Some of this is a total trigger for me, and one of the reasons I really detest doing group shoots. I generally just want someone to sign the model release, and then lets go take pictures. But sometimes you run into people who want to negotiate a separate release than the one the photographer usually uses. Most of us use a Getty Images release or an ASCP release, some of us use a 2257 release, and there are a ton of variations on the theme.
A model release expressly grants and limits what can be done with the images the photographer creates. This is important, it grants in general the photographer full rights to the images that are created while the model gets nothing, other than the right to use the pictures to promote themselves.
In a TFP shoot, it is generally agreed that some of the pictures will be used to promote the model’s own career, and most photographers will be fine with that.
Sometimes models will want a variation on that release for full rights or equal rights as the photographer who takes the picture.
I have done this in the past, and it was a horrible experience for me. At times models have so re-imaged the picture in Photoshop that I wanted my name taken off it. Generally photographers will go in with an idea of what they want, and when the image is re-imaged or redone in Photoshop it can be a process of cognitive dissonance with the photographer and the model. Sometimes it is a horrible experience.
Another issue comes in when money gets involved. The model is inherently going to have a bigger following than the photographer, and it is super important that the model keeps the watermark on the picture. Full rights allow the model to remove the watermark. In this age of the Internet it is so easy to crop out a watermark, it happens every day everywhere, that it is very easy for the photographer to never be credited for the picture by the model, or the models fans, and not boost their career. Honestly if I was busy shooting super models, I would want my watermark all over that image because I want to leverage my fan base for the model, and I would want the models fan base to check out my other work. I would totally sell an unwater marked image to a magazine, but I need my watermarks intact.
Granting a model full right to the images allows the model to sell the picture to their fan base without anything back to the photographer. Photographers can also sell that picture with no money back to the model for their time or effort. So in that respect it is fair, people can use the picture to make money, but nowhere in there does it state the money will be shared equally. This can be a huge problem as the photographer has expenses that the model does not have. Models don’t pay for the studio or location, the gear, often the costume, and otherwise, even for a TFP shoot. The photographer has costs, the model might have costs, and it is very important that money be shared or we stick to the standard release.
I won’t even mention the auditing overhead for making sure everyone plays this honest. People do weird things when money is involved.
Full rights also grants the right to take down the picture, if they can do everything that the photographer can do, they can say that the picture isn’t flattering, or legally take down the whole gallery. If the picture set is popular (and some of my sets reach into the quarter million picture views), having the model request a take down because they have full rights can be problematic. Suddenly the photographer has to deal with the issue of very popular against the models rights that the photographer gave them.
Suddenly a model has regrets and wants the gallery down. With full rights, they can do that, with a standard release they can’t and you can keep your popular gallery going.
I am not against sharing, I am against full rights or equal rights for any kind of shoot for a model. And nothing personal, I do have costs like the studio, makeup artists, gear, clothing, and other things that brings the average cost of a TFP shoot to somewhere around $200.00 per shoot. It might be free for the photographer to have the model there, but there are other costs associated with the shoot that the model does not see.
This doesn’t even include processing and rendering time.
What are your thoughts on this, should models get full rights to the images that the photographer creates, or are we opening a can of worms here that will be the end times of photography?