How To Understand Model Release Forms
Model Releases are contracts signed between male models and photographers before photo shoots. Some college guys freak out when handed their first model release. They have been concerned about whey protein, lifting, tanning and now need to think like an attorney and read a legal document. Once you become established male model, you will sign model releases on almost a daily basis. No one expects you to be an attorney, but you need to clearly understand what you are agreeing to before you sign a release. You need to know the who, what, when, where and why of this business transaction.
Model Releases Biased in Favor of Photographer
No photograph in which you appear can be published without your written permission. Written permission is usually established through a model release. Photos in which you appear are basically worthless if the photographer does not have a signed model release.
While it is good to be careful before signing a model release, it is important to know that it is possible to be too careful. You should work with photographers who have a good reputation in the modeling industry - rather than overly concern yourself with being screwed by signing a model release.
Model releases are always biased in favor of the photographer... Ironically, this is understandable. Your photographer has likely been screwed over by a previous model who he dedicated hours photographing. This is why photographers are very diligent in getting you to sign a model release. The photographer needs to know he will be able to use the photographs from your photo shoot. So, he needs a firm agreement from you - so his time does not get wasted. Just understand what you are agreeing to!
Photographers Delighted to Find Good Male Model
The good news is that most photographers are "working photographers," -- creative types who are very busy being both artsy and trying to earn a living from their craft. They are too busy trying to get their photos published to play games with you or trick you. Good photographers do not have time to swindle, cheat or trick new male models. They have respect when they find a male model who is flexible and easy to work with. They reward him with future opportunities. Most college guys think they need to make decisions to impress women who will see their photos, but in reality, they need to impress the industry professionals who actually hire models.
Signed Before the Photo Shoot
You should agree to all terms of the photo shoot and how the photos will be used before you arrive for your shoot. Giving a photographer trouble in signing a model release on the day of the photo shoot is a sure fire way to not be invited back when that photographer later has an awesome modeling job available... he will give the next modeling job to a guy who did not give him trouble after an exhausting photo shoot.
So, don't be a pain in the ass when it comes time to sign a model release. Don't become a high-powered negotiator. Don't be overly freaked out about the model release. If you forward this model release to an attorney or family friend, they will likely spend days and days reviewing it. This can cause you to lose the modeling job. Just skim over the release and ask the photographer about any points you don't understand.
Releases May Need Minor Changes
Don't be afraid to ask for changes or to clarify a part of the model release that is confusing. You should ask about parts of model releases you do not understand. Ask without sounding like you are accusing the photographer of being sneaky. Rather than bringing up issues that falsely accuse a professional photographer, you should be able to speak with other models the photographer has worked with. A good photographer will tend to have successful long-term business relationships with models he has photographed.
Clearly handwrite any very specific sentence that makes a point in the release clearer - provided the photographer agrees to your addition or change. Be very specific and detailed when adding a sentence to a model release. It is OK to write changes by hand. Clarifications and additions do not need to be typewritten. An agreement is an agreement - whether typewritten or handwritten.
Standard Preprinted Model Releases
Most photographers use preprinted model release forms. Since photographers are not experts on law. Many photographers purchase standard model release forms, rather than have a custom release written for your photo shoot. (You really do not want a photographer to spend his time writing contracts. You want him to spend his time thinking about creative ideas on how to make you look good. Thinking about pose ideas while their are eating, drinking or shitting is what makes a photographer excellent.)
Many photographers say you should sign their release because it is "standard." A model release is a contact. There are no standard contracts. You will never be able to go to court and say "Well, he said the release was standard."
Next... Questions to Ask Before Signing a model release
If you are ready to become a male model, consider our innovative advice on how to get your modeling career started locally, on your college campus. Its a fun way for you and 11 of your on-campus buddies to take a giant leap ahead of other aspiring models!