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What is a Photo Consent Form?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A photo consent form, sometimes also referred to as a photo release form or media release form, is a document used by photographers to ensure the consent of a photographed subject. This type of form is often used in commercial photography to demonstrate that a subject understands his or her rights regarding the pictures being taken, and releasing any sort of ownership of his or her image to the photographer for the images being taken. A photo consent form can be used in journalistic photography as well, though it is less common and often unnecessary.

Photographs taken of a person can often involve partial ownership of the image by the subject of the picture. This is especially true of commercial photography, and images taken of a person cannot be used for commercial reasons without the consent of that person. Professional photographers often employ a photo consent form to demonstrate that a person was aware of the picture being taken of him or her and has released the image for use in commercial applications by the photographer.

This type of form is often used for glamour photography and advertisements. It is usually a simple, single page that indicates who will retain ownership of the photographs and any compensation that may be required for the use of the images. For minors or children who are the subject of a photograph, a parent will typically have to sign a consent form to allow the images to be legally used in commercial applications.

The photo consent form for a minor will also often indicate whether the name and other personal information of the child can be used in conjunction with the image. Journalists typically do not need to use a consent form with a subject as long as the picture is taken in a public space where the subject did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the image is not used for commercial purposes. The picture can be published in a commercial publication, one that sells space to advertisers, so long as the image is used in a journalistic context within the publication and not as an advertisement.

A photo consent form is also typically not required for images taken during sporting events, even smaller scale high school athletics. So long as the image is highlighting a play during the game, and the action on the field, rather than a specific player, it can usually be sold without the written consent of the participants. It is important to note that a photo consent form is typically only required with regard to publication of a photograph, and taking a photograph of a person does not require written consent so long as it is taken in a public space where the person did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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Discussion Comments

By anon991090 — On May 26, 2015

I have a question. I have the consent forms for our preschool but should they be kept in general location so that if someone wants to check to make sure I have the forms they can, or can I just keep them in my desk in the preschool.

By anon160992 — On Mar 17, 2011

I have been doing some amateur photo shoots for awhile, however I did not have one couple do one as they were friends. they told me they were going to pay me later for the shoot. i asked if i could post them to my facebook and they said sure. now that I'm asking for the payment agreed upon, they claim that posting their pics was payment enough and that they never said i could post them. I'm incredibly annoyed and need some advice.

By sammyG — On Oct 12, 2010

On the other side of what FootballKing recommends you as a model should be wary of what any photographer is having you sign. Most often there isn't an issue with what it is but it might commit the use of your image to more things then you would like.

Make sure that when you pose as a model that it is extremely clear why the photographer is taking the pictures and what he or she intends to do with them. Asking if they will be used in their portfolio is key as well as if your image will be used in other people's advertisements. Even if you are OK with both of these ideas you will want to make sure that you are being compensated appropriately for the work that you are putting into it. Modeling is not as easy as it sounds and we as an industry must protect ourselves. Signing a photography release form can have a legal imperative that you might not be ready for.

By FootballKing — On Oct 12, 2010

As an amateur photographer, I had never taken heed to advice about getting model releases and consent forms from the people that I photographed. This ended up creating a huge mess for me when I ran into a client that did not want her images used for marketing. While we had never discussed the possibility I always assumed with all of my clients that since I took the image I could use it as I pleased. Unfortunately the law does not work this way and I had to change the way that I do business.

After becoming a true professional in the photographic industry and having experienced some of these more complicated legal issues I have realized that never again will I photograph a session that doesn't have a consent form involved.

People can change their minds or not like the photographs you took even though they may be mind blowing awesome and need to be displayed. Because of this transitional mind set, having a legal document can save you the headache that is sometimes involved with shooting models. Make sure you always get that form signed or you may regret it at a future date.

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