I shoot quite a bit of photography that requires model releases; probably somewhere in the range of 90-95%. I’ve been using paper model releases for as long as I can remember. They are a constant bane on a shoot, always tracking down each talent for their signature, explaining every bit of phrasing and finally filing them away in some sense of order.
I’ve luckily never been asked for a release from the past. I know photographers who don’t bother just for that reason; big gamble. They better hope that their images never hit a larger, global market, especially with that new thing, the internet, out there. I know others who have everything covered in paper with filing cabinets full of the past ten or twenty years of redundant paper, forms and signatures.
I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I totally believe in the power of the model release and I’m scared shedless of someone coming back on one. It tends to be such a grey/gray area for many in the field who look after paperwork themselves. I imagine reps/agents/producers play it safe for larger public shoots and cover it off with a few different options. I’ve seen nightclubs in Hollywood hang posters outside stating entry onto the premisses equals signing of a release, then have a bulk pad of A4 releases on a podium. A real dark area I think for most photographers is the whole public area with models mixed with locals. They have releases for all the models but don’t bother with public since there are more than 20 people in a public place. Then there is the argument of art versus commerce and did it actually affect the individual’s standing. There are so many factors, its best to have photoattorney.com or your own lawyer figure out for you. I’m definitely no expert.
What I’m writing about here today are electronic model releases, specifically Easy Release and Release Me. Both of these work on iPhones, iPads and Easy Release also works on Android. Both were developed in conjunction with working photographers. Easy Release was devised by Washington D.C. photographer Robert Giroux while Release Me was written in conjunction with Joey Lawrence an advertising/commercial photographer from Canada. They cost just under $10 USD and offer much more than just free or $.99 apps out there.
I purchased them both through iTunes and were easy enough to install. Both prompt you after first opening the app to fill in some basic information that will become mostly default info for your releases; name, address and other contact info are inserted into standard app format. Release Me doesn’t always orient the keyboard when the device is rotated which can be a bit of a pain since I’m currently working off an iPhone and the text is small enough. No such problems with Easy Release. Easy Release it must be said also also includes translations for 13 languages in total.
After setting up your basic info, both apps ask for a project/shoot name to begin the model release creation. Easy Release allows you to sort your releases by project, model names, date or release status; I could see this being a handy option down the line after a couple of hundred releases, knowing the name of the person but not which project you worked together on. Release Me on the other hand only sorts by projects. Both work very much the same in all the steps leading to a signed release. Easy Release is a little more comprehensive with it a few more descriptive boxes like ethnicity and DOB. I found them both easy to work through which is good since neither has any instructions; Release Me have a Vimeo video that Joey L hosts, walking you through.
There are a few small things that bug me about each and there are a few more that I like.
outputs to PDF
scale and crop model’s image
change model release on the fly (just make sure your model doesn’t do it themselves)
auto location with iPhone/iPad
hard to read some of the copy
flip orientation is not consistent
can only sort by project
very little info on website
outputs to PDF and JPG and print
property and model releases
all releases show current status
sort by name, date, project or status
photographer AND model have to sign release
can’t change verbiage on the fly
can’t view large model image without going into edit mode
Both apps require you to get a signature if you want to go back into the release for whatever purpose, makes sense but neither of them really give you a large enough preview image of the model without outputting to pdf and viewing it there. It is best to make sure, just like on a paper release, that you fill in as much info as possible at the time; editing after the fact for any purpose requires new signatures so get it right the first time.
In conclusion, I like them both but if I had to invest in only one I would choose Easy Release($9.99 USD). It is far more robust and expandable over Release Me ($8.99 USD)and feels like a professional piece of software. Easy Release also have an extra Pro Pack module for an additional $3.99 USD to customize and add more fields ( I don’t feel its necessary for myself at the moment but I do like the “link to blank release template feature”. It feels like Release Me is a little too simple for a working photographer and has a few minor bugs (orientation) to iron out.
If you want to try one out for free to see if it fits into your workflow, try ID Release, be warned you get what you pay for.