Model release and photo release

Model Release: When Do You Need One?

In Blog, Contracts 101, Copyrights 101, Online Business Necessities by Shannon Montgomery

Live events are probably one of the most popular ways to connect with your audience these days. I know in the fitness and online social media world, meeting your “fan base” or supporters is the best way to thank them, and of course, find out what more you can offer to improve their lives. They’re relatively easy to put together too. A quick Instagram story detailing the what where when and who and bam you’re off to the races!

As easy as it seems there are still a few things you need to remember before getting involved in a live event-even if it’s just a walk in the local park.

Things like permits, liability waiver and releases, copyright, marketing and promotional issues, accessibility of the event, possible event insurance, raising money (if you need to) for hosting the event, even tax considerations are just a few things that come to mind when I see an influencer say they are hosting a live event and meet up. But, I don’t want to overwhelm you all so I am going to start with something super basic that I think applies to any and all live events and meetups. 

What is a Model Release:

 It is likely you have heard of a photo release, and if you’ve ever been paid to take photos for a company you probably signed a model release. The two are relatively different.

Here’s how:

Model Release: A model release is a form or contract signed by the person whose photo is being taken. This contract gives the photographer permission to print copies or use copies of that work for commercial purposes. It also usually grants the intellectual property rights in that photo to the photography (or company that hired the photography) only. This keeps the subject of the photos from having any rights in the photos taken.

Photo Release: A photo release is signed by the actual photographer. This contract gives the subject of the photos the permission to print hard copies of the work and it is usually a license from the photographer to the person to use the photos personally, and possibly commercially if the photographer wishes.

When are these used?

 Typically both forms are used for an actual photoshoot or event where there are models/talent and photographers involved. However, for something like a live event I believe a model release can and should be utilized to allow the social media influencer the right to take and use photos of attendees in any manner they please.

Why is this necessary?

 Having a model release on hand is a great idea because it is extremely likely that you, the live event organizer will want to use the photographs of your attendees in the future. Whether that be for marketing purposes, commercial reasons, or personal use. It is a best practice to ensure your guests know that there is a possibility their picture might end up on your website, or in a video down the line.

The release should be worded so that the person signing knows that you will be the owner of the copyright in the photos, that you may or may not use the photos for commercial purposes, and that it may be done now or in the future related to your business or brand, and that they agree to allow you to do so. There are actually a few resources online that provide drafts of release forms for you to then fill in with your details, however, I know a great attorney that can also draft one for you. Just let me know, and I can get her information to you…

Keeping track of the model release:

 A great way to get people to sign these and other documents you might need for the event would be through email and an online signature platform. Gathering your supporter’s email addresses is important in the world we live in, so you should likely plan to have anyone attending the event sign up through a platform of your choosing. Once they sign up you could send any waivers and releases their way to be signed prior to attending the event.  An e-signature is considered a real signature within the courts so that is perfectly acceptable.

Now, I know this is an added layer of planning because you need to be sure everyone who attends the event has the right paperwork signed but it is important to cover all bases from a legal standpoint when hosting a live event. Bring some extra copies with you in case someone who didn’t originally say they were coming shows up the day of. Scan those documents into your computer and keep all documents in a file together!

More Questions?

Like I said, I know this adds some more work for you. But, it is better to be safe than sorry when hosting a live event. You never know what someone might do if they see their photo up on your website next to a product or service they may no longer endorse. Having the release will minimize the possibility of that person making a claim against you in the future. If you host live events and have more questions I would love to hear from you! Email me at and let’s talk about other things you need to consider before putting an event like this one!

I hope this was helpful. Looking forward to hearing from some of you!


Please note that this is not meant to be legal advice for you or your situation, this is merely some legal research and knowledge on the given topic.