Model releases?


Mu-43 Regular
Mar 28, 2014
Anywhere my suitcase is at the moment
Photography is a hobby for me, though I've gotten a bit more serious in the last few months. I was looking at the Nat Geo photography contest, and it talks about needing model releases for people in the photos submitted.

I was wondering how this works out in real life? What if you take a photo of a festival crowd or people in a parade or pretty much any public event? How do people keep track of it all while traveling? Do you need a release for each photo, or can you cover a group of photos?

I'm not taking photos with the goal of selling them, but if somebody should want to buy one, I don't want to miss out on funding my photography habit or entering a contest because I don't have a release.



Mu-43 Top Veteran
May 13, 2011
As for private events, depending on the size or nature of the event, the organizers may include a clause about photo releases in the wavier to enter/participate.

When I was a student worker for my school's multimedia department, we had the clause in our Freshmen / New Student orientation wavier, so basically every student's photo could be used for promotional material.

As for public events like parades, I am not sure how you would go about obtaining photo releases of all participants?


Mu-43 Veteran
Feb 8, 2010
So. Maine
Real Name
Peter Randal
In the US, anybody in a public place is fair game to photograph and even publish in an editorial piece without a model release. Certainly you can sell a photo of someone or exhibit said photo without a release. Nat Geo is likely concerned about portraits and perhaps have their own rules regarding publication, but I doubt if they are worried about crowd shots. If you sell a photo of a person for an ad, then releases are necessary.


Mu-43 Hall of Famer
Jan 29, 2010
South Gippsland, Australia
Real Name
Ray, not Oz
It can become complex, as the requirements for a model release is dependent on the use of the photograph. News, documentary, personal etc photographs that will not be used for commercial gain require no model release; however, if there is to be some commercial advantage from the use of the photograph, it may require a model release. If, for example, a photograph is used for advertising a product and contains clearly identifiable individuals, a model release will absolutely be required. But if it's for a competition, it can become a grey area and that's possibly why Nat Geo wants a model release, so that they can't, on the off chance, get sued by someone in the photograph using a smart lawyer arguing that it's for commercial gain ie, selling of Nat Geo.