Private Property and Model Releases
What constitutes private property? Anywhere that you cannot, that is not open to the public essentially, or would be deemed not from a public place. Right? So if you walk into a hotel lobby, you are no longer in public, you're on private property. So, it's a real tricky thing because it's usually not that hard to get permission, but hotels and resorts are tricky because you don't wanna just walk around and start taking pictures of people laying by the pool, maybe they don't want people seeing them laying there by the pool, in public or in magazines. And they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that is the threshold of when you do or don't need permission, and it crosses an editorial. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy. But if you're standing in a public location, and you're getting the front of the hotel, totally fair game. So I think of like Monte Carlo, where they have like all the fancy cars parked out front, those are all hotels, right? The cars, everything, ...
you're in public, it's fair game. But hotels and resorts you have to be very careful about. If you're going to photograph them, you probably wanna get permission, you wanna reach out, let them know you're doing it. And if you're not sure, or you don't wanna reach out beforehand, or you're not gonna get great images, be cognizant of the people in them. A lot of times if I photograph like, there are a couple of hotels in this, there's no people in them. That's their private space, that's their private time, right? National parks. This is an interesting one. It's a bit of a loaded question these days because technically you don't need permission, and you are in public, and you can photograph them. There is a bit of a gray area with the way the rules work, if you're photographing and you're on assignment, you should technically at least contact the park and find out if you need a permit. Different parks have different interpretations of the law. And that's something that hopefully we'll get more clarity over time. But if you're in there and your intent is not to sell, then generally speaking, you're covered. But they're not private property. These are public, these are owned by the American people. So as long as you're not producing a shoot, or shutting down areas, or bringing in models and lights and everything else, then you're probably gonna be okay. Most parks that I've worked with, I usually just call them, I tell them I'm coming, I would say about 75% of the time they say don't worry about it, you don't need it. In Denali when we went, it was a Sunset Magazine feature, we were doing some other stuff for the centennial of the national parks, they actually issued a permit. Just to make sure it was covered. Because we were doing a few different things. So you really do need to find out. And the other reason is you can't just drive into Denali. You have to have special permission to drive into Denali, and when you have all the camera gear I like to bring, you probably wanna drive in, you don't wanna take the bus. Local parks. It depends. State of California also can be known, and notorious for also saying, well you need a permit in some of these parks. State parks, for instance. But generally speaking, anywhere that's open to the public, any sidewalk, any street you're walking down, you're gonna be good. Certainly for editorial. But if you're trying to actually produce a shoot, and it becomes a commercial product, then you're going to probably need some sort of a permit or film permit, depending on where you are. The closer you are to California, the more knowledgeable the town is gonna be about whether you need a permit. Because like, New York and LA, there are so many films and things being made there that everyone knows the rules, everyone knows the laws. So they're gonna be very quick to shut down an illegal production. You know you might be able to go somewhere else in the middle of the country that doesn't really care nor do they know, nor do they maybe even have laws on the books about when you need a permit or when you don't. But you wanna make sure you know. So if you're working in hotels, resorts, those are the most obvious place we talk about travel photography. You wanna make sure you get some sort of permission, and get it in writing. Getting it in writing. Property and model releases. So, a hotel, ideally, will sign a property release, or maybe make an exchange with them, maybe they've hired you, of course that's the ultimate way to go. But you need a property release for anything that can be deemed property, that includes pets. Pets are considered property and they need their own releases. So that's something that you wanna make sure you get if they're part of it. And the same thing for their people. You don't need this stuff for editorial. Just to be crystal clear. You can go out, take a bunch of pictures, get 'em published in a magazine, of a location, of a destination, provided you're in public then you don't need any of this. But if you have this, it doubles the value of your images or more. And because you now have legal protection. Model releases are from people. We say, well how do I get a model release for something like that big gathering in India? You don't. And that's a big issue. Because a lot of the best images, portraits of people, cultural portraits of people, are very hard to get releases. They might not even be in the language that they speak. So another way around that would be to have a local interpreter. Maybe have your model releases drafted in the language of the destination you're going to. There's a lot of different ways around that. But you still need them. You still need them. I can't tell you how many times I see cultural images of people and they're used in a commercial capacity and there's no release for it. That's, I mean, are they gonna get sued? I mean, maybe not, probably not, in most cases. But do you really wanna take that gamble? It's not worth it. One way to handle that is show the destination and be creative. You know, use long exposures. This is something that I did in I forget actually where it was, I think this is in Croatia. Yeah, I see a CRO. I was in Croatia. And I didn't want it to feel super specific, so long exposures, if you can't identify the people you don't need the release. Thing is, this won't really work commercially, it's more of a travel editorial. Here's the experience, it's crowded, there's energy. This had to be created with a tripod, because everything else was sharp. Blurring the people.
Just blurring people so you can use the photo. (laughs)
I mean, you don't wanna like use the blur tool in Photoshop, and like blur someone's face out, you wanna be creative. Some of the most beautiful images I've seen in the art world are long exposures of crowds. Black and white photos, I forget who the photographer is, but if you Google it, I mean it's tremendous, and it's so clever 'cause it shows people almost like waves, and the way they move and the patterns and stuff like that, so. Photography's about creativity, so bring your creativity forward with that. Capturing a whole experience. This is just, this shot, again, has sold ridiculous amounts of times for me over the years. It's an older image already at this point. I think it's probably about five years old, or so. But it's not a tight shot of this, though I have those, I'm gonna talk about that in a minute. But you wanna show the whole experience, you know, you've got people going up in the leaning tower of Pisa. But having the lawn and showing people relaxing and so on, this will only ever exist editorially, but it sells a couple times a year, for a couple hundred bucks every year. So you know, making two, three, four hundred bucks on an image every year for five years, that's not bad. That ends up probably, I've probably made about $2,000 over time on that. But it's strictly editorial, I'm in a public place, I'm taking a picture of the general experience, and I had a whole litany of images from this, but this is the one that keeps selling. Handheld, no tripod, walking around just snapping pictures, I was a tourist on this trip. I was there with friends, I wasn't there to shoot. I was just doing the tourist thing.