At first, I never entertained the idea that photographs I’ve diligently taken of complete strangers as I roamed endlessly from one eclectic neighborhood to the next would ever lure a steady stream of emails from companies potentially wanting to utilize them for editorial or commercial purposes. An immense portion of what I do with my camera is derived out of sheer unapologetic passion towards the craft and as a passport to meet interesting people who have a remarkable story to share. At no point has it crossed my mind on how I could potential profit from a portrait I’ve taken but lately I’ve felt pressed to take on a practice I’ve rarely ever fretted over which is having every subject sign a release form granting me consent to even publish their portrait on the site.
A good friend advocated that if I ever had serious intentions of generating any sort of income from my photography while taking into account my affinity for taking portraits of complete strangers, it would be in my best interest to institute this practice as a way for the value of my work to increase or else I would continue to be faced with the unhappy story of having none of my portraits ever be considered for any commercial use. It would undoubtedly be an opportunity lost which has happened more than I would like to admit.
Based on the copyright law, when I choose to take a portrait of a person, I may suddenly own the copyright to that photograph but I don’t own the identity of that individual and so this is where the model release forms comes in. Within the circle of friends I’ve gone out to photograph with, I can’t say I’ve ever seen any of them carry model release forms around just in case and the idea of doing so invariably crossed my mind but the excitement of shooting seemed to overshadowed my intentions. Eventually I realized that if I postpone the practice even further, it’ll only be a matter of time before I’m strong-armed into removing among some of my favorite street portraits because the subject had a sudden change of heart in having them published anywhere.
Contracts depend on how you intend to use the photograph and if nothing ever comes of any of the portraits I’ve taken, I’m absolutely find with that conclusion because it was never my intention in the first place to monetize from them anyway.
As far as carrying release forms, I’m not against the old school method of lugging with me a few printed sheets and a tattered clipboard to compile them but if there’s a more effortless way to do it then I assume it’ll involve doing it with that device that rarely ever leaves our side even while we’re sound asleep - our mobile phone (in my case the iPhone)
I’m honestly no good or better yet lack the time I would need to write a lengthy and cogent review on any model release app available but what I can say is that there’s only a handful available and the majority of them are still bearing the archaic iOS 6 aesthetic look to them with the exception of one called ImageRelease. In the end it’s all unexciting paperwork and I know I should’t care what the app looks like as long as it delivers what it’s intended to do but it’s an important aspect I couldn’t look pass. For now, it’s the app I chose to go with. A neat feature which I believe the other apps also have is the ability to include a photograph of the person on the final release form that you would export as a PDF which makes it easy for you to identify who’s paperwork belongs to who rather than having to play the guessing game.
I've taken so many portraits of friends up until now without having them ever sign a release form but I've started going back and having them do so just for precautionary purposes and they've been more than willing to comply.