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Shooting for Stock Photography

Lesson 4 of 19

Model and Property Releases

Geo Rittenmyer

Shooting for Stock Photography

Geo Rittenmyer

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Lesson Info

4. Model and Property Releases

Lesson Info

Model and Property Releases

Model and Property Releases. So, this is another thing I'm sure everybody has heard about in photography, especially stock photography, is getting those model releases and those property releases. They're important and it's a big part of stock photography. So, you definitely, if you're not doing it already, you gotta start doin' it. And, like I said, in the bonus material, there's a couple. There's a model release and a property release in there. I left a little blank area at the top of it, a little room, and you can slap your own logo on there, and make it all official if you want, or just use it as a basis, or just print it out and sign it, have a model sign it, it works. So, those are two that I use for my agency. When you're having a model release or a property release signed, the most important thing is to get the signature of the model absolutely signed, dated, you sign and date it, and then witnesses has become popular now. Anybody else there that's with you, have them sign it. ...

If there's no one else there with you, have somebody else witness your signature and sign it. So, might as well do that. It's not a big deal. In my experience, I've never had a problem with a model release or somebody coming back and saying, "Oh, I didn't know that's what it was for, "I didn't sign that." So be up front. Tell people what you do, let them know, and you shouldn't have any problem. The agency that I have asked for some additional information, none of that stuff is necessary. Addresses are not necessary. A lot of times, I'll tell the models, "Don't worry about putting your address on there, "it's not needed." Put your email address, put your phone number, sign and date it. Super easy. So, this picture... Interesting. It kind of goes back to the question of the music festival. I had to get model releases for all these people and then property releases for those horses. I'm just kidding. (audience giggles) If you're taking a picture of one, two, three, four, five people, have them all sign a model release. If you're taking a picture at a crowd or of a whole bunch of people, and there's no focus on one person, it's about the crowd, it's about the place. Even if you could pick yourself out in this, it doesn't need to be released because you're not using someone's image to sell the product. So that's kinda the idea behind model releases. This is something where, when you are in crowds and concerts, fantastic place. You go to a sporting event, especially a sporting event where you can take picture that doesn't have the team's branding all over it. Those are pictures that always sell. People are always looking for those. So, I would say, any time you're at an event and you can get a big crowd shot above, below, sideways, anywhere. Take it, submit it. Tell the agency how you got the picture, what the picture is of, and let them make a decision whether they can sell it, or how they can sell it. Don't let crowds of people or big groups make you not take the picture because you don't think it's viable, that you can't make money off of it. Question? Does your agency ask you to turn in those model releases once you've sent in the collection, or do you just have those on file in case anything were to happen, or a model comes back to you and asks? Yeah, very good question. That's something that has just kind of has changed, it changes... The agency I'm with now, it's changed a couple times, and the process of it. Usually, you will submit the model release with the images or you submit them after, once they've been selected. But, you know, if you're working at an agency, they trust that if you say there's a model release, you have a model release. So, with me, I actually still have a whole big stack of paper. I have to buy more room to save them all. So, I've been saving and scanning all those. I also have all of them scanned, and in a file, and with all the agencies I have submitted those, so they have a copy of the release, so the picture is there with the release hopefully attached to it in some way. So... Babies. You have to have a model release for a baby. You have to have a parent sign that model release. If anybody is under the age of 18, there has to be a guardian signature. This is definitely an area where you don't really wanna take any chances in. If you're not sure if a model is 18, make sure they are, because these are likes those little, weird law things that can always come back and hurt you. I haven't had any problems with it. If you're taking pictures of kids, make sure their parents are okay. Parents are really protective over their little kids and may or may not want their picture to be used for commercial uses. So, definitely let the parent know, talk to them, tell them where the picture is going. And, if they're into it, awesome, pictures of kids sell. Property release. So, here's a little shoot that I did at a distillery. So, I got those two to sign model releases, but I got the owner to sign a property release. Don't necessarily need it, but, if you have a property release and a model release, people who are looking for images that need to make sure that everything is covered, and there's not gonna be any problems coming back, all those releases are there, it's just a no-brainer. It's like, this image is... I can use this, no problem. There's no worry whatsoever. And it's super easy to get somebody to sign a property release in a space. The owner of the space, whoever can give that authorization. Like this, the owner of the distillery, she signed it. She didn't want to be in any of the pictures, but she was happy signing over her space to be used. It's one thing that people don't think about too much, is the property release. And I'm not an architecture photographer so I can't get into too specifics about what you can and can't use as far as architecture. I know that skylines are always okay to use. You may have to remove some branding from buildings, but they're kind of the same as like a crowd, if there's a bunch of people. If you're using some specific piece of architecture, you may have to have that released by the architect or the designer. Again, that's something the agency would help you with. Unfortunately, I don't know that much about it. And then the other thing is, everybody have a pet? Got a dog, a cat, snake, bird? If you're taking a picture of any animals, you have to have a property release. The owner has to sign a property release for the animal to be used. That's my dog. (audience giggles) He's pretty popular. So, any questions on model releases? Yeah, so, I'll start over here, and then we can kinda go. Thank you for answering the dog slash buck snort question, because people were definitely asking about the dogs over here. So, this says, "Do you need a property..." Sorry. "Do you need a property release "if you take a picture of something on someone's property "where it wouldn't be recognizable from that location, "like flowers or a tree?" I don't think so. I don't think that's a problem. I think it has to be something that's definitely recognizable. If you are doing a photo shoot on someone's property, or somebody has a classic car, or something like that, get a property release. Like, you know, try. And if the person... If you're ever on a shoot, And this has happened to me before, people were like, "Oh, that's my car, you can't use that in the background, "you can't have that there." At that time, I'll usually just stay clear of it. I know that they're not gonna sign a release, I know that they visibly do not want you to have a picture of their property without them being paid for it. So, I'll tend to just move on. But I don't think if it's recognizable, I think if you're on someone's property, and taking pictures, and they can't tell where it is, then you don't need a release. So I would say take the picture, unless they tell you get off their property. Perfect. And, could you talk a little bit about... Let's say you're traveling, or you're on a photo shoot, and you see something, you see a property, can you tell us a little bit about what your workflow is with the conversation of how you go about asking for a release from a property or model. I don't think I've ever asked for a property release of something I just saw, and was like, "I'm gonna take a picture of that, "can you sign a release?" 'Cause I don't... I've never had that happen to me. Maybe it'll happen sometime down the road. But models, definitely. That's definitely a good one. I've had times where I've been on... I know one time, I was up in Canada doing a horseback ride, and there was two guides, and the other people that were supposed to show up didn't show up. So my wife and I pretty much got a private ride with just these two guides. Great, young girls. And the pictures were super cool. I didn't have a release with me, so I talked to them, and got their email, and was able to email them, and got releases from them. And I told them what I was doing, asked them if they'd be okay with it, they said fine, I sent 'em some pictures of it, they were able to use those pictures on their Facebook page or whatever. A lot of times, if you're out in the field, and you see someone, or you get a chance to take a picture of a person and you don't have a release with you, talk to them, chat with them, get their email address. Don't give them your card and say, "Email me." Because they probably never will. Get their information and contact them. And with releases now, you can send electronic signatures. There's websites out there that allow you to basically just send a release. They go online, click a box, type their name, and then it comes back to you. So, getting releases signed digitally is one way. When I was with Corbis, they had an app that actually had a model release in the app, where you could just sign on a device for the release, and then it was emailed to you and to the model. So, there are those options out there. So, maybe if you have one of those apps or services on your phone, you could pull that out and ask somebody to sign a release. Great. And, do models or modeling agencies ever ask you for percentage of profits, or are they sometimes paid up front? Can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah, so, for stock photography, if you have a relationship with an agency, and you're to the level where you're producing work, and you can go and pay a model and an agency, then yeah, that's something you negotiate. I have to deal with that for advertising stuff. Something I personally like to do is not have to deal with model agencies, I try to put that onto the client. I do use models, though, and I do pay models. I try to find models that aren't necessarily with an agency, or with an agency who says, "Go ahead, and go out, and do a test, "a small shoot with somebody." And I usually pay them cash for their time and they'll sign a release. And if you are going through an agency, the model signs the release, not the agency. Yeah, I think that using models is definitely there. Going through an agency and dealing with an agency adds more production, and more money, and more time, and you have to decide if that's really gonna be worth it. Great. I think there's one question. Actually I have... It's, I guess, two questions, kinda stemming off what somebody else was asking. But, my first one is, when you're looking at the differences between the rights managed and the royalty free, you're saying royalty free, you have to have that model release. Does that include a property release if it's a location as well? Yeah, if there's somebody's... Somebody's property that is distinguishable. Trees and flowers, probably not so much. But if it is some sort of ornamental horticulture design, then probably. But, yeah, you need to have a property release and model release. A model release is definitely more absolute, if the focus is on that person. If you're shooting at a cafe, even if it's kind of a cool cafe and it's just sort of a background, it's not really the focus of the place, then you don't need a property release. If you can get a property release, go ahead. But, definitely don't not shoot because the person says they're not gonna sign a property release. And a lot of times, when you're at these locations, who knows, you don't even know who would be the person to even authorize, necessarily signing that release. If you do a shoot in a hospital, doctor's office, bank, something along those lines, definitely get a property release. If they're allowing you to come in and take pictures, they should have no problem having someone sign one. And my second question was, if you look at travel photography, and say you're in a Third World country, you're in a market, taking pictures of people there, and there happens to be a person in focus, is that something... I mean, how do you get a model release that way? Or do you even? Yeah, I have pictures like that. I think that the agency makes that decision. They can have their people look at the picture and say, especially if it is a real strong picture, if those people are recognizable, or are the main focus of that picture. If that's the case and you can't get a release, then, if the picture's strong enough, it could be used for things where a release isn't necessary. One other option, too, is, you could always take that picture into Photoshop, and, if it's really strong, you could take a picture of somebody who will sign a release and swap them out. It's doable. I think in travel stuff, it's probably a little more difficult. But, if it is kind of a big set-up shot, sometimes you take a real big picture of something nice and you're like, "Man, one person right there would make it awesome, and..." You can go ahead and do composites. Composites are completely allowed. Any more questions? One more from over here, Geo. The photo that you shot of your wife in the kayak where she's facing away, would that have been something that you would have needed a release for? Yeah, if the person really is the focus of the picture, then get a release. I think that, if an ad agency saw that picture and really wanted to use it and it was not released, there's a good chance they wouldn't deal with it. They would just move on to one that is released. The person isn't necessarily identifiable, but, kind of they are, and if there's other shoots of the front of that person in the same catalog, then those would have to be released anyways. Great. And, we are getting a lot of questions about whether, with property releases, whether the people want to be paid. No, I haven't had any problems. I don't deal with property releases all that much. I tend not to go to places where you need a property release. But, no, I have had that. I have run into that with somebody with an old car who's, just, wasn't having it. They wanted money for an old car. So, no, I think that if you're producing a shoot and you're going somewhere to shoot, then ask ahead of time and make the decision. If they're willing to have you come and shoot in their space, then they shouldn't have any problem signing a property release. If you're taking a picture of someone's pet, if they want you to take a picture of their pet, most people do, they should be happy to sign a release for you. It doesn't really take much of their time. And if you tell them what you're doing, like, "Hey, I'm taking a picture, "your dog's super cute!" "It might be used "in a post for, "I don't know, "Purina Dog Chow on their Instagram feed, "and I might make a few bucks off of that." And if they're like, "Well, I wanna be paid too." Then you just gotta kinda talk to them about, like, "I can't, "I don't know how much I'll make from this picture." "I can't really pay you for this, "it's not really an option." "So, if you don't want me to do this, then, I won't." I've never had anybody be like, "Uh, no, you can't use my picture, "I want money if the picture gets used." I've never had anybody say that. Not that there aren't people out there who won't say that, but, yeah. And, when I talk about the production stuff, I'll get into a little bit more of how I ask for model releases to be signed and how I deal with that process. I'll talk about that down the road a little bit, too. This might be a silly question, but, if you're shooting with a model on a regular basis, do you always ask for a new model release? Yeah, you might as well. I've taken pictures in the past of friends, or family, or models that have had multiple pictures of them, and I didn't get a release at the time, and I was like, "Hey, these pictures might be sold, "will you sign a release?" And then I had them sign a release, and then you just write the description, or just put a little reference to what the pictures the model is signing is, and that's fine. But, if you're working with someone, each shoot you go on, you might as well just have them sign a paper. You're out there, just get in the habit of doing that.

Class Description

The world of stock photography can feel complicated, but commercial and editorial photographer, Geo Rittenmyer, will show you how to create and sell stock photography from any situation. In this course, he’ll cover the essentials of stock photography, the differences between royalty free or rights managed, as well as where stock is utilized in today’s world. He’ll also be interviewing an art director at a top agency to better understand what types of imagery stock agencies are looking for. 

Topics include: 

  • Techniques for shooting when traveling and what to think about when taking a photo 
  • How to set up a low-cost stock specific studio shoot 
  • How to utilize Adobe® Photoshop® & Lightroom CC to organize your catalog and keywords for easy access 
  • How to find a stock agency for your work 
  • When and where to use model or property releases 

Stock photography can allow you to shoot for your clients, as well as your passion. Get back to shooting what you love and make money at the same time! 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

2017 Gallery Stock Trend Report

Sample Model Release

Sample Property Release

Stock Agencies List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Amy Vaughn

Personally, I really liked this class, but I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone looking for information about stock photography. I’ve already researched and started doing microstock, but now I’m looking for more information about other options. This class was a good fit for me. Although Geo seemed new to public speaking and used too many fillers like “uh” and “um”, I found him likable and surprisingly relatable considering our different photographic niches. This class may be best suited for: Learning more about boutique galleries, rights managed stock and alternatives to microstock Seeing how this particular stock photographer works, gets inspiration and has been successful Getting ideas about current trends and sources for inspiration Getting the perspective of a creative director for a boutique agency Those interested in lifestyle photography May not be as suitable for: Broader and more in depth information about the variety of options in stock photography Those who want to focus on microstock New photographers who want detailed information about getting started and meeting technical requirements Those who prefer a more polished speaker

Carol Totaro

I thought this was a great class and have to disagree with some of the comments from the hands down viewers. The audience was listless and did not seem to be interested in being there. Do you know how difficult it is to stand up in front of a bunch like this and keep your mojo racing? Very difficult. Hardly anyone asked questions and they all just gave a lot of nods most of the time. If your read ahead of time the info on the class, you would see that he was going to go into Lightroom and workflow. Yes, some of it was a drag especially all those pictures taken from the condo at a FL panhandle beach. But nothing's perfect. Maybe I got a lot out of this because I am newer at photography. I was glad to know about his equipment. Everyone's personality is different and for all the talent and success Geo has enjoyed, he remains a humble and very likeable guy.

Christina Biasi

I loved this class! I cannot agree with some other reviews below at all Geo gives so much valuable information, and in fact I love his style much more than many other over-self confident speakers. He is sympathetic and likeable, and most importantly give very much valuable insights into stock photography. I just started with stock and got all my questions answered. I watched it already three times. The only part which I did not like so much was the post-processing part, because he could have explained better his workflow and why he chose certain actions. But that does not impact on the overall quality of the course. I can only highly recommend this class