The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Photographers' Rights, Releases, and You

Recently the photo club went on one field shoot and has another planned at locations where there are restrictive photography policies.  The main point of the policy at either place is simply the photographs are allowed for personal use.  If you plan to use a photo taken at either location for commercial use – a prior written consent must be obtained by the photographer.  It seems simple.  It really is.  And you know what – it applies to more places and people than you think.


If you are taking photos of someone or some thing – in the public – and you are in the public (meaning not on any private property at the time).  You are OK to take the shot.  If you are on private property and asked to not photograph, you have to abide by the wishes of the property owner and put the camera away. 


When you take a photo of an identifiable property or person, you should always get a model/property release.  You never know if or when you may decide to sell the photo.  Take for instance the case of Russell Christoff.  Mr. Christoff won a judgment against Nestle in the amount of $15.6 million.  It seems that in 1986 Mr. Christoff applied to be a model for the company.  He had a photo shoot but nothing ever came of it.  Sixteen years later, he was out food shopping and came face to face with his face on a Taster's Choice jar.  It seems that Nestle had been using the photo, without consent or permission, for years all over the world.  The photo had been filed away at Nestle and the employee who had pulled it to use assumed that there was a model release to cover it.


Same thing could happen with a building or a piece of personal property.  Even if you think you would never want to use a photo – if it is really good – down the road – who knows?  Get that release signed and file it away. 


Some public entities such as museums or zoos publish their photography policy on their website or in the brochure you are handed as you enter.  They are being kind and trying to keep the public informed.  Photographers need to know and should know that even if a set policy is not in writing – it is there. 


Many photographers gravitate to the stock photography market.  Many companies that deal in stock photography are picky about what they will take.  For obvious reasons, photos that contain a trademark or copyrighted item belonging to another party will be rejected.  I was reading over a website for stock to gather a little information for this blog entry.  I noticed that this particular company would not accept photos depicting sculpture or hand-made art objects without the written consent of the creator.  All art is copyrighted just as your photo is.


Did you know that the Empire State Building is trademarked?  Images of this landmark where it is isolated or unmistakably the primary subject are not for commercial use without proper consent.  If your photo is of the New York skyline and it just happens to include the Empire State Building, then there is no issue.  Here is the link to the listing of some other trademarked landmarks, plus more:


Here is an interesting link to a paper written by an attorney detailing your rights as a photographer.  "The Photographer's Right" --

You have many rights to take photos – but once you take them, depending upon what you want to do with them, the rights of others may supersede yours. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have blogged on exactly the same issue today, following an unsavoury incident when I too was detained in a police car simply for taking photographs.

I trust that all photographers will do something to back Mr. Mitchell's campaign

Blog Top Sites

Arts Blogs