I am a photographer just starting out and currently in the process of building my photography portfolio website. I don't know if this has been a topic here before (a quick search revealed no past threads) – my main question is:
Is adding photos to a photography portfolio considered commercial use of a photograph?
The reason I'm asking is that I am planning on doing some urban lifestyle photoshoots with a model to include in my portfolio (I am based in the US). The photos will be taken from the street so from public domain. I will have the necessary model release, but I am wondering if I need to obtain any property releases for buildings that will most likely appear in the background?
Again, the sole use for these images will be to include them in my portfolio to showcase my work, I am not planning on selling the photos in any way. Now I don’t know if I overthink all of this, but I’m trying to know the legalities to make sure I don't break any rules.
Thanks in advance for your help!
Using an image in a website to promote yourself is commercial use.
you can read the following:
"An image release form is required when the image will be used for commercial purposes. A simple way to determine if the usage is commercial is to ask yourself if the image is generating money; creating sales; or promoting a product, event, or idea. If so, you definitely need a picture release form. If the image is being used for editorial purposes, accompanying a news article or journalism piece, a standard photo release form isn’t necessary."
Shooting in a public place with the intent of using the images commercially is more challenging but not impossible. Compose the images to exclude signs and logos (and other people) to the greatest extent possible and remove others in post production.
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The photos will be taken from the street so from public domain.
Contrary to what you may think, street photos are NOT "in public domain." Editorial content used for news reporting & journalism is one thing. Commercial and/or promotional use is another.
Copyright protection and privacy are no small matters. Ask yourself if you can afford to be sued by any businesses or persons depicted in your photos. This includes auto makers, street merchants or casual pedestrians who might recognize their likeness if they saw the photo. When in doubt, consult an attorney for legal advice. Or don't use the image for promotional purposes.
You could play it safe and shoot photos in remote places away from urban life. Or stick with studio photography. But when you get into cities, you have to protect yourself with signed releases.