Don't let the lack of a model release haunt you later.
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One thing every photographer is going to come across at one point or another is the question of model releases: Do you really need one if it's your mom or dad? Do you need one if it's your sister? Wife? Boyfriend? Inseparable best friend? The answer to each of these is yes if you are planning - or might ever think about - trying to sell the photo to some third party.
"But really? I need to get my BFF to sign a model release?" you may be thinking. Yes, even your BFF. I had a friend want a photo shoot with the aim of gaining a few head shots for them, and gaining some valuable portfolio shots for me. After a great shoot, and a bunch of great photos for me to add to my portfolio, my relationship with the model eventually fell apart. Now the dozen or so images I have are all but useless because I never thought to get a signed model release.
Following are a few thoughts about model releases. Before we go any further, remember that I am not a lawyer. Especially if you are running/planning to start a business, check with a lawyer in your area for the best advice on local laws. This is just a starting point.
First thing's first, where do you find a model release? You can easily Google that answer, but my favorite source is a book by Tad Crawford: Business and Legal Forms for Photographers. The book has two separate model releases (along with many other common legal forms a photographer may need), and a couple page spread informing you of how to fill out the form. Better yet, there is a CD-ROM containing all the forms in both MS Word format and as a PDF. This is a great source to get you started, and to be able to get a form you can print off and keep in your camera bag.
The next obvious question is "When do I need to use a release?" Going under the assumption that you are planning to maybe sell a print of your model ("your model" being anyone in your image) in the future, the answer is always. Remember being told over and over growing up that it's better to be safe than sorry? The same concept applies here. If you have an identifiable person in your photo, you should have their permission to reproduce the image.
Now, you may be thinking "but I took their picture in a public place, and they had every reason to think their picture may be taken? What gives, why do I have to get a release?" While you do have a right to capture the image, that person still owns the right to their own image. If you were to print one out for yourself to keep in your photo album (...photo album. How quaint...), there wouldn't be a problem. However, if you took a picture of a couple making a sand castle in front of Diamond Head on Hawaii's O'ahu island, you would need that couple's permission if you wanted to sell a print of that scene.
I've been missing writing here; busy doesn't even start to describe things. I've got some things in the works to look out for in th coming days. Namely, I'm working on a review of Corel's Painshop Pro X3 (which is admittedly long overdue). Look for that and a series about starting a photography business, which I am in the process of trying to do myself.