Note: Need the answer to a stock photography question? At our website,
you'll find our Bulletin Board,
called "The Kracker Barrel." Check it out. Our staff answers marketing questions;
fellow photographers and our columnists offer their input and experience.
The following is a typical exchange:
Q: In Rohn's book, "Sell & Re-Sell Your Photos," he says in Ch15 under
'Rights & Regulations,' that in most cases you do not need a model release.
But I notice that in "The 2001 Photographer's Market," almost every listing
says, "Model release required."
Can you submit photos without a release even if they say it is required?
Would the photos still be considered for print? - Bill Sheppard
A: Bill, your question is very legitimate, and very familiar. The rule of
thumb is that editorial usage (book, magazine illustration) does not
require a model release; but advertising, promotion, endorsement usage
always requires a model release. It's understandable why there is
confusion, when so many editorial photo editors in the Photographer's
Market directory, say that they need a model release.
First, it helps to understand it from the photo editor's point of view.
Photographer's Market is published by Writer's Digest, the same company
that publishes my two books, "Sell and ReSell Your Photos," and
Any photo editor signing up to be listed in the Photographer's Market
directory would be well-advised to check 'yes' in the query square that
asks, "Do you require model releases?"
There are two reasons for this.
- Photo editors do not like to receive an avalanche of amateur photos. By
checking the Photographer's Market 'model release' square with "Yes," they
figure this can be a preventative measure for them. Their time is
It would eliminate the time-consuming and expensive task of returning
inappropriate submissions from window-shopping amateurs. And they are
correct. Most amateurs are not familiar with their First Amendment rights
and the knowledge that model releases are NOT required for editorial use.
Photo editors, by stating that they require a release, are in effect
eliminating extra work. The pro stock photographers know differently when
it's involving editorial usage. They ignore the reference to model releases
and submit nevertheless.
- Photo editors like their jobs. They choose to work with familiar and
well-established stock photo professionals. But they're also always on the
lookout for fresh new faces, with fresh material.
Photo editors who advertise in Photographer's Market can eliminate any
legal hassle (imagined or otherwise) that might place their job in
jeopardy, by checking the "Model Release" square to "cover" themselves.
Here's a secret, Bill. You'll find that photo editors at editorial markets
will welcome any non-released photo that matches their current need (when
they are going to use it for editorial purposes).
Since photo editors at most publishing houses rarely deal with advertising
or other endorsement-type assignments, it's rare that they ever need a
model release. If they do ask for a release, it's usually because they are
working on a project of a sensitive nature such as drug abuse, mental
retardation, sex education, etc. In those cases, it would be appropriate to
ask for a model or property release.
You can test this "Model Release question" out by sending non-released
images to a photo editor who declares in Photographer's Market that model
releases are required. Of course, the photos must be top-quality images to
start with, that match the photo editor's current needs.
Rohn Engh, Photosource International.