Model Release Forms

Model Release Forms & Contract Law

When a model signs a model release form, she is entering into a binding contract.
When a photographer signs a model release form, he is entering into a binding contract.
Unless there is a specified termination date for the contract, which is extremely unlikely, the contract never ceases. It usually will also pass on to the photographers heirs, so it doesn't even cease when the photographer dies.
Read the contract, understand what you are signing, and don't sign it unless you understand.
Don't expect or hope to change a legal contract for whatever reason you may have.

If the model changes her mind

A model who has signed a model release form may, sometime later, change her mind and contact the photographer and ask him to unpublish her pictures.
She may think this is a simple thing, as she has changed her mind. She "just" wants the photographer to delete some pictures from his portfolio.
What she may not realise is what she is actually asking. She is asking the photographer, who has put considerable time, effort and money, into the photo shoot, into editing the pictures, and into publishing them, in order to create a portoflio, to simply throw that all away. Not only that, she is also asking the photographer to spend yet more time removing her pictures, possibly from many locations.

It makes no difference if the pictures are from a paid photo shoot. In this case the photographer has still spent time and effort editing pictures and updating his portfolio.

It is likely she will also want to keep the results of the photo shoot for herself. All win for her, and nothing for the photographer.

A model who asks a photographer to delete her pictures may well be met with shock by the photographer at her casual disregard for the work he has put in and is being asked to throw away. It is doubtful such a model will ever be asked to model for that photographer again, as he will gain the impression that his work is unappreciated, and that she doesn't care about other people. Not the sort of model any photographer wants to photograph.

Legally she has no right to ask, and the photographer can reject her request.

If the model is credited in the portfolio, the photographer may agree to remove the credits. This may take quite a time if the portfolio is complex, and so the photographer will no doubt be unhappy at this extra unpaid work. The photographer will usually attribute the model because that's what she wanted at the time.

The photographer, may, if he wishes, act on the request. No doubt he will do so with a "bitter taste in his mouth".
Since I am extremely busy, it is most likely I will not agree, certainly if I think the model doesn't realise what she is asking.

It is more likely, if he so wishes, given the time and effort he has expended, that he will ask for compensation from the model. The photographer will probably calculate the total time he has spent on the photo shoot and editing/publishing, and using his hourly rate, work out a suitable compensation. In addition, if the photographer needs to do another photo shoot in order to replace the pictures lost from his portfolio, there will be the additional compensation to pay for such a photo shoot. In effect the model will have to pay for two photo shoots and two lots of editing/publishing.

This gives an idea of what the model is really asking for when she makes that simple request to delete her pictures from the photographer's portfolio.

Some people contact me explaining their new situation, saying that they understand that they have no right to ask, but asking whether I could delete their pictures. I will give such requests much more understanding than those that are curt and demanding. If I decide to delete the pictures it may take some time, I am very busy, and editing my website is not a quick simple process. If you react with impatience I am likely to be less understanding.