What’s the Minimum Age When Models Can Pose Nude?

I’ve been asked the question, “What’s the minimum age when models can pose totally nude?” — I have been hesitant to respond casually to this for a number of reasons. First, it’s a question of legality and I am not an attorney so you should not consider what I write to be legal advice. Second, it is a question that sparks the imagination and some people… well, let’s just hope they don’t go there.

The myth is that one must be age 18 to pose for a nude photo.

That is probably the simplest answer but it is not entirely correct… 

Model Release

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 7

The New Model, The Reluctant Model, and Business

When presenting the release to an experienced model, I ask “You’ve done a model release before, right?” and they will typically affirm that they have. If they’ve not done a release before, I explain what each section means : “This says you’re being paid, this part says you’re giving me permission to use the photos,” and so on. Make sure they know that once they sign, there is no going back. Just like with shooting, you do not want to be nervous about the release.

As long as you have explained all the details before setting up the shoot, you shouldn’t have any problem getting a release signed. If you do have a model who balks at signing a release, I suggest you be diplomatic but firm. This will preserve the opportunity to secure permission to use the photos. You probably do not want to make a policy of giving out free photos. Tell the reluctant model to take her time to understand and agree with the release before signing. If she has specific objections, you might consent to use an altered release. Let her take it with her. You can meet again on a different day. Explain to her that model releases are standard business and she will receive the agreed upon compensation immediately after you both sign.

Nude model on vintage automobile

Learn more about model releases in the book Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women: Techniques to Recruit and Direct Models, and Build Working Relationships.

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 6

Microstock: Make Cash, with Permission from the Model

If you plan on licensing your photographs for stock or microstock, it’s a good idea to consult with those companies as to what their model release requirements are. Most microstock companies (,,, etc.) post a standard release for public download. Check these links to find the downloads, but beware, they are not specific to nudes. Here is the release I use for nude photos.

Why Sign After and Not Before?

Get the release signed after the shoot, but before paying the model or giving her copies of the photos. The release gives you permission to use the photos, and that is the reason you’re paying the model. Some photographers like to get the release signed before a shoot, out of convenience, but I advise against this. Signing a release before the shoot could mean that the model is not making an informed decision, because she is releasing photos that do not yet exist.

Nude model

Learn more about model releases in the book Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women: Techniques to Recruit and Direct Models, and Build Working Relationships.

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 5

Sensitive Subjects and Other Uses

Your model release should list the types of uses, or possible uses, that you intend for the images. It is usually sufficient for the release to have a general statement saying that you can use the photos for any purpose including promotion and advertising. If you are going to use the images in conjunction with sensitive subjects, such as drug use or a sexually transmitted disease, consent for use in controversial contexts should be documented in the release. For example, if you are using the image in a public service campaign with the tag line “I gave you VD,” you had better have her consent documented in the release.

Nude model, black&white photo

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 4

What the Essential Parts of a Release all Mean

The model release identifies the model by name, and the setting in which she was photographed. The model release specifies the day in which the photographs were taken. Do not use one release to cover a range of days. Use a separate release for each model and each day that you shoot.

Most model releases state that the model has received consideration. If your release contains a consideration clause, it’s a good idea to pay your models a fair wage, even if they are also being compensated with copies of the photos. Some legal experts argue that paying the model a token fee of $1.00 can threaten the enforceability of the release. If the consideration clause of the release is called into question, the entire contract may be called into question. Just pay your models fairly and everyone’s better off.

Your release states that the model consents to letting you use the photos. You want the release to state that this consent is irrevocable. If the consent is not irrevocable, the model could conceivably change her mind and revoke the permission.

Here is the release I use for nude model photos.

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Start at part 1

Swimming nudes


What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 3

Do Not Rush the Model

If you rush or otherwise bully the model into signing a release, it will not be enforceable. It would be difficult for the model to prove you rushed her into signing a release, but technically it could invalidate the release — so don’t do it. Requiring payment is not considered undue pressure, but do not tell the model that you will pay her less or zero unless she signs immediately.

On the other hand, if a model simply claims that she did not read the release before signing it, this does not usually invalidate the release. It is a good thing that people cannot nullify contracts simply by saying they did not read them, or any contract could be easily nullified with this excuse. Nonetheless, you should encourage the model to read the entire release, and offer to explain it, even if the model does not ask questions. Signing a release is a permanent act, so the model needs time to fully understand it.

Here is the release I use for nude model photos.

Next, part 4 »

 « Part 2

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Model signing release

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 2

Be Clear

If a model signs a release based on a misrepresentation, it may not be valid. For example, if you tell a model that you will use her image for a breast cancer exam pamphlet, and instead sell the images as pin-up posters, the release would probably be invalid. There is no reason to misrepresent yourself, but you could accidentally be misunderstood. This is why it is important to use a release that is as clear as possible, and to speak as clearly as you can about the release and your intentions for publishing the images.

If a model release is misunderstood, it too may be unenforceable. This is why it’s important to be as clear as possible. If a release is filled with complex legal language, it may actually be less enforceable,  because it gives a plausible reason why the model might have misunderstood the agreement.

Here is the release I use for nude model photos.

Next, part 3 »

Start at Part 1

Model signing release

Learn more about model releases in the book Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women: Techniques to Recruit and Direct Models, and Build Working Relationships.

Model signing release

What Model Release Do I Need for Nude Photography? Part 1

What is a Release? What About Nude Photos?

Most model releases are a written contract between the model and one or more other parties, usually the photographer. The model release states, among other things, that the model has agreed to be photographed, and has given permission for the photos to be published. Most every photographer knows that it is a good practice to have models sign a release. For nude photographs, there are special considerations which will be discussed in this series.

Contrary to popular belief, an agreement does not exist simply on paper; it is in the minds of those who sign the model release. In other words, the mutual understanding between model and photographer constitutes the agreement. The written release merely documents it. The term for this is a meeting of the minds, and it should occur to have a valid and enforceable release.

Some photographers have told me that they worry that a model will not sign a release for them. I do not have trouble getting model releases signed because my models are not under any illusions about the content of the photos or how I will use the photographs. All this is explained before we book the shoot.

Here is the release I use for nude model photos.

Next, part 2 »

Model signing release

Learn more about model releases in the book Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women: Techniques to Recruit and Direct Models, and Build Working Relationships.

I assure you, I have a release for all my photos.

Model Releases for Nude Photography: 10 Myths

There is quite a lot of information available on model releases and there are quite a few people who are still confused about the topic. When it comes to nude photography, there are some aspects that are not often talked about. Many of the principles are exactly the same for nude and non-nude photography, but there are also differences. Many wiki sites and modeling forums have information, some of which is helpful, but some of which is misleading or flat-out wrong when applied to nude photos. There are a couple of good legal books for photographers that I recommend. These appear at the bottom of the post.

Luckily, it is not the norm to end up in a legal dispute regarding your nude photography. The worst thing that I have experienced is having a publisher delay acceptance of nudes until I could get a proper release signed by the model. But you can save yourself time and potential headaches by having a proper release for your images.

Myth #1: I need a model release in order to legally take nude photos.
Response: Wrong. Model releases are about permission to use the photos, not permission to take them.

Myth #2: A model release protects my copyright.
Response: Wrong. A model release gives permission to use photos and has nothing to do with copyright.

Myth #3: I don’t need a model release if I shoot nudes in a public place such as the great outdoors.
Response: Yes, you do. This myth stems from fact that people in public places do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, a claim of invasion of privacy is not the only thing a model release protects you from. If the images are used for advertising, you need a release. If the use could in any way be construed as malicious or scandalous (not hard to imagine with nudes photos, especially years down the road) you have a problem. It’s best to be clear about what you intend to do with nude photos, so put it in writing. Shooting in public doesn’t mean you won’t want a release.

Myth #4: I have a first amendment right to distribute my photos so I don’t need a release.
Response: Your first amendment rights are not carte blanche to distribute nude photos when someone else might have a reasonable expectation of privacy, a right to portray others in a false light, etc. There is plenty more going on than first amendment rights when it comes to releases for nudes.

Myth #5: I don’t need a model release if I’m not making money off my photos.
Response: See myth #4, above. While it’s true that you can sell photos of people without their permission under some circumstances, there is more at play with nude photos. Even if you’re conducting a gallery show or displaying them on the Internet you could be subject to claims including painting the model in a false light if you didn’t establish intended uses clearly in writing.

Myth #6: A generic model release is fine for nude images.
Response: On the contrary, a model release for nude photographs should, at a minimum, state that the model is releasing nude images. This is especially important if any of the images look like they could have been an instance of the model mistakenly revealing more than intended. A good release contains a description of what is being released.

Myth #7: I only need to pay the model $1 or give her a copy of a photo to make the release enforceable.
Response: A compensation clause in a release is used to show that both parties have given “consideration”. This is one of the requirements for having a contract. If you do end up in a dispute, it doesn’t look good to have a payment that is well below market rates for services if you are in the business of selling the images. Inequitable compensation is a big red flag especially if the model has little experience and you have much. If the compensation clause is in question, the whole model release is in question. Pay fair rates.

Myth #8: If the model does not read the release, it is not valid or as long as she signs it, it is valid.
Response: Both of these are wrong. Most releases are written as contracts. If someone signs a contract without reading it, that fact alone does not invalidate the contract. It is up to everyone to read what they sign. However, just because someone signs something, doesn’t mean you have a contract. If you trick or pressure the model into signing without reading, you definitely don’t have a valid contract. So don’t rush the model and don’t try to fool her with long-winded verbiage in the release. If there is no meeting of the minds, there is no contract.

Myth #9: The release should be signed before the shoot begins.
Similar Myth: If I’ve already worked with a model and have a release, I don’t need a release for our second shoot.
Response: I can’t think of a good reason to do this and the practice could be very problematic when shooting nudes. Some photographers want to get the release out-of-the-way. If the model is inexperienced or has questions about what kind of permission and uses you’ll be asking for, you can show her the release before you shoot but don’t have her sign it. It’s difficult to enforce a model release that pertains to images that do not yet exist when the release is signed. Court cases involving model releases have been awarded based on the sole fact that it was not clear as to which specific photos were being released. The model could claim that she didn’t know the extent of nudity involved and thus there was no meeting of the minds and no binding contract. If the photos don’t yet exist, you don’t have a very solid release.

Myth #10: A model release provides the photographer better protection if it is long with lots of legal language, especially in the case of nudes.
Response: Just about the opposite is true. The release need only be long enough to clearly establish what the agreement is and to account for any contingencies. Unnecessarily complex or repetitive language can actually weaken a release. Remember, a contract documents an agreement and the more complicated the language is the less plausible it is that both people were in agreement.

I assure you, I have a release for all my photos.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and laws vary by location. Enjoy the above generalizations, don’t fall for myths, and seek qualified experts for your legal questions.

You may enjoy reading:

The Law (in Plain English) for Photographers
by Leonard D. Duboff


Legal Handbook for Photographers
by Bert Krages

If you’d like to read more about model releases for nude photography, as well as the interpersonal aspects of working with models, you may enjoy my book Up to My Eyeballs in Nude Women. It covers recruiting models, preparing them for a shoot, getting great results in the studio, and a solid follow through (which includes, of course, an appropriate model release.) This book includes a sample model release that is like what I use.





Audrey Rose

Nude Model’s Survival Kit

I’ve compiled this list after working with many models. If you’re a model planning to do a lot of shoots, you may want acquire these items over time. If you’re a photographer, a list like this is a great thing to show models. A savvy photographer will stock many of these items in the studio. Certain cosmetic items like mascara shouldn’t be shared, so no sense stocking them unless it’s intended for a single use. Discuss specific cosmetic preferences well in advance (e.g. neutral vs. bright lip color, light vs. dramatic makeup.) Many models won’t be able to carry all these items due to space or cost considerations.

  • Bikini (for doing body makeup)
  • Lint brush
  • Loose fitting clothing for the way over to the shoot (no elastic lines)
  • Jewelry
  • Hiking or athletic shoes and socks (if needed for certain outdoor locations)
  • Sandals (if a beach location)
  • Hat for sun protection (outdoor shoots)
  • Accessories and props
  • Robe or cover-up garment
  • Warm-up outfit to shoot in
  • Clear brow gel
  • Concealer
  • Cotton swabs, balls
  • Eye drops
  • Eye shadow
  • Flushable wipes
  • Lip balm/petroleum jelly
  • Lip color
  • Lotion/moisturizer
  • Makeup remover
  • Makeup sponge
  • Mascara
  • Mirror (small)
  • Tissues
  • Translucent powder
  • Comb/brush
  • Disposable razor
  • Hair ties or pins that are attractive or hide easily in hair
  • Shaving cream
  • Smoothing serum or light gel
  • Tweezers
  • Nail file and buffer
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail polish for touch ups
  • A curling iron (if required)
  • Straightener (if required)
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
  • Bag for kit items
  • Cell phone
  • Drinking water
  • Eye drops
  • Government-issued photo ID showing birth date
  • Second form of ID
  • GPS
  • Lip balm
  • Oil blotting papers
  • Snack that doesn’t stain teeth
  • Sweater, robe or other warm cover up
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Sunglasses (if outdoors)
  • Insect repellent (If outdoors. Test first to make sure it’s invisible)
Photographer Provided
  • Contact information
  • Directions
  • Shot list