Hopefully, if you're a commercial shooter, or publish your work in any way, shape, or form, you know full well the importance and advantages of having a signed model release from your subject. I'm not going to get into all that today. There are plenty of online resources to help you with releases, including this basic primer from ASMP.
What I would like to do instead, is suggest a good habit to get into when you shoot: snapping a frame or two of your model actually holding the signed release.
Now, every photographer will eventually figure out the way they like to work, but I almost always prefer to have my models sign their releases before we begin shooting. I'm easy going, my sets are generally relaxed and fun, and most importantly, I have a laptop set up at some point to proof images. My point is there is a fairly high level of trust throughout the whole process, and the majority of models agree to sign without actually knowing precisely how they will be photographed.
One day it occurred to me that photographing the model actually holding the signed release would make a nice, convenient insurance policy, if you will. I have no idea of the legality of the photo should the original document become lost, but having the image right in the same folder as the rest of the shoot does a lot to alleviate any confusion or misunderstandings down the road. It also makes a very good reference file to send along to clients or publications that require documented releases of your models.
As you can see, it takes very little effort to find a small piece of foamcore or cardboard (heck, even a small reflector) and attach the release. I like to combine it with my Macbeth Color Checker reference grid, and get both of these mundane tasks out of the way as quickly as possible, so I can focus my energy on the actual shoot.
On the rare occasion there is some hesitation from a model to sign off ahead of time, I simply do all of this at the end of the shoot.
So that's it. Sure, another step to remember to add to a seemingly endless list of steps, but a habit that, once you get into it, will help you be more organized and appear more professional in the long run.
'Photo Asylum 101' is a regular feature of Steve's blog that offers mini-tutorials and real-life advice on photography and other industry-related topics.
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All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac.