Don’t Sign a Model Release Before Reading

Model Release Form

Model Release Form

At the end of every modeling job, you should be given a contract to sign. It is called a Model Release Form. This is a legal document that helps protect the photographer and advertising agency.

There is a lot of basic information in this contract. One part of the release form, has wording that says you are giving the photographer permission to use your image in the ad you just shot. You absolutely have to sign the release form. If you don’t, your image could be plastered on billboards across North America, and if you don’t like the way your hair is styled, you could tell the ad agency to remove the billboard. That is why you need to sign the contract. You are giving them permission to use your image.

Here is where things can get very tricky. I have known a few models who have lost a tremendous amount of money because they did not understand the release form and did not make the proper changes, which I am about to explain to you.

In every model release form you will find either these exact words or very similar words that say that you are giving them permission to use your image for any purpose and through any media what so ever. They can’t. Your agent negotiated a fee based on the “usage” of the ad. Usage means the format for how the ad is being used.

If the ad is running in a magazine, brochure, or newspaper ad, typically commercial models receive either an hourly fee or a flat fee for the day. However, if you ad is running in a “high exposure format”, on a bus, Internet, package of a product, billboards, posters, etc… you should receive a bonus on top of your modeling fee.

We receive bonuses because if you have an ad running in a high exposure format, you could actually lose work. If you are on a billboard for a particular bank, no other local or competing back will hire you while the billboard has your face on it. Sometimes models can be over exposed in a market, and the photographer, ad agency or client might want someone who has not been seen so much in a particular area. That is why we receive the bonus for a high exposure format.

So to help protect yourself from being placed in a high exposure format without being compensated, when you are given the model release form, simply scratch out the words that say that your image can be used through any media and for any purpose what so ever. In its place, write very specifically how your agent said the ad will run – for example, newspaper only, magazine only, brochure only. Then, initial the change, and at that point you can feel free to sign the release form at the bottom of the page. That way, if the company loves the ad and decides that they would like to use it in a high exposure format, now they have to re-negotiate with your agent.

I have heard horror stories about models who sign the model release form as is, without making these changes, and what was supposed to be a newspaper ad, is now part of a company’s web site or in some other high exposure format. Not only will the model not receive any additional money for the high exposure format, but neither will the model’s agent.

If the photographer has a problem with you making the change, then simply ask him/her to call your agent, and let your agent talk with the photographer. Never get involved in this discussion. That is not your job. That is why we are paying our agent a 20% commission fee. Let your agent handle all negotiations.