What I love most about my job is the people I meet everyday: talented photographers who are not only creative but also innovative and entrepreneurial. Catherine Hall is the perfect example of such a photographer who—after becoming increasingly frustrated by paper releases on location—crafted an app for photographers called Top Model Release (TMR) where they could create, customize and store essential release forms for both models and property on an iPhone or iPad (view the video here).
I spoke with Catherine recently about her app—how it came about, the amount of effort involved, and why it was so important for her to create.
Jacqueline Tobin: My first question is simple: Why?
Catherine Hall: The whole thing about Top Model Release is that while there are other similar apps out there,they were not fulfilling my needs. I wanted to make something easy to use hyper-intuitive and fast. Plus, only one other model release app out there, besides mine, has thinking through iCloud.
JT: What goes into making an app? Especially one that involves legal documents?
CH: First off, my advice to other photographers is, to seriously consider the massive time investment and work to create a good app. Understand that you are becoming a software developer, troubleshooting, bugs, and waking up in the middle of the night with ideas to improve will become a part of your daily life. It was tons of work and took over a year to develop. I worked with designers and a development team, as well as a lawyer [U.S.copyright lawyer Bert Krages.] I also worked closely with Getty and iStock Photo throughout the whole process to make sure that they would approve it when it was finished, since they have very strict standards on releases for stock images. There were a lot of bases to cover before it was ready to be released. The iPhone version came out first, last year, then there was a huge demand for the iPad version, which came out earlier this year.
JT: What are the top selling points of TMR?
CH: It’s hyper-intuitive and quick, so there’s not a lot of setup time needed—you can do a release in 30 seconds. In the past, I always felt constrained by model releases. Either you forget them or, once you have them signed you are nervous you are going to lose them before you get back to your studio, or people want to make changes…the list is endless. The great thing with this app is, as long as you have your iPad or iPhone, even if you don’t have Internet service, you can still create the release, and then when it’s done it will auto-email you and will go through once you connect again. If you do have internet, it autosends so you have a back up instantly. It’s also synched via Cloud, so you have backup on all your other devices too. You can also customize and create releases on the spot and the app supports 12 languages for when you are on location.
JT: The app is about $8.99 (buy at iTunes here) and is doing well, but obviously you weren’t doing this for the money. Why are you so passionate about this app?
CH: My career was launched from entering contests and getting my work out there without any paid jobs. I would just shoot and shoot and shoot, and like me starting out, there are so many amateurs and aspiring pros out there who don’t realize how important model releases are. I was doing all this work and not getting model releases on anything, which is pretty normal; people just don’t think about it.
But then my work started getting recognized from entering contests and getting my work out there, and Adobe wanted to do a whole piece on me; it was a big deal because I hadn’t any real exposure up to that point. Then boom, I realized I didn’t have any releases on any of the images they wanted to use in a commercial way, therefore they could not do the piece. It was a huge wake-up call, and I knew then that I had to make it easier for photographers to get releases. So don’t screw up by not getting releases! Even with contests, a lot of them these days say you need model released images.