Privacy Rights And Copyrights; What Photographers Need To Know Page 2

Travel To Other Countries
We have been talking about privacy laws and the requirements for releases for the US. When you travel, be aware every country has a different view on privacy laws for their citizens. Some may be stricter than ours and some may not even have protections. It is a courtesy and sometimes culturally necessary to ask permission to take someone's picture and in the process (perhaps through a guide or interpreter) get it in writing. Given that some of you are concerned about literacy issues, people who cannot write usually have a recognized "mark" they can make for identification.

Many photographers ignore this issue as they intend to sell the images for US use and plan (and hope) that the people they photograph will not see the images. But this is the age of the World Wide Web and I advise against taking chances. Using a privacy release--even a simple one--is just the safest advice. It is best to check with the embassy or consulate of each country on your itinerary and find out what the rules are so you can safely and respectfully capture images of people in foreign lands. Dan Heller ( has excellent information on model releases for travel photography in his two books, Profitable Photography in the Digital Age and How to Make Money with Digital Photography.

Just Do It
Learning to ask for signed model releases is a must if you want to become a pro in photography. Even as an editorial photographer you may want to get releases with certain photos, if you want those photos eligible to be used for commercial purposes or for stock. Though editorial use does not require privacy rights released, you probably still want to get a model release in the event the accompanying article to your photos could be later interpreted as derogatory or defamation of character in some way. In an effort to deter libel litigation many publications now are asking for model released images for articles, especially when the images include minor children.

The best rule is to always get a model release. You cannot predict all the uses of an image so always asking for a signed model release gives you more opportunities for sale and use of your images. Adding the protection of privacy rights to the ownership of copyright is the responsibility of every photographer--amateur and professional. Knowing your rights and the rights of individuals you photograph will serve you long and well.