Geoff Hawkins - People Pictures
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Model Releases & Other Perils of Taking Photographs in Public


Do you take pictures of people? Do you even perhaps do it without consent? In a street scene perhaps. Or worst case scenario have you like me ever entered you pictures in a public competition who would not accept them without a release?

I have had, over the years, a few exchanges with other photographers on the subject of Model Releases. I have been told quite forcefully that I could not publish any pictures without getting a signed release. That I could not enter my pictures into a competition without first having said release.

I have heard this time and again over the years and most people's opinion is based on Internet led information, emanating from outside the UK where laws are often different to our own. People can often get quite vehement in their opposition but in any argument it is difficult to prove that which does not exist.

Because I photograph a lot of people, I have been asked on several occasions, do I think a release is necessary.
I think not, this is my opinion, and that's all it is, an opinion. Here are some links which appear to back this up.   
Please read the disclaimer.


In 2012 Award winning protrait photgrapher Lindsay Donson wrote this:

Linda Macpherson LL.B, Dip. L.P., LL.M lecturer in Intellectual Property Law and Media Law:

Says: Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them . . . . . . .They were not complaining, this is a document giving advice to their officers. (and so; to us)


Despite Gettty Images' pervasive influence, US law is not UK law.

Nor do similar searches at the


There have also been in recent years a few useful Court judgements.

In The High Court Of Justice, Chancery Division, Intellectual Property;   Mr Justice Birss said:

It is important to state at the outset that this case is not concerned with so called "image rights". Whatever may be the position elsewhere in the world, and how ever much various celebrities may wish there were, there is today in England no such thing as a free standing general right by a famous person (or anyone else) to control the reproduction of their image.
In another judgement Baroness Hale of Richmond made clear that "in this country we do not recognise a right to one's own image"

NB. Selling images implying endorsement of a product or opinion is a whole different matter as these same judgements will show.




The sad thing is, knowing you are in the right is not necessarily going to save you from getting your teeth knocked out, so it will often be better to back off and walk away.

But if you can persuade some clubroom expert to look at even half of these links, you may get the satisfaction of showing him he doesn't know everything.


While every effort is made to ensure that the information contained in these pages is correct, I cannot be responsible for any loss due to errors or omissions. Inclusion in these pages does not imply recommendation.
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©  Geoff Hawkins