Monday, April 18, 2011

Of Property Releases and Problems....

Picture of a mother and daughter sharing a quite, reflective, bonding moment in a bubble bath.
Failure to secure a property release, despite the promise of one, BEFORE my photoshoot in this beach house, cost me $3,500.00!

Models “Turning On” Photographers
Recently stories about models “turning on” photographers have been popping up (one such occurrence being displayed by “a photo editor.  Of course nothing can prevent a model from suing you whether you have a signed release or not, but if you do have the release odds are you will prevail. It does remind me of the importance of getting that release though!
It also reminds me of the importance of getting that release, model or property, BEFORE the shoot. I can share one instance of where I did get the release, but because I waited until after the shoot it cost me dearly.

A Stock Photo Shoot, A Beach House, and A Problem
Two of my associate photographers and I were setting up a shoot in Stinson Beach on the Marin County coast. We checked the various house rentals (houses right on the beach) and found one that would be ideal. The property manager told us getting a release would not be a problem. Famous last words….

Don’t Even Try To Bargain With Me
After the shoot, a two-day affair with about fifteen models, three photographers, a make-up artist, her assistant, a producer and her assistant, and three photographer assistants, we sent a property release over to the management company. That got back to us and informed us that the owner of the property would not sign it. I had my producer track the owner down and use all of her charm to coax a signature out of him. His reply to her: “Don’t even try and bargain with me…I am a personal injury attorney. $3,500.00 for the signature…take it or leave it.”

A Property Release and A Significant Expense
I took it. It was worth it too. So far that shoot has brought in close to $40,000.00 and is still earning. But that was $3,500.00 and a lot of time and trouble (chasing down and dealing with the owner…I shortened the whole dramatic episode considerably) that we probably wouldn’t have had to swallow had we secured a release up front. Including that $3,500.00 the whole shoot cost $12,500.00…so it turned out to be a significant expense! Something to keep in mind….

Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire
Just make it standard policy to NEVER shoot BEFORE you have signed releases for both models and property in hand. Also, in my experience, if there is any reticence on the part of a model in signing a release…you probably don’t want to shoot with that model anyway…where there is smoke there is fire!


Brett Critchley said...

Great advice, thanks for sharing :-)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you could have sued the property manager for giving fraudulent or incorrect permission. I'm not sure you really need a "property release" for a house interior, but maybe he'd try to get you for "trespassing"? Although, you had permission from the manager, so...

John Lund said...


You mean I didn't need to have spent that $3,500.00! Oh well....

I still maintain your better off getting a release up front than engaging in law suits!

Also, some clients want releases whether they need them or not. I believe it is better to get the release than not.

Thanks for your input!


Todd said...

Wow, typical lawyer :) Glad it panned out for you in the end... great story. It's always wise to get the proper releases signed before. It's very easy to forget, especially if you get enthused about a shoot when arrive at your location with some models.

John Lund said...


My problem is that I always tend to leave the uncomfortable stuff till last!