If you've just finished a shoot and you have some pictures that you just love, you may be interested in putting them on your blog, website portfolio, or your printed porfolio and marketing materials. Do you need a model release?
There are definitely conflicting reports on this.
According to a Febuary 2006 post from the Photo Attorney blog,
You violate a person's right of publicity when you take or use without permission a person's photo for your own use or benefit.
In her post she explains the different between editorial use an commercial use. For commercial use, one factor to consider is: does using the photo imply that the person is endorsing your product or service. In this case, would using the photo in your porfolio imply that the customer is endorsing you? She essentially finishes with it is safest to always get a model release and especially if it is not clear if the usage is editorial or commercial.
To add to the confusion though, is knowing when your usage of photos is considered commercial. In a June 2007 post by the Photo Attorney blog, she notes: Putting photos from an event on the web is usually considered an editorial use, not requiring a model release for the people in the photos.So does that mean putting photos up from a portrait session would also not require a model release?
Another source, Dan Heller, who focuses mostly on the sale of stock photography, notes more clearly:
In fact, if you're a wedding photographer, you don't need to have model releases for people you have shot in previous weddings to display them on your website to illustrate the work you do.
It sounds clear, right? He does go on to say that if someone complains it is probably in your interest to take an image off your site. But are weddings treated differently than portrait sessions?
I had been researching this when Digital Photography School also posted about this very topic. I thought, woohoo! but alas, they point to the same information. Check out their post though as it has links to resources for model release templates.
What did I decide to do? I added a basic model release to my contract that I use for portrait sessions. So now I can use the pictures from my portrait sessions on my website and in my promotional materials. This was pretty easy to add in since I already had a contract for my clients. I'm not doing street photography and photographing complete strangers so there is no reason to take, what is the easy road here, and just get them to sign ahead of time.
There are several books available with legal advice for photographers such as the two below. Many of these books seem to have more of a focus on licensed photography but maybe they'll help you!