If you’re like most photographers, you’d rather do photography than paperwork. That said, a little bit of paperwork is sometimes necessary. If you shoot stock photos, model and property releases are a vital part of your work. You’ll need releases if you want stock sites like Bigstock to accept your photos, and releases can protect you if there’s a legal question about one of your photos. This post goes over some of the basics about releases. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, leave a comment at the end of this post or write to We may address additional questions in a future post.

When does a photo need a model release?

All photos of recognizable people should have a model release. (Bigstock makes exceptions only for newsworthy images submitted for editorial usage; those images are labeled so buyers know they can’t be used commercially.)

When does a photo need a property release?

All images shot on private property, including the interiors of homes and businesses, should have a property release signed by the property owner. As with model releases, the sole exception is newsworthy editorial images.

Why are releases necessary?

A release acts as  an agreement between the photographer and the model or property owner acknowledging that the images can be licensed for any number of uses, including advertising. Releases protect the photographer, stock image buyer, and agency in case of  a legal dispute.

Where can I get a release form?

Right here: Download PDF files of Bigstock’s Adult Model Release, Minor Model Release and Property Release.

Can I use a release form that’s different from the ones Bigstock  provides?

Yes, a generic release is acceptable as long as it contains the same terms as our release, along with:

  • the photographer’s name.
  • the model’s name and signature.
  • a witness’s name and signature.
  • A date, preferably the date of shoot, near the model’s signature.
  • As much contact info on the model as possible, such as an e-mail address, mailing address, and phone number.

OK, I had my models sign releases and I’m ready to upload their images to Bigstock. Now what?

Upload the releases first using Bigstock’s Release Manager. Then, in the Edit and Submit area of Uploads, you should assign releases to your images. As an example, if a photo depicts three people, it should have three model releases. If several of your photos contain the same model, the model only needs to sign one release, but the release should be assigned to each image of that model.

Must I provide contact information for the model or property owner?

Yes. If a dispute occurs, we need a way to contact the person who signed the release.

How can I tell if someone is really identifiable?

Is the subject in focus enough for you to distinguish identifiable  features? Can you see the model’s face, even part of it, even in  profile? Even if the photo doesn’t show the person’s face, include a release if the image shows any distinguishing markings that could be used to identify the person. In cases where you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and include the release.

Photo © Mark Stout/Bigstock


 150+ Things You Can't Show in a Commercial Stock Image
150+ Things You Can’t Show in a Commercial Stock Image
  When's the Best Time to Upload Images?
When’s the Best Time to Upload Images?