Model Releases for Your Dog Photography Business
As a photographer, you retain your rights to your photos. You can decide to waive those rights at any time, but in general, you should retain them. To protect your rights, you need to create a waiver and model release and require all clients to sign it, even though the photos are of dogs and not humans.
Your clients can sign the release before the session or immediately after; just make sure they sign it. Then you keep it. If they want a copy, you can give them a blank release or you both can sign another release for their records.
It’s also a good idea to briefly tell them in plain English what the release actually says (some clients like to read it for themselves, but most appreciate a quick summary). Typically, clients are quick to sign it and there aren’t any problems. Should they refuse to sign the release at the end of the shoot, that should end your transaction.
You shouldn’t provide them with any further service or product, and it’s up to you whether you accept payment for the session time.
After you get home (or to your office), file the release somewhere safe and don’t move it. Keep it where you can find it; you need it to back up your public usage (for example, in your online gallery or in your promotional material). Also, you never know what opportunities may come along that you need to act on right away.
Cutest pet photo contests are very popular right now. Unfortunately, many of the companies that run these contests add to the fine print that the copyright of submitted photos becomes theirs so they can then use those photos in their own marketing materials.
This situation has two problems: First, clients don’t own the copyright to the photos you take for them, so they’re actually legally prohibited from transferring the copyright to someone else in the first place because it’s not theirs to transfer. Second, most people innocently submit to cutest pet photo contests without reading the fine print.
To prevent this scenario from happening, explain to your clients when they sign the model release that they need to e-mail you the fine print of any contests they want to submit your photos to. You can then review the fine print and determine whether the company is trying to snag your copyright.
If it is, the photos shouldn’t be submitted. If the company states that the copyright remains that of the photographer, your photos are safe.
One final word of advice on the matter: Get model releases from everyone. Yes, everyone, even your parents, your best friend, and your spouse. Things happen all the time. Don’t let anyone get a free pass.
If you forget to bring the release or don’t get it signed during the session, e-mail your client a copy and have the client return it before you give the client his proofing gallery. Go through this minor formality; it will save you a lot of potential migraines in the future.