the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs
the legal resource for fitness entrepreneurs

What if my Client Doesn’t Want to Sign a Photo Release?

In the fitness world, photos are quite important. So what do you do when a client doesn’t want to sign a photo release form?

What is a photo release form?

A photo release is a legal document signed by the subject (or in the case of minors, the parent/legal guardian) that provides the photographer permission to publish and use the photograph as defined by the release’s terms. Release language typically includes permission to use photographs in a portfolio, studio samples, blogging, websites, and other marketing uses.

As a fitness business owner, you may be taking the photos, clients may submit them as part of a contest, or just documenting your services.  Right now, you may have no use for them, but eventually, you might want to use them for blog posts, advertisements, or even on your own website.

Is a release necessary?

It depends. You may not need one for everyone, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If the person who owns the photo, or the person in the photo, shares it on their own social media, you don’t need a release. But if you’re going to use it in association with your business, its best to get one.

What if a client doesn’t want to sign one?

Luckily, you have several options here.

You don’t have to require a release. You can do business and even use the photos without one. One thing to consider is if it’s worth losing a client over the use of photographs. You may discover that four out of five clients are fine with signing the release, so the fifth one doesn’t impact your business at all.

You can amend the release. If you know why the person doesn’t want to sign the release, you can work around it. Perhaps they don’t want their images associated with their name on social media, but they’re ok with a cropped photo for promotion. Then you can offer an amended or limited release.

Here are some options to offer to a client in response:

  • Print only publication – such as for product examples and print portfolios
  • No releasing of any identifiers (names, location, etc.) on social media or website platforms
  • Stick to your policies – If you do not want to honor a “no release” client request, don’t!

Keep in mind – each situation can be different for each client, such as allowing one to decline and not another.

 General Rules of Thumb

  1. Contract ALWAYS, Photo Release MAYBE.

You can always have a contract without a photo release, but you should never operate by having a photo release without a contract. A photo release alone only permits you to use the photo, but it doesn’t cover any of the other terms in the contract – like payment for services.

  1. When in doubt, get a release!

The whole “easier to ask forgiveness instead of permission” does not apply here! You can’t go backward and say you thought it was ok. Your professionalism will be hurt if you don’t take this seriously.

  1. Don’t advertise it.

If you chose to waive a client release, make it the exception – not the rule, and don’t tell everyone. You’ll want to save this response for specific situations, not for every client.

You can go to a local attorney to draft a photo release for you or snag ours here: Fitlegally Model Release Form. Be extremely careful copying another’s release or downloading from the internet.



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