A Client or model may pose in a certain manner for various photoshoots, and while receiving the images that they contracted for also understand that the photographer may use these same images for advertising, sales, prints, or other promotional material. But, what happens if you subject decides that the image is not flattering or cast them in a bad light? This could be anything from a goofy smile, strange body position, or even embarrassing images. The client/or model may then contact the photographer asking, or even demanding that the image be removed from public view. There are many possibilities, some helpful to the subject, some protecting the photographer, and some rather neutral.
- News worthy image - Let say that you may be a freelance photographer covering a house fire with a crowd and fire services present. A individual who you may have photographed in the crowd perhaps should not have been at that place and time. Although this individual may contact you, there is very little that can be done if the image has already been published to hundreds or even thousands of viewers. A person in a public venue, and the image TAKEN FROM A PUBLIC VENUE, does not have a right to privacy and therefore can not demand that the image be retracted. Often a photographer can not trespass on private property even if an image is considered newsworthy and if trespass has occurred, then legal action is possible.
- Professional Model Images - A model often has a 'brand' or style of modeling that he or she is known for in that career. If a model sees an image that may not be complimentary, the model may request or demand that the images be removed from social media or print. The issue may be range from retouching, bad lighting, or just a bad pose. Model releases are almost a must in this type of photography regardless of state or local laws. Although the model can not demand (assuming a proper release) that the image be removed, it certain can be at the discretion of the photographer and may even be beneficial if the photographer wishes to work with the model in the future.
- Age of Consent - In most venues, a subject can not enter into a contractual arrangement without parental consent. If an image of an underage subject is posted, regardless of any documentation, the parents of the child could have legal grounds to have the image removed from publication. An exception may occur as listed above relating to a news worthy event such as if a child was at the scene of a house fire.
- Sensual or Erotic Images - Even prior to the Sesta/Fosta act, it has always been incumbent on the photographer to determine the age of a subject. Even with a proper model release, documentation of the models age is necessary. Failure to do so may have serious civil or even criminal consequences. However, even with documentation, a model may have posed in a sensual or even erotic manner several years before, and now wishes all such images to vanish as a result of new employment. A model often has little recourse to have the image vanish except as a courtesy of the photographer.
- Derogatory Images - Very subjective category here, but the question relates to the original intent of the photoshoot. An noteworthy example many years ago was a model who had a headshot taken for a portfolio, and then much later used in campaign for HIV treatment. The model claimed that the campaign cast her in a negative light as though she may be undergoing treatment for HIV. Even with a carefully worded model release, the subject could claim emotional distress and loss of income relating to a derogatory image.
While it is true that the photographer OWNS the images, he or she is clearly responsible to following processes such as obtaining a model release and at least a ethical business sense as well as being aware of any local prevailing laws. Challenges to an image may never occur, or may occur depending on what genre is being photographed. Clear communication with the subject is essential and in the case of a challenge, negotiation sometimes can sometimes make everyone happy.