The Power of Social Media Helps Photog Identify Tattooed Girl for Model Release

Every so often, we share a story about how powerful the Internet (and six degrees of separation) can be in reuniting owners with things they lose, whether it’s a camera that spent four years in the ocean or a roll of film lost in a blizzard.

Israel-based photographer Guy Prives experienced this amazing power of the Web firsthand recently after snapping a photograph of a mysterious tattooed girl.

It all started back in September 2011, when Prives was visiting the beach town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica halfway around the world. Not wanting to ask each of his subjects to sign a model release, he roamed the beaches looking for shots from angles that wouldn’t reveal faces. One of the photographs was of a girl whose back was covered in tattoos.

About two months ago, Prives was contacted by Getty Images asking to license some of the beach photographs commercially. Much to Prives’ surprise, they asked for a model release for the tattooed girl.

He emailed Getty asking why the release was still needed, and the answer was that the tattoos would be instantly recognizable to the girl in the photo and anyone who knew her. It’s not just faces that cause people to be personally identifiable in photos.

Prives then turned to the Internet in search of the girl’s identity. He shared the photo on Facebook, tagging a boatload of his friends and asking anyone if they knew her. He wrote guest posts on photography blogs, showing people the image while warning them about the importance of model releases. His story got featured by a Facebook page with 140K fans, and in the Israeli photography magazine Composition:

He also pinned the photograph to Pinterest. Despite having very few Likes and Repins there, a friend of the tattooed girl happened to come across that pinned picture this past weekend and contacted him.

Yesterday, Prives send a message to the tattooed girl through Facebook, and ended up receiving the model release he spent months searching for.

Let this be a lesson to all of you regarding the importance of obtaining model releases for photos that you might want to license commercially. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Image credit: Photograph by Guy Prives and used with permission

  • Jacuzza Tat

    They could always just have waited 20 years, they would have been sure to find her on line at the Department of WhatTheHellWasIThinking

  • Glop

    I’m sure there are things in your life that people could say the same about. How bout you keep your judgments to yourself?

  • lenlesmac

    How much does Getty pay for an image like this? Was it worth the effort? I’m not knocking Prives (very interesting shot!), just wondering about the financial feasability.

  • Andy

    In addition, I wonder if posting the picture around the internet diminishes its value at all.

  • Back Indoussr

    >20 people like lovely tat backs

  • Nathan Blaney

    Unless this is some wierd thing where Getty is using the photo for some internal purpose, its likely that Guy had this photo selected by a Getty editor through flickr – If that’s the case, then he’s simply being invited to submit the photo to Getty, in which case Getty would be the broker for licensing his image. Getty would pay him 20-30% of the license fee which is determined by size (if Royalty Free) or other additional factors if Rights Managed.

  • Nathan Blaney

    I don’t think it diminishes its value but being SO widely broadcast will make it difficult for Getty to track image use infringement.

  • Midget in a Minute

    He has a point. Tattoos don’t get better with age…they fade and blur, and and look blood clots on old wrinkly skin. Certainly to me, anyways.

  • brob

    I would thing you would need a model release for this image since you can’t recognize the person’s face. do tattoos count as making a person distinguishable from another person?

  • Nathan Blaney

    From above:
    “He emailed Getty asking why the release was still needed, and the answer was that the tattoos would be instantly recognizable to the girl in the photo and anyone who knew her. It’s not just faces that cause people to be personally identifiable in photos.”

    Yes, for Getty and pretty much any other stock agency, you’re going to need a model release for anyone who is even remotely identifiable – face, scars, tattoos, even distinctive clothing.

  • Nobody

    Please tell us how awesome you’re going to look when you’re 65 and wrinkly as well. The only difference is you will look just like everyone else at that age, boring and still wrinkly.

  • Dave

    How much money will the model be receiving?

  • Nathan Blaney

    Why ask here when you can just email the photographer?

  • Roger Dodger

    If I understand this, this is rich irony. The woman could be identified, so publicly showing her image would be illegal without her release. So, the photographer spreads her photo all over the internet to get her release so it can be spread all over the internet. Is that right? Or, is showing the photo legal as long as profit is not involved?

  • Roger Dodger

    Why the thumbs down? Can you please explain?

  • Real Axe

    I almost missed your comment, but I had to leave a thumbs down on your second question to see if you’d bother getting all bunched up over a second single anonymous thumbs down in one day.

  • Mat Ripley

    This is my home girl Bri!

  • Peter Kertz

    Because I’m sure he’s not the only one who wants to know. Jeez.

  • Nathan Blaney

    I guess the point is, unless the photographer or model happens to stop by, nobody here is likely to know the answer. Given that fact, the comment comes off as a suggestion that the model is going uncompensated. So, if anyone would TRULY like to let everyone know, why not just send that email then follow up here and let everyone know, ok?

  • Nathan Blaney

    Displaying the photo is perfectly legal since it’s non-commercial use. Getty (and any stock agency) is only requiring the release because they need it in order for it to be licensed to customers for commercial purposes. If Getty intended to put it in an Editorial collection (which they don’t, since this photo was solicited through flickr, which is commercial-only) then a release would be unnecessary.

  • Roger Dodger

    Not bunched up. I just really am curious if you can publish a person’s image without paying as long as you don’t make money.

  • Toby Harriman

    He probably made a lot better deals later on then Getty through this whole process. I would hope so at least.

  • bi11p

    To explain: You could “make money” from an image of a recognizable person without any model release (or even permission to take the shot) as long as it was taken in a public place and it’s published for editorial use (as in a newspaper, magazine or news website). It’s immaterial if you, the photographer, were paid for the picture. But if it’s used for “commercial purposes” eg in an advertisement, a book cover, a brochure or a website promoting a product or business, then you need a model release. The model release just says “for consideration” which could be an amount as little as $1 or simply a promise of a copy. That’s between the model and the photographer. Usually a photographer shooting non-professional models for stock will pay only a small nominal amount for a release.

  • Angela Chlopek

    went to HS with that girl!!!!

  • Girl Girl

    It would be hilarious if the tattoo artist now sues for copyright infringement.

  • Alisha Wild

    I’m really not that sure why there is a discussion going on about how good she will look when she’s 65, I mean isn’t this an article about the internet, the photographer and the photo? But to just throw my 2 cents in…she will look just like everyone else around her when she’s 65…tattoos are huge now and everyone has them..just like stretched earlobes and so on…! I love the pic and the story is amazing…always 6 degrees!

  • Shauna Taylor

    Ironically shouldn’t he have had the release before posting it online?