Note: While the information contained in this post is not intended 
to be legal advice, we hope it helps empower you 
to make informed decisions regarding your content.

If an image depicts an identifiable person, you must submit a valid model release for the image to be licensed for commercial use. Read below as we answer common questions about model releases and offer some important tips for contributors.

Why do model releases matter?

Model releases help protect both the photographer and customer from any claims that may be brought by the model due to the use of the model’s likeness. By obtaining a model release, the photographer is given the right to use the model’s likeness under the conditions laid out in the release.

Does it matter what kind of model release I use?

The answer to this question depends on how you will be using or licensing the image featuring the model. The more restrictive a model release is in relation to the photographer’s rights to use the image, the less commercially viable that image will be, as the image will be limited to certain uses.

If you intend to submit an image featuring a recognizable model for licensing by a stock agency, it is important to understand the requirements of each agency. It may be wise 
to choose a release that will be acceptable by most or all agencies, so that you do not need to obtain additional 
releases or permissions.

Flags of all nations of the world are flying in blue sunny sky by ArtisticPhoto

What kind of releases will Shutterstock accept?

We have recently expanded the types of releases 
we will accept, including foreign language releases 
(see the full list here).

We prefer Shutterstock releases, which are available 
at the Shutterstock Legal Center, in the below languages:

  • Chinese
  • Czech
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish


When do I need a model release?

You need a model release for a commercial image where the image features a recognizable individual. Even though parts of a person may not be visible, if the person might 
be recognizable (due to accessories, clothing, etc.), then a release should be obtained.

Does not require a release:

Requires a release:

Portrait of beautiful woman with clean face over white background by Yeko Photo Studio

Editorial use:

If you do not have a model release for recognizable person 
or persons in content you wish to submit for commercial use, 
then you may only submit such content for editorial use. The content then needs to meet our editorial standards.

This article is adapted from the Shutterstock “Protecting Your Content” Guide. To download the complete guide, click here.


Top Image: Portrait of a beautiful girl through lens by Alex Andrei