Question #15: About Model Releases

Q: "I'm guessing that when you do street photography you are not asking all these folks to sign model releases? Or in many cases even asking their permission to photograph them? When is verbal permission required or is it just a courtesy/ friendly thing? When are model releases required? I like to take photos in the local park -- I'm working on a gallery that will eventually be on my website where the photos are for sale as prints. Am I going to need model releases? Do I have to tell the people I verbally ask permission to photograph that they might show up on my website or that I might sell the image I am shooting? What about places where things are for sale? Stores, Farmer's markets, Garden Centers, etc.  Any guidance would be helpful. Thank you." Phyllis H


A: "Hi Phyllis. Thank you for submitting a question to the blog. Unless I am doing a street portrait, where the intent is to interact with the subject before pressing the shutter, then no one usually knows I took their picture. As a street photographer you need to work fast and know how to capture the right moment without attracting attention to yourself. Also, I make a point to never photograph people in vulnerable or embarrassing situations. Respect should always be the number one priority to any street photographer. If someone objects to havIng their picture taken, even if I am in my rights, I always respect their wish.

In many countries, it is perfectly legal to use pictures of people taken in public places for editorial and fine art purposes. Note that I am not an attorney and you should check with the local authorities to make sure that your state or country doesn't have laws against it. If you were to use the images commercially (in an ad to sell a product for example) then you would need a release signed by the subject and usually one witness.  Whenever possible it is a good idea to get permission but if it is pure street photography, we all know that it would not be feasible as it would kill the candid moment. Also, honestly, would you sign a release if a stranger on the street asked you? I recently answered a question about street photography and privacy laws which you might find interesting. I hope this helps, good luck with your exhibit! "



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