Legal and copyright issues in photography

Legal and copyright issues in photographyIf you’re doing photography as a business, you might have wondered about legal and copyright issues. After all, trick photography is still part of photography whether you digitally manipulate the images or not.

Have you ever seen a piece of video or a show that includes public shots and some of the faces seem to be blurred out? That is not poor production values on the part of the video team. The producers who eventually sold that video to be used commercially did not secure releases from those individuals. And if they used their images, they are laying themselves open for lots of legal problems.

So how do you know if the work you are doing in your photography or trick photos business requires such releases? After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get releases from everyone you use as a subject than face a surprise problem down the road.

If you snap for portraits, weddings or other events where the intent of your work is to sell the photos to the people being photographed, there is certainly no need for releases. As long as you have no intention of ever using any of those photographs in a sale that will profit your business other than the original way, then you should be fine.

It is when you are working with models to provide photos for advertising, magazines, newspapers or any other purpose in which you are selling the images you have photographed for a profit, that is when a release is needed. This whole area of professional photography is very profitable because you are working at a higher level of professionalism than photographing the public to provide them with portrait pictures. It is a lucrative arena of professional photography, the competition to make those sales is very competitive.

When you are working with professional models, securing their releases is pretty routine and never a problem. They are working for you and they know the photographs are for sale so their agents and lawyers do all the legwork so the releases are proper. But from your perspective, don’t let this detail go unattended to. After all, it is your responsibility to your customers, those magazines or ad agencies who look to you for professional photography work, are assuming you have this covered and that they can count on you to deliver not only quality work but work that has been legally released to be used for promotion.

The complexities come if you do your shoots in a public place such as a park, a mall or anywhere that there may be traffic that becomes part of the shot. If you complete the shoot and discover that the perfect shot that fits your customers needs just right happens to have miscellaneous members of the public in the background, you have to secure the releases from them or you cannot sell that photograph.

So what can you do to avoid these situations? You could think ahead and try to secure those releases on the spot. But if the people you are trying to convince to sign such releases know you are going to use their images for profit, and you pretty much have to tell them, you get into another whole level of negotiation. But you sure don’t want to have to blur their faces out on the shot.vYou could Photoshop them out but then you might lose the spontaneity of the shot.

It is best to stage the shot from start to finish. If you want traffic to be occurring around your model, bring in models who can do the job for you. Any good modeling agency to provide you with average looking models to use for this purpose. You will have to pay them but at least you know that the shot is clean. Plus when you sell the shot, you are going to get questions about whether those models were paid and if you have releases on them too.

You can find a standard release form on the web or your lawyer can help you develop one that covers the legalities you need handled but also reflects how you want to handle this issue. But make this a priority. By protecting yourself, you can do good business and profitable business but above all, legal business in perusing your professional photography career.

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