When Do You Need A Model Release For People In You Videos?

December 5th, 2011

David Holloway a Realtor in Lake Greenwood South Carolina is in the process of transitioning towards being a videographer. This video ad is one of his recent works.

David asks the question: “do I need a model release for the family near the end of the video?”

First of all here is a summary of the general guidelines for when you need a model release.

I’m not a lawyer and and this is not legal advice but my guess is:

  1. Yes, to be safe you need a release for the woman she is identifiable and it’s not clear if this is a public place or not. The man and the kids are not identifiable.
  2. The three ladies walking across the street are clearly in a public place and are on camera for a very short time duration and not really identifiable.
What’s your judgement on David’s question?
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9 Responses to “When Do You Need A Model Release For People In You Videos?”

  • Larry, thanks for posting on his topic, it was perfect timing for me as I have finally had time to work on forms, releases and contracts.

    I have actually worked extensively with David and you could not find a nicer guy who is dedicated to this craft and will be a huge success. David and I also had this conversation and he mentioned that there was a model release app for the iphone. Maybe it will be less awkward than pulling out a paper version and searching for a pen.

    Thanks for the post and I hope we have a good discussion on this topic. I’m going to look onto the iphone app right now.

  • For a commercial video, I would get a release for anyone who is even remotely identifiable. It costs nothing. Better safe than sorry.

    I use VM release on my iPad, which makes it very easy. Never had someone refuse.

  • Nice video. They might have slipped in there somewhere where they were. I had to go to the website to see what what beach they were talking about. But maybe that was the intention or maybe how it was distributed would answer that question with some context.

  • Thanks for all the compliments – Being somewhat new to this, I did not get model releases signed. Upon Larry’s suggestion, I tried to blur out some of the people(in the lifestyle scenes) that were identifiable with fcp filters or I just completely cut them out. Here is what I came up with – (you may have to cut and paste) I guess here are my remaining questions, 1) Do I need to get everyone who is in the video including employees for the company to sign a model release form – in this case Megan and Billy(the person at the front desk? (the model with whom he is shaking hands with works with me) and 2) Are the people in the lifestyle scenes still identifiable?

    Jay – Thanks for pointing that out to me – Oversight on my part.

    Thanks for all the feedback!


  • Yes – get releases for all the employees (even the one who hired you), as well as the entire family at the end. The shoppers, the guy in the boat, etc. you are OK without releasing, as they are in public places (where they have no legal expectation of privacy) and aren’t readily recognizable. When in doubt, get a release. It makes this sort of video much harder to do, but you need the protection. Not hard to imagine a disgruntled employee (aren’t they all?) quitting and then demanding that they be removed from the company’s marketing material – and you’ll be the first one tossed in front of the train once everyone else has lawyered up.

  • Agree with Scott and would suggest that you include a model release in your employee new hire paper work.
    On another tangent with model releases, a couple of times I have come across advice to get the homeowners of the property you shoot to sign a release for the photos of the home. This is so you can use the photos for your own needs, marketing, mailings, etc. Has anyone else heard of this? I assumed that this was not necessary since I shot and owned the photos.


  • I suggest a model release – if you don’t release her it is called kidnapping – once she has done her job…let her go

  • Everyone, I just wanted to say thanks for the feedback. I also wanted to thank Larry for posting on the subject, and for providing such a wonderful platform for exchanging ideas and information – All the best – David

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