When do I need to get a property release?

This article applies only to Unsplash+ submissions

Annie Spratt avatar
Written by Annie Spratt
Updated over a week ago

You need to get a property release when the photograph takes place on location, or depicts any property protected by intellectual property rights (this includes copyright for artwork, product designs, trademarks, and branding). Below are examples of settings that require a property release.

Art Galleries and Museums (interior and exterior)

Some recognizable landmarks

Any attraction, property, or land which you pay to enter (interior and exterior)

Public art installations

Street art, including stickers and tags

Private property

Businesses (interior and exterior)

What’s a property release and why is it required?
A property release is a written permission from a property owner or trademark/copyright holder, allowing the use of their property in content intended for commercial purposes (to sell, promote, or endorse a product). Releases protect you, and the customers who license your content for their projects, against the future possibility of a claim.

Is a property release always needed?
Releases are required for each unique property, logo, or brand that is recognizable in your content. While we’ve provided common scenarios below for guidance, keep in mind that it is ultimately your responsibility to determine when a release is needed. We encourage you to do your research before each shoot.

Check out this helpful legal research guide, and our Intellectual Property Wiki for real-world examples.

Airbnb, rental home, and business interiors
All identifiable private locations require a property release, no matter if they play a small or large part in the overall composition. Some closeup/small areas might be very generic looking and okay without one, but the property owner would need to not be able to tell it’s their location.

If the location is truly generic and has no identifiable details or features it ‘may’ be acceptable without a property release. However, we would need to see the specific images to make a decision.

To ensure you’re not left with images we feel are unacceptable without a property release, we strongly suggest always getting a property release, even for generic looking shots. Getting the property release will also mean you can take the wider more identifiable shots, and it may also open up more access to you from the supplier for other parts of the location, or even other locations entirely.

Detail images often don’t require a property release.

Wider angle images always require a property release.

In general, it shouldn’t be difficult to ask for a release, and we have tips in how to ask for a property release below. If you ask and the property owner doesn’t want to sign a release, please respect the owners wishes and not shoot in that location. You can ask Airbnb owners prior to booking if they allow shoots.

Advice on how to ask for a property release

If you’re planning to shoot in a private location, you should contact the property owner to ask for permission to shoot there.

  • Contact the relevant person (building owner, PR team, etc.) by email or phone enough weeks in advance.

  • Explain what shoot you are planning and that the images might be used for commercial purposes.

  • We recommend you to contact multiple locations as some might not agree to sign a release.

  • We strongly encourage you to reach an agreement and get the release signed before shooting (if you end up not getting a signed release, we won’t be able to accept your images).

  • Make sure to bring a printed copy of the release on the shooting day in case you can’t get a digital signature beforehand.

Find property releases here.

Did this answer your question?