We often receive requests to use an image, featuring people, for a campaign which we consider to be sensitive. E.g. a campaign about male impotency, to promote a cancer treatment centre, to vote for a political party at the next election, to joining a religious organisation, about alcohol abuse, child abuse, gambling addiction etc.

Our sensitive use policy (1) is simple: if the nature of the campaign is sensitive and if the model who appears on the image is going to be associated with this sensitive issue, we will not supply the image.

Here’s why: New Zealand is a small country. 4.5 million of us – it’s not a whole lot. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. And everyone sees everything. 1 degree of separation eh! And social media is probably not helping. Because of that, there is no point trying to hope that no-one will view the campaign. It WILL be seen! By a family member, a partner, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend…

And who exactly appears on the image? Well, this may surprise you but many photographers ask their friends, family, neighbours to pose for their stock shots. When they can, they also contract professional models. But this doesn’t really matter in the end… no matter if the talent is a professional model or not, when the person featured on the image discovers he/she is the new poster child for ‘ABC Cancer Treatment Centre’, he/she can get pretty upset – especially when their friends start calling saying ‘I had no idea you had cancer’…

And this is usually when phones start ringing. First up? Usually yours (or your client’s). Then ours. Then the photographer’s. As we all try to figure out how we’re going to make it go away.

In between phone calls, lawyers sometimes get involved. Even though we systematically receive signed model releases from our contributing photographers for images on which a person appears, and even though the paperwork would stand up in court, defending legal action is very expensive and time consuming. And most of the time, lawyers will chase whoever has the deepest pockets. If you or your client is a ‘big brand’, chances are a lawyer will get called in to try and threaten their way to a healthy settlement.

In addition, when such issues happens, the damage in the form of negative publicity to you or your client can be huge. Media can be hungry for stories that will shift papers and attract eyeballs and ratings. Do we need to say more?

Our position when it comes to sensitive uses is that, rather than hide behind our Terms and Conditions (as many stock libraries do, making you 100% responsible), we prefer to bring this to your attention from the outset and to suggest alternative images so that we can avoid any unpleasant phone calls to either you or your client.

We have been told in the past that this was discrimination against people with any sort of health condition or disability. It is not. What’s involved here is the protection of the rights of the persons appearing in images not to be portrayed in ways they would not approve and that could impact their integrity and/or reputation. If we allowed images to be used for sensitive purposes, before long no-one in NZ would pose for stock photos anymore.

But, there is always an exception to the rule, isn’t there? There are a few cases where we would approve the use of an image. If the message is positive for instance: use of healthy people on an image for a campaign that promote a healthy lifestyle, we could probably give you clearance to use the image. In “borderline” cases, we would allow you to use an image provided you add the words “Models used for illustration purposes only” next to the image and we would request to review the artwork before it goes live.

If you’re unsure if your campaign falls under the sensitive use category, do not hesitate to contact us with the media number of the image you’d like to use and the details of your campaign. We will be able to let you know if this falls under our sensitive use policy or if we can give you clearance for your campaign.

Signing off,
The One Shot team.

(1) The One Shot Sensitive Use policy includes – but is not limited to – 
the following subjects:

- Violence, 
- Addictions of any kind, 
- Alcohol, tobacco, controlled & illicit substances, 
- Sexuality, sexual orientation, sexual health, 
- Medical condition, physical and mental health, 
- Religious views, 
- Political views, 
- Bankruptcy…

More information about our sensitive use policy can be found 
here (paragraph 13: Unauthorized Use)

Why does One Shot have a Sensitive Use Policy?