No model release? Try this…


It’s time to revisit one of the most common stock photography questions I get asked…

“Do I need a model release to submit photos of people for stock?”

The short answer is: yes. But there is ONE big exception.

Many agencies such as Alamy, iStock, and Shutterstock do accept certain “non-released” images for their editorial collections.

Editorial photos can be used for non-commercial purposes, such as in textbooks, travel guidebooks, educational presentations, informative websites/blogs, magazines, and newspapers.

They cannot be used in ads.

The main purpose of an editorial image is to tell a visual story… or to support a written story. And they must always tell the truth.

Keeping this in mind, here’s what makes a good editorial stock photo:

  • Tells the truth. Since they tell a story in a clear, truthful, and informative way, editorial images cannot be manipulated, staged, or heavily edited. (No removing power lines or trash from the foreground)…
  • Conveys the culture, traditions, or uniqueness of a place…
  • Shows real places, people, and events…
  • Is timely and relevant to local, national, or world events – anything that is current and relatable…
  • Is journalistic or documentary in style. Editorial shots should not be set up or posed.

It’s also really important to provide detailed captions when submitting an editorial shot. Be sure to cover the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Agencies will reject editorial shots that don’t include a detailed caption that explains the image.

Be specific and include any relevant details that provide context and purpose for the shot. This may include the season, the date, and the name of the festival, event, landmark, or building.

To give you an idea, here are a couple of examples, along with captions:

Nuremberg, Germany – June 23, 2018: Market stalls on the market square of the Franconian city of Nuremberg in Germany.

San Francisco, USA – February 18, 2015: People walking around Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California. Various shops and restaurants can be seen.

While you should always try and get a model release when photographing people for stock, there are times when it’s totally impractical.

Maybe you’re photographing a popular tourist destination or local event. For times like this, editorial stock might be just the ticket!

Not traveling anytime soon? Think about the above as you look back through your travel images and see if you can find some that would be great editorial shots.

Stay safe out there!

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