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Photo & Liability Releases

This week on Social Media Fridays, I’d like to cover a question that came up at the Administrator’s Training in Great Falls. One savvy administrator asked whether she should be getting photo releases signed by parents before posting photos of kids at education events on the district Facebook page and website.

The answer is yes. (did you really think I would write a post about something you don’t need to do?)


There are two reasons for getting a photo release before taking photos.

The first is that we all know that there are some parents out there who are concerned about having photos of their kids posted on the internet for all the world to see. It’s a valid concern, if a bit paranoid in my opinion. However, considering those concerns, it is important to ask permission before posting photos of the kids online.

We discussed this at the administrator’s training, and someone brought up the possibility of posting the photos without tagging the kids or their parents. As I told the administrators, I still recommend getting permission to post them, because they’re still online and probably easy to recognize in our small communities. Plus, by tagging the people in your photos, you’re inviting a much wider audience to view you posts, and definitely increasing the engagement potential of a post, which is why you’re posting in the first place.

The second reason for getting a release is that technically, if a person’s face is recognizable in a photograph, they could be considered a model. If you’re using the photos as advertising, they could very reasonably ask to be paid for their photo. Using a photo release is a great way to remind possibly greedy parents that you are a non-profit organization, and that although you may use those photos to promote your organization, you’re not exactly getting rich doing it. Likelihood that anyone is going to ask for money? Slim to none. Should you still cover yourself? Yes.

But we host so many events and this is so much work!

Agreed. This is another thing we discussed at the EO training. Getting the releases to the school a few days before the event, making sure the teachers hand it out, and making sure the parents sign it and the kids bring it back (who here has tried to obtain something from a second grader’s backpack? It was perfectly straight and not crumpled, right?)…. That’s a lot of work! Not to mention keeping straight who is supposed to be photographed and who’s not while you’re running event…kinda makes you want to throw that digital camera in the creek and be done with it.

That’s why I recommend creating a more general form that you can pass out at the beginning of the school year. Schools often send home a bunch of liability releases and other packets of information on the first day, and this is a time when parents are looking for that info and are ready to sign. So it’s a great time for you to get yours out of the way too. There’s even the possibility that your school asks parents to sign a photo release for their purposes, and so as a partnering education provider, you could ask to be included on that form. That means getting back with the school to check about who can be photographed and who can’t, but it’s a lot less work than trying to do it yourself for each individual event. Plus, you’ll already have permission if you’re at the school for unscheduled events.

Sample Release

So, without much further ado, I’d like to present a sample photo release for you. This was created with the intent of co-opting with the school and sending it out at the beginning of the school year. Download it and insert your organization’s information.

Download Sample Photo Release

A Note From Don McIntyre

Before writing this post and creating the sample release, I checked in with Don McIntyre to make sure that what I wasn’t totally off the wall on this. He said this:

“The answer to your question is that I do provide districts with a photo release (usually specific to the event) when I am requested by a district to do so.  It is not just a good idea; it believe it should be done in connection with every event sponsored by a conservation district in which school children are involved – this would involve home schoolers as well.  The form you provided is a good one  – it is reasonable and it is legal. While I believe that a general photo/video release form signed at the beginning of the year as a “school and other organizations partnering in school activities” is sufficient, the fact is that the districts should be requiring waiver of liability  forms for most activities especially when the activity is related to ag operations.  In such cases I generally recommend the CD include a photo/video release form with the waiver of liability form, since the parent or guardian must sign the liability waiver there is no practical reason not to sign the photo release waiver at the same time.”

He wanted me to stress that a photo release is not the only release that you should be getting–a liability release is also a good idea, especially if the kids are participating in ag-related events. (Think if a cow kicked a kid, or a kid fell in a stream. We don’t want it to happen, but we need to recognize that it could, and you want to cover the district so that you’re not liable if it does.)

Don graciously provided me with a sample liability waiver that you can download and edit. However, he also wanted to make it clear that these are SAMPLE forms, and that you should have it reviewed by your county attorney before using them.

If indeed you use a liability form as Don suggested, it would be quite easy to combine the photo release on a second page of the form and have the parents sign them together. Two birds with one stone!

Sample Liability Releases:


Release Forms on Ranch

Kate Arpin

Kate is the Communications and Technology Manager for Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Montana. She manages the website, puts out The Montana Conservationist every other week, and assists conservation districts with technology, websites, and communications.

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