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Common Problems with Nude Model Release Forms

I was just reading some advice about nude model release forms and unfortunately, a number of misconceptions are being perpetuated. Here are the most common ones I’ve seen recently and my take on each:

  1. Get the release signed before you shoot. What is wrong with it: The model would be releasing photos that don’t yet exist. A release that is written as an agreement requires both parties to agree on the same thing. Agreeing on the photos you recently created is easier than agreeing on what you might do soon. This practice has been perpetuated by nervous photographers who fear that models will balk at their images being used. As long as you properly built the model’s expectations, you shouldn’t have trouble getting the release signed afterwards.
  2. The release says nothing about nudity. Why you need to change this: Use a release that describes the shoot. That means including the word nudity somewhere. This is especially helpful if your images could be construed as candid rather than posed, such as a model laying nude on a beach.
  3. The release covers more than one shoot. The pitfall: If you ever do have someone contest a release, do you want all the shoots in question or just one? This applies to many publishers too, who won’t want to see a release that specifies more than one shoot. Keep it simple, one release per shoot, per model, per day.
  4. A statement that the model read and understood the release. Why this is unnecessary and counterproductive: These statements seem to be aimed at models who did not read or understand the release. In some places, this practice is discouraged or banned. A better way is a notice (verbal or written) that the model should read and understand the release, and ask any questions before signing it.

There are many forms of model release for various purposes. They may be perpetual or might expire. They can allow for a single publication such as a book or magazine or be unlimited. Many model releases are written as contracts (two-party agreements) but some are written as a grant of permission. The most important thing is that both you and the model have a plan for what you are going to shoot and how it’s going to be used. The two of you should be in agreement on this before you begin shooting. The model release form documents this agreement. Follow through by using the images only as described in the release.

Happy shooting and enjoy good rapport with your models, knowing that both of you are on the same page and everything is clear.

I’m not an attorney and I’m not giving legal advice. I review this topic with legal counsel at least annually. You should consult your own attorney for specifics.

Model Release