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Sports Photography & Release forms

Bill McCracken , Jan 06, 2004; 05:21 a.m.

I am trying to set up a photo business shooting youth sports at public locations (soccer parks/county baseball fields/etc) and getting more in tune with "model release" requirements.

I'm getting frustrated, as the goal of what I wanted to do was to head out to these weekend events, shoot several hundred shots, hand out by business card to the mgrs and/or parents and invite them to review their "Action Shots" on my website. Those shots can be purchased for their own usage. I do not plan to sell these shots except to the player's parent/gaurdian/etc.

I believe that I can take the shot without a release and head off to a typical news-worthy agency and try to sell it there, but that's not my market focus. I want to be able to shoot a significant amount of photos, then sell them to the attending teams's parents as an action shot.

I fear that you all are going to tell me I have to chase down each child's parent, find out who it is after the game (when they are all leaving), ask them to sign a release form.

If they say no, then I can only use the shot then for news agencies or editorial use?

My lack of knowledge and experience in this new area for me is frustrating me - obviously - as I would like to be able to continue with youth sports photography. Are there other ways to do this besides trying to obtain permission from everyone prior to the game? I don't see a lot of other photographer's going through these motions that are local - they're not getting waivers at the site. Have they set up pre-conceived league waivers to get around this? Please help - any advice is greatly appreciated. Hopefully someone else has been down this path and can provide some experience or guidance.

Thanks!

Responses

James O'Neill , Jan 06, 2004; 06:58 a.m.

The law is different in different places.

In English law there is no need for a model release. Ever. The copyright act gives the photographer total power to do what ever they want with the picture (although publication can be prevented if a the photographer was given permission to take pictures under restrictions, or if the did various bad things to get the picture).

Some places do require a release if the person in the picture is doing something they wouldn't normally be seen doing. i.e. A model wouldn't walk naked down the street so to publish pictures of her naked you need her to say is OK with it - as opposed to a polaroid you took of your ex and now want to cause trouble with. If the public can turn up and watch the game there wouldn't normally be a need for a release. There isn't any special provision for news reporting in any law I know of. BUT LOCAL LAW WHERE YOU ARE MAY BE DIFFERENT.

However in England if you were to turn up at a sports ground and photograph little boys and say you're putting the pictures on the internet, you would be denounced as a paedophile and people would come round and fire bomb your home.

The best way to do this is to talk to the people in charge of the team, get their permission to take the pictures - and if they aren't happy to give it that ends the enterprise. Let them have the proofs - you could let them keep the proofs so the team gets something - and they can show them to the parents, maybe even collect orders for you.

If in doubt get legal advice LOCALLY. You can't rely on legal advice from the web. Not even mine.

Mark Harris , Jan 06, 2004; 03:37 p.m.

You might first want to check with the organization running the program. They might have a contract with a photographer for semi-formal portraits and action shots. I have a friend that does this for a living for several sports organizations.

Craig Gillette , Jan 09, 2004; 01:37 a.m.

That's essentially what a business does out here. Except they bring the good old fashioned binders out to the venues a week or two later, too expensive for one, better prince for two and IIRC $25 or $30 for everyone where your kid is the prime subject. Purely on spec as if the shots are bad, they don't sell. I believe it is through the league for a couple of reason: the league has a boilerplate release in the sign-up forms (although how closely it might actually apply isn't something I've really looked at) and the "business" operates on city and school district property both to shoot and to sell and I think it's easier to deal with the league which already engages the venues than to try to jump through hoops separately. They absolutely do not make an attempt to pre-release the activity and also try to sell to the parents only (more because they want the prime subject to get the pics and not try to do any kind of dupes, etc.).

Since we have 3000 some kids in the soccer league (and probably more come baseball/softball season), it's not a casual enterprise for this business. He started about 4-5 years ago as a chiropractor with a hobby shooting the daughter of one of his patients - "Hey look at the pictures my doctor took. Would you like him to try for more of the girls next week?"

So an enterprise of that size I'm sure is well into needing professional tax, insurance and legal advice. So it's a doable process. But I'd also agree that you'd nead real, local, legal advice.

Bill McCracken , Jan 10, 2004; 10:31 p.m.

Thank you all for the great advice - this is good information.

Ron Cordek , Jan 12, 2004; 06:09 p.m.

Im also about to do the same, Bill. From what I've been able to determine, it is better to approach the league, but that can be a very tedious job. Because most activities are played on public grounds, they are open to the public. You might want to approach the coach and let him know what's up. Heck he might even help a bit. I've been told that releases would be nice but not practical and, as a previous responder mentioned, each league has a built in release. I would say off of private lands, though (ie: private schools, etc) and other restricted places. The idea is not to set yourself over in a corner where the coaches/refs/umps don't know what you're doing.

Jason K. Powers , Mar 04, 2004; 04:06 p.m.

Check out http://www.imagetekactionlab.com . Can teach you all you need to know doing youth sports action. ~j~

Randy Forrester , Aug 07, 2004; 09:54 a.m.

a few ideas... yes...definately check the league for a possible "blanket photo release" already in the release forms signed by the parents at the start of the season. it would be best to plan ahead & suggest the photo release be added BEFORE the league begins. but, in any case, make sure the league doesn't already have a contract with another photographer, which may prohibit any other photographers from moving in on the business. if there is no pre-existing release, you might try to hand out cards to parents at the start of games providing a short photo release, parent's & player's names, jersey number (important), etc. then you can only shoot players whose parent has return the release. include on the release: "this form MUST be returned to photographer before any shots will be taken." it's always good to involve others (league officials, coaches, parents) and make them feel important. always offer an incentive to the league (i.e., 10% of all sales)...and possibly to helping parents/coaches (i.e., free photos). in pricing your work...when i once took sport photos, i merely tripled my own print costs (i.e., if a 4x6 print cost me 25 cents, i would sell them for 75 cents, etc.). this seemed to be consistent with competing pricing. above all, be professional...create a good business name and good looking logo, have a t-shirt store create a t-shirt with your logo on it, create attractive fliers, etc. ...and remember that you are not only trying to make money, but also providing a very valuable service to the parents. imagine yourself as the parent and keep reminding yourself of the value of your product. when i shot sports pics, i found there is a LOT of money to be made! good luck!

John Aceti , Apr 21, 2008; 09:13 a.m.

Excuse me if I am wrong but around here photographers may not conduct business in parks and recreation areas without a permit. (County wants their cut)

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