Market Trends

When Do You Need a Photo Release?

By EyeEm Team - 4 min read

Some of the best photos are the ones you take spontaneously. You’re at a show, at the beach, or on a weekend outing and suddenly see something worth taking a picture of. Those unplanned shots often include exactly what sells well on EyeEm Market – People, real emotions, and memorable moments. Here’s what you need to know about photo releases to sell your pictures.

Knowing about it not only helps you choosing what to upload, it’s also useful when you’re out shooting for Market. We have included some photos that illustrate common misconceptions about releases and explain when and why you need them.


A person as the main focus – needs a release.

What is a Photo Release?

A release is a permission by the people visible in the photo or the owners of a property or artwork you have photographed. Depending on the license your photo gets sold with, you might need a photo release.

There are two kinds of licenses a buyer can purchase in order to use your photo: editorial and commercial. An editorial license can be purchased without a model release, since it limits the usage of the photo to editorial use only – reporting on exactly what’s being shown in the picture.

Since that’s hardly ever the case, buyers are much more likely to purchase commercial licenses and those require a model release for recognizable people and properties. Commercial licenses also make you a lot more money, so it makes sense to either get the required model or property releases or to shoot in a way that avoids you from needing them. More about that later.

You will need a Model Release…

• if a person is the focus of an image
• if they are identifiable, for instance by their face or by a physical features like a tattoo

Young Shirtless Man With Tattoo Against Sun

A person with identifiable features, like tattoos – needs a release.

You won’t need a Model Release…

• if a person is unrecognizable in the photo (even if that means having to zoom in to see it)
• for silhouettes where features aren’t identifiable
• if a person is photographed from the behind (and you can’t make out their identifying features)
• People in crowds

Silhouette Woman Standing On Shore At Beach

A silhouette with no identifiable features – does not need a release.

Property Releases

A property release doesn’t just describe a physical location: It also has to do with intellectual property, like trademarks, logos, and artwork.

You need a Property Release…

• if landmarks, trademarks, logos, or artwork are the main focus of the photo
• if they are not the main focus but identifiable in the photo
• if you’re showing a private property, such as a home or a business
• if you photo includes the intellectual property of brands, such as trademarks, logos, and artwork

Interiors Of Bedroom

A private home may or may not need a release depending on whether it is identifiable.

You won’t need a Property Release for…

• Public locations that aren’t trademarked. This applies to historic landmarks as well
• Modern landmarks that take up a maximum 20% of the photo
• Private locations that aren’t the focus, such as in a skyline
• Artwork that isn’t in focus, for example if it’s behind the subject on a wall and can’t be made out

City Skyline On Overcast Day

Privately owned buildings in a skyline – does not need a release.

Requesting or Avoiding Releases

We’ve made it extremely easy for you to manage model releases in the EyeEm app – in your notifications, you can see which photos need a release and then request them by email or through your favorite messaging app.

Don’t feel like asking for a release or can’t get one? The easiest way to avoid release requests is to shoot in a way that avoids release requests.

Get Selling

With that short lesson, you can start selling your photos as soon as – now! A quick sign up to EyeEm Market, and you’re set to select photos already on your profile to license – and of course, upload new images, too. Have more questions or want to know more? Reach out to us on social media or on @team on EyeEm.

Header image by Guilimic.