As with any written law, the guidelines can seem both vague and complex. Two things to remember:
- Law definitions can be much broader than your own understanding of them.
- Cover your you-know-what.
Pictures of People:
If the people are not identifiable—not the focal point of the picture—and the picture is to be used for editorial/informational purposes you do not need a permission release.
- The people are posing or otherwise made the focal point of the picture.
- The picture will be used for advertising purposes (brochures, etc…)
- There are children in the photograph.
- There is someone in “trade dress” such as a circus performer.
- The person is a celebrity. We won’t get into that but the rules are different for them.
A note about children:Anyone under 18 years of age must have a permission form signed by at least one parent or guardian.Schools and other organized groups generally have standard forms. Read these carefully, they may cover the organization but not necessarily the photographer.
Pictures of Property:
You may take pictures of houses, buildings, cars, etc… while standing on public property. However, be sure that the owner of the property can not be identified by the picture. Again, if the shot is for editorial purposes you should be fine. If it is for promotional purposes, get a property permission form signed.
- If the icon on the vehicle is visible you may have copyright issues with the manufacturer.
- Trademarks on buildings are copyrighted and the buildings themselves may belong to another company or individual.
Keep them—forever. It is a good idea to make notes on the back of the form that will remind you as to which form goes to which picture. When you get back to your office print a copy of the picture on plain paper and attach it to the permission form.
Where do I find permission forms?
Photo release forms are available online at:
Free Legal Documents http://www.free-legal-document.com/photography-contracts.html
The American Society of Media Photographers http://asmp.org/tutorials/forms.htmland
and other similar sites.
By Robyn Chausse