation.
Part of protecting any business from the negative effects of a lawsuit involves understanding the likelihood that things could go wrong. Having photographer insurance, including photography equipment insurance, to help mitigate the financial ramifications of legal problems is one way small businesses can help protect their assets. You can learn more about photographer insurance costs here.
Next Insurance can help, so get your business insured and stay prepared for any challenges ahead.