Minden Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo

Releases; who, what, when, where & why?

Do releases leave you scratching your head? We get a fair few questions about them (among the occasional obscure question about releases for pigeons), so we thought it’s about time we gave you a brief rundown on the wonderful world of releases.

What is a release?

A release is a signed legal document between a photographer/agency, and the subject which they have photographed.

Why do I need a release?

You need a release if you want to license your images commercially (for advertising and consumer goods). Without a release you can still sell them for editorial uses.

Who needs to sign a release?

If it’s a model release, it will need to be signed by the person/people in your images (and a parent/guardian if the model is a minor). Yes, even if it’s just their hands, you would still need a release to license it commercially. What about crowds? We don’t expect you to have a release for every individual, so as long as you put that there are people in your image, and that there are no releases, you’re all set. What about pets? It’s individual preference as to whether you get the owner to sign a model or property release for the animal, but either way, you’ll need a signed one.

If it’s a property release, it will need to be signed by the owner of the property. But who is the owner? It’s all well and good getting your mate to sign a release for their new Mini Cooper which you’ve just shot, but that’s not enough. To sell images commercially that contain any third party intellectual property, you will need a release from the owner of said third party intellectual property rights (so for the Mini Cooper, you’ll need the permission of BMW).

When do I need to upload a release?

You don’t necessarily need to upload a copy of the release (our sales team will contact you if they need a copy), but you do need to annotate your images correctly to say whether they contain people and/or property, and whether or not you have a release.

Where can I find a sample release form?

You can find our release forms on our Contributor Help Pages, as well as some more info on releases.


Right, that’s enough uses of ‘release’ for one blog post (24 by my count). However, if you’ve still got any questions, just drop us an email at contributors@alamy.com.