Ever since I started stock photography in 2006, I started researching on various ways of dealing with sources like models and equipments. Stock photography itself was and is still a very unknown concept to many people outside advertising and publishing field. For equipment I could find rentals and also people who personally rented out their equipment. Though renting equipment seemed cheap it was actually costlier and also risky. There is always a burden of using someone else's equipment which can affect your productivity.
In case of models the most common concept was to pay them and get a model release signed. This concept works well with models who are amateurs who are needing work. Some of them will also do your concept shoot based on TFCD (Trade For CD) or TFP (Trade for Prints), a situation where you give the models their free portfolio for their efforts in your stock shoot (from which you might earn later). I say might because those pictures may never sell or cover up the cost of your shoot. And in the best/worst case scenarios you have your family members and friends modeling for you. But whatever models you have there is a huge risk involved which I realized very lately. Its not related to any particular agency or just microstock but even to other RM based agency portfolios, or even your photos on facebook which might be public.
Please note that none of the experiences below have been with dreamstime because dreamstime has a very good control over its legal issues which get sorted very quickly.
Let me discuss some risks -
1. Some months back I was shocked to see the picture of my model on an adult dating website. The image in this case was watermarked by a particular agency. The first thing I did was to mail the website and also the agency to work it out. The site never responded and the agency responded saying that they cannot do anything since the image was watermarked and not bought. If it was not bought how was it on that website in a higher resolution of 2MP? Adding to my woes I tried to contact the service provider of the website which failed because the site was hosted simply on blogspot, a blog service by google. We all know how fast and prompt is google when it comes to replying to user complains. But fortunately with tricks I was able to solve the issue with google.
An image was downloaded from my portfolio and used as a wallpaper on a non-adult, yet a site that was about hot babes or guys. Neither the agency nor my mails could take it down. The images disappeared after some months when it didn't have much views.
2. An image of my friend who was posing to smoke was used in anti-smoking campaign which directly violates T&C for using the image for socially sensitive subjects. Adding to the woes, his family thought he has started smoking.
3. An image of another friend who was posing as glamor model on a industrial crane was showcased all over India as a low-wage industrial worker!!!! Dunno the intention of the advertiser to use a glamor model and glamor shot there.
4, It’s a common practice of the profile pictures of my models getting used in dating websites, fake marriage profiles, fake social networking profiles and more. But these issues get solved if you get in contact with any of these websites. Additionally you can also get the members permanently banned on that particular site with the cellphone number they used for registration. Because even these sites fear of getting sued by models or agencies.
5. A simple image of my model was used in an international magazine in a lesbian rights article, which obviously disturbed the model a lot since she was single and straight. By the time we contacted the magazine the damage was done from the copies already on sale. All they did was removed the picture from their online version.
6. The face of my own father was cropped from a simple picture and used in the advertisement of a company called STEP UP (used for height growth). It was morphed on the body of some other person. Though this didn't disturb my dad as much, this example showed how wrong things can go. Above that none of the agencies took responsibility as the image was never sold anywhere, the small display version was downloaded and face was cropped and morphed on the picture used in the video advertisement of the company. Additionally I could never find anywhere what is the contact information of that company since there is no information available on it on the internet.
7. Now the models who are amateur or professionals also won't create much issue over these things as getting their face anywhere is a huge asset for their portfolio, but those who just got pictures clicked from you just with an intent of having great free portfolio can get hurt. Its not ur fault nor theirs, they have signed the contract reading it but no system is fully secure.
To avoid such problems to a great extent there is one basic solution. Don't upload any profile pictures of your models which have no concept in them. Let there be an action and emotion in the picture that cannot be easily used by people who illegally use this. Now this risk is not just related to stock porfolios, it can extend to your personal albums (on clouds or social-networking sites) also unless they are private. It can be also your own DP (Profile/Display Pic) in your social networking profile.
The best I could do was start taking down all the pictures of models that mean nothing. Another important thing is not to submit model pictures at all to agencies that are not ranked in top 5-7. The new or lower ranking agencies don't have a good system to keep things legally secure. I am hoping that dreamstime admin doesn't delete this blog knowing that these are precautions I have put here which are not agency related but a warning to everyone even outside stock photography agencies. This could happen with anyone, but since we are in this industry we all have to be more responsible. These issues can be resolved in most of the cases very easily, but sometimes they are very hard to resolve if you are careless.