Once you start making money from photography, you’ll get very acquainted with model releases. Used mostly in commercial photography when your client will be making a profit from your photos, a model release must be signed by any recognizable person in your image. You may also need a property release signed. Below, you’ll learn what a property release is and when you need it. There’s also a free property release form template below that you can download.
What is a property release?
Similar to a model release, a property release records explicit, written permission from the owner of a piece of recognizable property to use its likeness for commercial purposes. In this case, “property” is generally defined as a private home or business location, a copyrighted work of art, and sometimes even a pet or animal.
When you need a release.
So every time you take a photo of a Starbucks coffee shop, you need to get a property release signed?? Not necessarily. It all comes down to intent. If you use the photo for personal use, such as casually sharing it with your friends, you probably don’t need a property release signed. However, if you plan to make any sort of profit from the photo, then you’re using it commercially. In these instances, you definitely should have a signed property release form.
What’s the point of a release?
Both property and model release forms exist due to trademark and copyright laws, and the right-to-privacy. These laws and rights require written consent from the owners of property for images used for commercial purposes. Both model and property releases clearly articulate what the photographer intends to do with the photo he or she has taken. It’s like a signed contract that tells both parties what they have agreed to.
Who signs the property release?
A property release form needs to be signed by the property owner or an authorized representative. This person can usually be easy to identify in the case of a private home or small business, but it can get confusing when referencing a larger entity such as a landmark. For instance, consider Space Needle, a popular, frequently photographed landmark in Seattle. In many cases, you need a signed property release for Space Needle photos that you intend to profit from.
“Images of the Seattle Space Needle are not suitable in Royalty-free content where it is the main focus or subject of the image. Skyline shots may be acceptable provided the Space needle is not a main feature of the imagery. Images of the Space Needle may be suitable as Editorial or Rights-managed.”
A property release should include:
There are several key elements that you definitely want to include in any property or model release form.
1. Statement of intent
The most important part of the release is a statement that defines the nature of the release. In the case of a property release, the statement declares that by signing the document, the model or property owner is agreeing that their likeness or property may be used for commercial purposes.
2. Details on what specific property is being released
Include any defining characteristics that make it obvious without a doubt what the piece of property is. In the case of a home or business, a physical address is generally sufficient.
3. Property owner contact information
Be sure to get any necessary contact information from the person signing the release, just in case any questions ever come up. That contact information can be a phone number, email address, mailing address, or all of the above.
Completely optional, but better to have than not is the signature and contact information of a witness.
Where do I get a property release form?
If you are planning to sell or license your images through a certain provider such as a stock image service or a specific commercial client, they will generally provide their own property or model release, so start with your client first. In my case, I license and sell my photos through Getty Images and 500px, and they provide their own model release templates that I use when necessary. As an example, check out the 500px model release template.
If your client or stock image service doesn’t have their own release forms, you can draft one yourself, or use a model and property release app. If you can afford professional legal advice, it certainly doesn’t hurt, although it isn’t necessary.
Free Property Release Form Template Download
Disclaimer: The following model release form templates have not been reviewed by a lawyer. They are provided for free to the community as guidelines.