by Brian Cannone

If you are a fitness model, one thing you should be very conscious of is your images! There are many models that do not understand their rights to their images, or the details pertaining to any release forms. This can be devastating to any models career! You do not want to be taken advantage of nor do you want to put yourself at a disadvantage! You need to know what you are doing and you need to know the details. There are a few things you need to know about model releases before you go signing anything. You also need to know the risks of using and not using a release form!

A model release is a legal release signed by the fitness model granting permission to publish the images in one form or another. However, if you just sign a model release form without reading it first, you are making the first damaging mistake that hundreds of models do! In this release it should be included how they plan to distribute your photographs. It can also be stipulated that you, as the fitness model, can or cannot receive compensation for the use of your images or the monies gained from the distribution of your images. Simply, a model release form is a legal document giving the right of your images to a particular person or party. If you do NOT sign a model release form and the images are distributed anyway without your knowledge, the distributor can be punished by law and can result in civil liability battle!

When is a model release form used? Any image that is used for commercial use is required to have model release before the images can be published. A model release form will almost always be required, especially when you are working with a professional photographer! However, you also need to be aware of when a release form is NOT required. Taking person pictures and snapshots, taking your own pictures for your own advertising, paying a photographer for personal photos (a local portrait studio), and if you are in any news story and your image us used on television or in the newspaper!

If you are being paid for you services as a fitness model, regardless whether it’s compensation for your photos or an exchange for services, the photographer should always ask for a model release form! A lot of times you will be working with a bigger party, and the photographer will just be the middle-man hired by your employer to take the pictures, and is asked to have you sign a release form. However, if you are working solely with the photographer he/she may or may not ask for a release form!

Before you work with a photographer, hired by either yourself or your employer/client, you need to have done your research! You need to be aware of who you are working with! If you are not familiar with a photographer you are working with, you need to be sure that you check your photographer’s references. You should at least be aware of who you are working with before you go putting yourself into a potentially dangerous position! Once you feel comfortable with your photographer, you need to not only concentrate on having a great session, but you also need to be asking details about the release form.

The number one question that should come out of your mouth when asking the photographer about the release form is “how will my images be used?”. If you are working solely with the photographer, there are many reasons why he/she needs your fitness modeling pictures. They could be using your images for their portfolio (online or otherwise), to sell the images to magazines for editorial usage and to use for potential clients for advertising. If you are working through your employer/client you should have already discussed, prior to the shoot, what their intentions are for the distribution for your images! You can also discuss with them the possibility of keeping the rights to your images, and allowing them the right to distribute them as they see fit.

A main reason why photographers need a release form is that if they have the intent on publishing these images the release form is to protect themselves from any legal obligation or legality issues. However, there is a difference between making an image available for sale and the use of an image to promote a product or service. Making images available for purchase for potential publication does not require a release, and using the image for advertising purposes requires a release form. Photographers that publish and distribute your unreleased images are subject to civil liability!

Keep in mind that in most cases, the photographer you are working with is typically NOT the publisher of your images, but sells the images to someone else for publication. In this scenario, liability rests solely with the publisher, NOT the photographer! As previously stated, a photographer will generally obtain the release form because they are there to get it for their client; this makes things a lot more convenient. Also, in some cases the photographer will obtain the release form for later selling of your images to another publisher. This is a tricky line, unless an image is physically published, the use for a model release is undefined.

It is essential that you as a fitness model, know the ins and outs of a release form before it is ever brought up during your session with the photographer! You need to be aware of the risks you are putting yourself in and also the disadvantages you could potentially be putting yourself in! Remember that it can also be stipulated that you own the rights to your images, but allow the publisher permission to distribute your images! You will want to try to control the distribution of your images as much as you can, meanwhile receiving the compensation and exposure you need!!