For photographers, taking images of children is always risky business, which is why a parental consent form is crucial. Similar to model releases and property releases, but aimed at providing consent for minors under the age of 18, a parental permission form gives photographers a degree of protection when photographing children. A blog reader recently emailed me with questions about photographing children to build up her photography portfolio. While I personally don’t find myself in situations when I’m photographing children, I always take extra precautions, which generally includes getting a parental consent form signed when it’s appropriate.
Most of my photography experience are shooting classroom and school events and sports tournaments. Do I need a model release or some type of contract?
When it comes to model releases and contracts, it’s important to understand their intent, which is to get written consent from the recognizable person in the photo to have their likeness used for commercial or advertising purposes. You will almost never be asked to provide a model release when you sell an image to someone or use it for advertising, but you’ll want to have that model release filed somewhere to protect yourself in case the person in that photo objects to having their image used for commercial purposes. Regardless of what you ultimately plan to do with the photos you’re snapping, you should always ask a parent or legal guardian for permission before taking photos of a child. It’s a simple courtesy that is better to address upfront rather than have an angry parent on your heels.
Who signs the model release or parental consent form?
The recognizable person in the photograph should sign the photo release, since the release is meant to grant their permission to have their likeness used for commercial or advertising purposes. In the case of photographing children or minors under the age of 18, you’ll want to use a special parental consent form that is signed by their legal parent or guardian.
What goes into a parental consent form?
A parental consent form should be clear and concise and contain the following details:
- Who you are
- What event the child is partaking in (include date, time, location)
- What you may do with the photos you take
- A statement acknowledging the parent or guardian’s consent to have their child photographed
- The signature of at least one parent (two parents is best, if possible, to avoid contention)
Sample Parental Consent Form*
Parental Photo Consent Form – Word Document
What if I’m photographing a large group event? Does every person there need to sign the release?
If you’ll be using the photos on your portfolio, no release is needed. However, if you plan to sell or profit from those photos, then yes, you technically do need a signed model release from every recognizable person in that photo.
Pro Tip: If you’re photographing a private event, a way to get mass consent is to use a group photo release, such as the example below.
Group Photo or Video Release Form*
Group Photo Release Template – Word Document
What have you done in exchange for free photo shoots to help build your portfolio?
Whether or not you give away free copies of your photos in exchange for your services is completely a personal decision that you should negotiate with the event coordinator. When I was first starting my business, I did a lot of free photo shoots for the sake of honing my craft and building a professional network. Today, I rarely do free photo shoots, except for the occasional pro bono shoot for charities or non-profits when I’m technically donating my time for a cause that I want to support. Something else I do for businesses with smaller photography budgets is doing a work trade or bartering agreement, which I often do for small businesses that may not have a large enough budget. In these cases, I’ll generally accept up to 50% of the value in trade (ie. restaurant gift certificates), but I almost always require getting some cash out of the agreement, because hey, I’ve got expenses to pay!
For every photo shoot I do, free or paid, I always check with my client before-hand to see if they have a certain image size or resolution that they need. If they have no preference (which is generally the case), I always provide high resolution images that are 5000px on the long side and 30 dpi. I also provide smaller, web-sized images that are 1600px on the long side, in case they want smaller versions for immediate use on social media or their websites.
There are no rules to the types of negotiations and deals that you can make, and in this day and age when photographers are a dime a dozen, I’m of the opinion that helps to think outside of the box and be flexible with deals, as long as both you and your client feel it is fair. Whatever agreement you come to, be sure to have it detailed in a contract that is signed by both you and your client.
*I am not a lawyer, so if in doubt, consult with a professional lawyer or legal professional over any questions in these photo release templates.