The Model Release

Long ago we used to have these pre-printed ďin consideration of $1 and other valuable considerationĒ release forms and they used to work quite nicely.

These days some people are losing in courts because $1 and a few pictures is not just compensation if those pictures are exploited widely on CD ROM disk, in magazines or calendars that are sold.

Since Iíve been on both ends of the business. Iíve taken pictures of models and managed them, the model release presents a small problem for me as Iíve asked for them.

Generally a model release that allows use of the photographs for promotional and publicity uses can be beneficial to both parties. This doesnít allow anyone to directly make money off the photos, but it does allow them to place the pictures publicly for their own jobs or to get you, the model, a job. It may allow them to put your picture on the cover of a magazine with no pay, but if you are unknown this can be a good break.

Profit share is another tool Iíve used. A 50/50 split of profits after justified expenses and these can run very high because you might have to submit hundreds of pictures before you place one with a commercial user. That can cost several hundred dollars to the photographer/manager.

Another way is with a 75/25 or 66/34 split of the gross amount, with the photographer getting the larger amount. This way part of the expenses get covered and the model makes a little for doing nothing further with those pictures. This may sound unfair but if I take pictures of you for free or pay you $1 for the release and I pay to send samples to magazines over a few years before finally making a sale, the model is getting a better deal from just 25%! It costs maybe $5-$10 to make a submission. Maybe you sell a picture for $100. The photographer gets $75 and the model gets $25. If the photographer has $200 invested in film, print, envelopes and postage to make that $100 they are in the red! Using the "net profit" method, however, gives the model nothing from a $100 sale under these same conditons.

One reason I secure some type of commercial right is in the event that two or three years later I place a picture and canít find the model to get a release, I can still place the picture. If a picture shows up on a cover Iíll probably hear from them (or at least the magazine will) at which time I can send them a check.

Without the ability for a manager or photographer to do commerce with a picture, then the model must pick up the costs and hire me as a photographer, paying me a fee for future commercial uses. In head shot sessions I generally let them have non-commercial reproduction and promotion use as part of the nominal fee, but they canít do sales items with the pictures unless I get an extra fee!

As a model in need of pictures it may be prudent to sign a release in exchange for prints and a CD disks of high quality originals. That is generally worth $50 to $1,000 in photographer fees. You will have to make your own decision on this.

One thing I would suggest the model get in such an agreement is the right to approve what pictures can be used. You would only get those pictures and the photographer could only use just those shots. This prevents bloopers from every seeing the light of day.

Another thing to limit is excessive commercial exploitation and competition. This would set an upper limit on how much the photographer can make from the work. It can be a dollar figure and it would have to be reasonable. After $5,000 or $10,000 in gross income from the pictures commercial use would end unless all parties agree to a new contract. The photographer could not compete indefinately with your existing licensed marketing. This way someone who takes a picture of an 18 year old unknown model who eventually rises to super star stature doesnít see T-shirts, calendars and unauthorized magazine covers with past pictures.

Another thing you can include would be a buy-out clause. At any future date, on demand, in consideration of say $10,000 you exercise an option to buy all rights and negatives. This is well above standard fees for this type of commercial photography.

Many photographers may not go for these options. Everyone wants to keep a potential gold mine.

Understand that in the United States all photographers own the copyrights in all pictures they take unless something in writing states otherwise. Most photographers want $500 or more for the copyrights in a single session.

The model release gives them rights to use your name and likeness publicly. It may also give them commercial exploitation rights, including the ability to produce calendars, sell prints to magazines for commercial use, make T-shirts, coffee mugs and other items, keeping all the profits. This can get you into trouble with those who pay you a huge licensing fee to get these exclusive rights.

Models are entitled to make money off their looks and labors. Photographers are entitled to make money off their equipment, labors and skills. The model release should not favor one over the other. When the news media takes a famous model's picture in public they are allowed to publish with no release. They are even allow to sell stock shots of that picture for a modest profit. A photographer should be allowed to do the same thing or be otherwise compensated. It is unfair to for the photographer to make a bundle off a wanna-be girl in exchange for $1 and some pictures. It is unfair for a big model to stop the commerce of an early photographer who helped them out way back when for a few dollars.

Working out a balance is what contract negotiations are all about and unfortunately those just starting out arenít always in a position to just say ďno!Ē It doesnít hurt, however, to ask that certain things be added to the deal that are reasonable, just to see if someone will agree or not agree.

Our Model and Acting Special Issues Continues With...

What you Need | Life On The Set As An Actor | Talent Scouts, Junkets, Model Schools
The Model Release | Breaking Into Acting | Extra Work in TV and Movies | Teen Modeling Sites
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