Everything you need to know about image releases

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For any image with a recognizable person, property, or artwork, we require an image release to ensure they’re safe to license to users.

Laws regarding image releases vary per country, but generally, here’s what you need to know:

01. When an image release is/isn’t needed

Photos in Canva are going to be used commercially, so as long as a person can recognize themselves, their property, or their creation in your photo, you need an image release.

Close up side portrait of beautiful confident woman laughing in nature

Photo by Micahel Simons | needs a model release

Hike in Grand Canyon

Photo by Galyna Andrushko | doesn't need a model release

If a photo shows any feature like a tattoo, piercing, or even a birthmark that would make a specific person recognizable to themselves or people they know, get a model release.

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Photo by Alex Hockett | needs a model release

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Photo by Pixabay | doesn't need a model release

When shooting any place that may or may not be open to the public but cannot be entered freely by just anyone (including your hotel or hospital room), get a property release.

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Photo by Stephan Karg | needs a property release

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Photo by Krista Mangulsone | doesn't need a property release

Photos that show intellectual property, like buildings, furniture, packaging, sculptures, murals, graffiti, and tattoos can also need a property release, especially if the property is the subject of the photo rather than just part of the background.

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Photo by Ashim-D’Silva | doesn't need a property release

Graffiti Street Art Culture Spray Abstract Concept

Photo by RawPixel | needs a property release

Some currencies also need a property release—some depending on when they were released. For instance, a property release is needed for Australian banknotes and coins designed after May 1, 1969. The best bet is to find out the country’s laws.

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Photo by Steve Estvanik

Photos of unique, famous, and zoo-kept animals also require a property release. For instance, race horses or celebrity dogs will require a property release from their owners. In the case of zoo animals, you’ll need a property release signed by the owner of the zoo. Also note that we only accept photos of animals that appear to be in their natural habitat.

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Photo by Matthew Henry | needs a property release

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Photo by Pixabay | doesn't need a property release

So when isn’t an image release needed? Basically, if people, places, objects, and animals in your photo are generic enough, like a silhouette of a person or a person very far off in a distance, you won’t need one. Additionally, if properties are part of a broad background aren’t the subject of a photo, you won’t need an image release.

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Photo by Unsplash | doesn't need a model release

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Photo by Pixabay | doesn't need a property release

02. What to include in the image release

Business people shaking hands

Photo by Kirill Kedrinski

Image releases typically should include the following:

  • Date, location, and details of the shoot or property
  • Full contact details of the model or property owner
  • A reference photo of the model or property
  • Details of the photographer
  • Signature of the model or a legal parent/guardian if the model is a minor, owner of the property or art, or heir of the model or owner of the property (up to 70 years after death)

Be sure to find a reputable blank model and property release and never attempt to create your own. For extra legal protection, some photographers take a photo of the model or property owner holding the signed release.

Photographer and young woman.

Photo by Sara Woodmansee

There are many mobile apps that make signing and managing releases easy. Most contain standard releases which meet most legal requirements in most countries, so they’re a good option.

We also have release templates you can use if you prefer doing them on paper: property release and model release.

If you can, take blank releases with you whenever you go out to shoot, so you can have models and property owners sign them if needed and better the chances of getting your photos approved.

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