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What to do if you see yourself in a stock photo

A busy Oxford Street, London, England, UK
P.D Amedzro / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s festival season and the weather is warming up, so as we spend more time at outdoor events, there’s a chance that someone may well capture you in an image. But what if you see yourself in an image on a stock photo site when you haven’t given permission?

There are a few reasons why you might appear in a stock image, and we’re here to talk you through some of the key things you need to know…

Some quick definitions that’ll help as you read through:

Model release – A model release is a legal document that the person or people featured in a photograph are required to sign to give the photographer permission to use or sell the image

Editorial use – When an image or clip is used to illustrate a newsworthy article, critique or educational text

Commercial use – When an image is used to promote something, sell a product or raise money for a cause. This includes advertising, marketing, packaging and consumer or merchandising products

If you’ve given your permission

If you’ve agreed to be in an image and given your permission to the photographer by signing a model release, the photographer has full rights to use the image.

On Alamy, it’s the contributor’s responsibility to confirm whether they have secured model releases for the people in the image. You can check if the contributor says there’s a model release by checking the info underneath the image, for example:

Model Release check
Model Release check

If you’ve signed a release and want to know what rights you have, check out this blog.

If you haven’t given permission

When the photographer can use an image without your permission

There are some circumstances where the photographer doesn’t require your permission to sell an image that you feature in. The most common scenario is when the image was taken in a public place. The usual guidelines mean that an image can be used if it meets either of the below:

  • It is being used for editorial use e.g. to illustrate an article or story
  • The photo is of a crowd in a public place e.g. at a festival or on a busy street

In most cases, if the image was taken in a public place, the photographer has the rights to sell the image even without permission from the people in it. But remember, laws can vary from country to country, so this isn’t a definitive rule. For a nice outline of photographer rights when shooting in public places, check out this article from TechRadar.

When it’s not OK for an image to be sold without your permission

There are some occasions when the photographer cannot use an image of you without your permission. If you see an image being used in either of the below ways, get in touch with the stock photo library being used to sell the image:

  1. For commercial use e.g. as part of a company’s advertising campaign or marketing material and it looks like you’re endorsing their product
  2. Being used on merchandise or consumer goods e.g. t-shirts or greetings cards

Here are the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions:

Can I get a free print of an image because I’m in it?

Unfortunately not! Just because you’re in an image doesn’t mean you’re entitled to receive a free version of it – digital or print! The photographer owns the copyright to the image, so we can’t give you a free version of their image.

Will I get any money if an image I’m in is sold?

Appearing in an image doesn’t mean you’re going to get any money. As the copyright owner, the photographer is the one entitled to any money from the image sale.

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