Photo release consent: What is a photo release form?

A photographer completes a photo release form on a laptop If you take pictures for work or as a hobby, you should know how and when to use a photo release form. They’re not complicated, but there are a few things to consider before using them.

What is a photo release form and when do you need one?

A photo release form — sometimes called a media release or consent form — is an agreement between a photographer and an individual (most often, the subject of the photo), which gives the photographer the right to commercialize the picture. But the form doesn’t always have to be for an individual; a photo release form can also apply to the owner of private property, such as a pet, home or commercial building.

So, when do you need a photo release form? You should always get a media or photo release form signed by any person who is identifiable in a picture or video you plan to use for commercial purposes. The same rule applies to getting a release from any property owner identifiable in your shot. The release form can be simple and should spell out what you can do with the media.

Photo release forms are usually not needed for photographs taken for editorial purposes, such as news reports or journalism articles — but it never hurts to get a signed release form just in case. On the other hand, pictures of large crowds in a public place usually don’t require those subjects to sign a release form.

Are there any exceptions to using photo release forms?

Whether you need a form depends on how you intend to use the photo. If you plan on selling the image or using it in a promotion, you’ll need to have a photo release form on hand for the subject to sign.

However, if you are using the photo for personal enjoyment, you don’t need to worry about a release. Generally speaking, photos of people and places in public areas don’t require permission.

Another instance where photo release forms are not required is if the people in the photo are not clearly identifiable. Examples include anything from a blurry action shot to only using a portion of a person in a photo, such as a group of people walking and only showing them from the legs down.

Obtaining a photo release is fairly common, especially since many businesses and entrepreneurs are also content creators who develop their own photos and images.

A number of different photo release forms are available online for quick and easy use, but you can also create your own form by including the following fields:

You never know when you may need a photo release form, so many photographers find it convenient to keep and use a digital form on their phone or tablet. Plus, it’s easy to access online tools that allow you to fill out and sign PDFs and gather electronic signatures from anywhere, at any time.

Discover what else you can do with the power of Adobe Acrobat.