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Photographers Legal Rights | Eau Claire, WI Photographer, Bobbie Sue Baker

Photographers rights have been a source of interest for me more times than one, and to be totally honest it never ceases to surprise me how many people do not understand what a Photographers rights are; including Photographers! I’ve seen many, badgered by people, police officers, transportation workers, the list goes on, and they just accept it as is, shut their cameras down, and walk away. So, this blog post today is going to cover Photographer’s rights. I will also include a couple links to sources for my information, as well as links to attorneys if your rights as a Photographer have been infringed upon.

Our first stop for the day is Andrew Kantor who has provided a very extensive list of Photographers rights. This site goes into minute detail and covers pretty much anything you could possibly think of.  Andrew’s lengthy write up also covers intellectual property rights if you scroll to the bottom of the page. This covers that while a Professional photographer cannot sell your image to a stranger, they can sell to you and they can share those images on a website, Facebook, etc. without a Model Release. However, Model Releases will be covered a little later in this post. Here’s a link to Mr. Kantor’s post in the meantime.

Legal Rights of Photographer’s: PDF



Moving on, it’s not always easy to remember your rights when confronted with a potential legal situation and this is where I will make it easy for you. Attorney, Bert P. Krages II has written and provided us with an invaluable tool. A printable PDF file that you can fold up and put in your purse, camera bag, briefcase, back pocket, whatever and when approached by an individual telling you that you don’t have the legal right to photograph a particular scene you can share this with them. A good rule of thumb though, be respectful. Don’t be a know-it-all. Share the information the same as you would with a friend. Getting defensive, will only make the other person just as defensive. At the same time however, you do still have rights and if another person is making threats, they are actually liable for criminal damages. But again, Just. be. respectful.

Bert P. Krages, Photographer’s Rights Print-off



Lastly, this brings me to Portrait Photography. Many people mistakenly believe that a Pro MUST have a model release. This is not the case. A model release is important to have to protect a photographer in the event that someone decides to sue them, but only for certain things. Three major ones to be exact: Defamation, The Right of Publicity, & Property Owner’s Rights.

Defamation is when an individual is falsely portrayed or the portrayal is malicious in intent and affects the individual’s reputation. For example, if you take a photo of your best friend, the two of you get in a fight and you decide to artistically enhance her mustache or write hideous, untrue phrases on her portrait, you can expect to have some repercussions.

The Right of Publicity protects celebrities, so their fame cannot be exploited for financial gain. This law applies even if you’ve taken the photo prior to the individual coming into fame. It also goes back to respect, and knowing when to draw the line.

Property Owner’s Rights covers just what you think it would, cars, homes, buildings, animals, etc. If you have any doubt in regards to another person’s individual property, get a release.

You should also get a release if you plan to sell any images related to a person, or their property. Again, if you’re selling to the individual themselves and ONLY to them, you do not need a release.

However, it is still important to have a signed release to cover your business. Having the right release is very important. It should include, the date, a witness if possible, the name of the individual you are photographing and consent to use the photographs you are taking of them for any particular professional use. If the subject is a minor, you should include an area for a parent/guardian to sign as well, repeating the same information you covered with the  model. Again, not having a model release will not make or break a case against you, it will however strengthen your argument should a client ever decide to take you to court. If time has lapsed since your session, and you have contact with the client after the session, keep track of these conversations if you do not have a release. These conversations can develop suitable argument that at no point did the client request you not share images, etc. Additionally, if a client ever requests that you not share their images, whether your rights are covered or not, you should still remove the images from any public arena in which you have them posted. Even if you have a release, this comes back again, to respect.


I hope this post has been knowledgeable to many of you. I know I have a lot of photographer friends, and aspiring photographers who may not know or understand their rights and hopefully this has helped. I urge you all to print the information from Attorney Burt Krages and keep it with your camera. Keep creating beautiful images, and continue to keep yourself informed on the issues and your rights as a photographer.