What is a Property release?

When looking for stock images, you might encounter the term “property release”. What does it mean and what should you watch out for? Let Imageselect guide you through it and tell you exactly what you need to know!


Property release definition

When your images showcase things owned by someone (building, cars, artwork…), the photographer often needs permission before they can share and sell their pictures. Property owners therefore give their permission by signing a property release.

This legal agreement enables commercial or editorial usage of the picture, depending on the kind of agreement being signed.


What kind of picture needs a property release?

In general, you will need to secure a property release anytime the photograph is about something that does not belong to you and is highly recognisable.

Subjects that require a property release:

  • Copyrighted works - artwork, characters, designs…
  • Properties with photography policies - certain stadiums, museums...
  • Landmarks - historical and any identifiable building or ticketed location...
  • Distinctive product shapes - vehicles, bottles, furniture...
  • Unique animals - famous pets, race animals, peculiar breeds…

On another hand, there are many cases where you do not need a property release. That is the case especially if you are taking pictures of generic objects, or otherwise nothing absolutely unique or controlled.

Subjects that does not require a property release:

  • Generic landscapes - parks, street scenes, city skyline...
  • Properties without any identifiable features - common houses...
  • Objects not featuring brands, trademarks or a recognisable shape
  • Broad shots that don’t have a single point of focus
  • Buildings and objects over 120 years old - since the last modification

In general, it is the responsibility of the photographer or stock agency to make sure that the property release has been obtained before being able to commercialise the images. Should the photos be inappropriately used or simply without authorisation, a lawsuit can follow from the owner of the photograph subject.


What should you watch out for

As a photographer

As the photographer, you are the one responsible for the property release form, to be signed before commercialising your pictures. Many stock agencies even refuse pictures if you do not provide such a form and you will not be able to sell your images through their network.

You can easily get a property release form template online, which generally includes information about the property owner, the artist and description of the property. You can find templates right here for example.

Getting it signed is however another story since you need to find the owner of the property. Since we are usually talking about famous subjects, they are often fairly easy to find through a quick search online.


As an image buyer

When you buy images, you often do not need to worry about property release as it has more than likely been taken care of beforehand by the photographer.

That is not always the case however, since many untrustworthy websites do not control all the images they receive on a daily basis, and it is sometimes forgotten. As you might expect, using images not properly authorised can have its own set of legal issues which you want to avoid.

Imageselect automatically checks if an image comes with the required property release form or not. If it is missing, we will make sure to find the owner and get the authorisation required. This means our clients can shop stress free and only worry about finding which images they want from our website. Furthermore, you can immediately see below each picture if a property release has been secured or not.


Any doubts or questions about stock photography? Let our team know! We will help you with all your projects and offer you the best image solutions.


(Sep 20, 2021) Clemence Servonnat Getting started

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