Ask an Agent / Model Releases for Book Publishing / With Guest Blogger ‘Super Lawyer’ Charles Swan

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column tackling all your dilemmas about the photography industry – the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt! If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything!

Lisa was recently invited to critique the work of this year’s talented LCC BA Photography graduates. One of the graduates, Harry Conway, has shot a fantastic project titled ‘Stolen Souls’ for which he took real people by surprise on the streets of London at night. Harry had a question for Lisa about publishing the images without a model release, which we thought would be perfect for this month's Ask an Agent.

"My name is Harry Conway and I have just graduated with a BA in Photography from the London College of Communication. I have compiled a photo book of photographs taken without the permission of the subjects (strangers in the street) called Stolen Souls. I want to approach publishers in the hope of getting the book out there. I know that photographs taken without permission in the street is legal in the UK, but I'm not sure of the legality of publishing these photographs and therefore making money from it".

Harry Conway, Photographer


I: @harryfconway

Whilst we know you definitely need to obtain a model releases for commercial use, and we are pretty sure if the image just supports a narrative editorially, that's ok, but we weren't 100% about publishing a project specifically. So we turned to  Charles Swan,  one of the UK’s top media lawyers and partner at Swan Turton, to shed a bit more light on the matter. Here’s what he had to say…

Charlie Informal No 2Charles Swan from Swan Turton

“Yes, it is normally legal to photograph people in the streets. Yes, it is normally legal to publish those photographs in an editorial context in the UK (although the position varies in other countries). However, publishers are cautious people and may in practice be unwilling to publish the photographs without model releases, in case of legal claims (the law is rarely black and white). If they do agree to publish, this would probably be with a contract in which the photographer indemnifies the publisher against any legal claims. So Harry may find it difficult to find a publisher.”

1© Harry Conway

2© Harry Conway


© Harry Conway

Whether you’re a creative director or a student, a photographer or a designer, an art buyer or an assistant, if you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to

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