Laws vary from country to country but in general you will always need a model release. Even when the law says you don't need a release it is best to get a release anyway in case of lawsuit. Even newspapers are beginning to get photo releases from subjects for feature pieces that are not part of breaking news.
Courts are very inconsistent with their rulings on model releases so it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Examples of Situations Where You Need a Model Release
- Entering a contest
- Sending photos of your grandkids to a favorite magazine
- Posting photos of friends on Facebook, Flikr, or other sharing sites
- Examples of Situations Where You Might Not Need a Release
- The person's face is hidden in shadow
- The photo is part of a news story (bystanders at a fire for example) published in a newspaper
- The photo was taken at a public event such as a parade and the photo depicts that event (not just a close up of the person)