If you're shooting a location for commercial purposes, you might need to get a property release signed by the owner. Find out when to do it and see a sample property release in this excerpt from the Wedding and Portrait Photographers' Legal Handbook.
This excerpt from Wedding and Portrait Photographers' Legal Handbook is provided courtesy of Amherst Media. To purchase the book and learn more about the publisher, visit the Amherst Media website.
Photographing other people's property when the images created are not for the owner's personal use requires you to obtain a property release. This is to protect both the privacy of the owner and their personal integrity. This is also to ensure that, should an image of that person's property be used for monetary gain, they will receive appropriate compensation. Should you fail to obtain such a release and it is later discovered that you or your third-party client released the image for any purpose, including profit, you may well find yourself defending a legal action. This could be financially crippling and should be avoided at all costs.
For a Kodak Dream Makers portrait session in the 1990s, a client wanted to be represented as a 1930s "flapper." It required me to locate a property that was built either in the 1930s or earlier and also required me to have the use of a vintage Ford. To obtain the permission to stage the portrait on the desirable site, I paid the owners a fee and received a written release for the purpose. Without doing so, I would have been infringing the owners' property rights.
Whenever a third-party property is going to be included within the image, it is important to obtain appropriate permission. In many cases, it may be adequate for the permission to be verbal. Such a case may be that where the property is that of a relative of the client and it is a collaborative situation. However, if the image to be created is of property that is owned by or leased by an otherwise uninvolved party, a legal release is crucial.
This is especially important if the image is likely to be exhibited in the media to the public. It doesn't matter what kind of property may be involved; if it is recognizable in any form whatsoever, it needs a property release. If you rent property, whether real estate or transportable, it also needs a release. That release should describe the purpose and define the reward for the release. And example of such a release follows:
This Personal Property Release, ("Release") is entered into this____________________day of ____________, 20_____ by and between ___________________________________________________, (the "Photographer") whose principal ___________________________________________________________and ____________________________________________ (the "Owner") residing at ______________________________________.
WHEREAS, the Owner is the legal owner of __________________________________________________________ ("the Property");
WHEREAS, the Photographer wishes to purchase the use of the Property for some photography;
WHEREAS, the Parties have agreed on an arrangement where the Photographer may purchase the use of the Property and the Owner will receive fair compensation and consideration for such use.
THEREFORE, it is Agreed:
In consideration of the sum of _____________________________________Dollars ($__________) and other valuable consideration, the sufficiency and the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, the Owner does irrevocably empower the Photographer, his assigns, licensees, successors in interest, legal representatives, and heirs to copyright, publish, and use in all forms and media and in all manners for advertising, trade, promotion, exhibition, or any other lawful purpose, images of the following property:_______________________________________.
The Owner hereby warrants to the Photographer that he is the rightful and lawful owner and has full and sole authority to license for such uses, regardless of whether said use is composite or distorted in character or form whether said use is made in conjunction with my own name as owner or with a fictitious name, or whether said use is made in color, black and white, or otherwise, or other derivative works are made through any medium.
The Owner hereby waives any and all rights that the Owner may have to inspect or approve the photograph(s) or finished version(s) incorporating the photographs, including written copy that may be used in connection therewith.
I warrant that I am over the age of eighteen (18) and have every right to contract in my own name with respect to the foregoing matters. I agree that this release shall be binding on me, my representatives, heirs, and assigns. I have read the above authorization and release prior to its execution, and I am fully cognizant of its contents.