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How to handle photo consent for media and marketing

Securing a student’s consent for their photo to be used in media, marketing or on your website is a bit of a grey area. Although it is time-consuming, getting consent for every photo is the safest bet. Some colleges have been caught out using photos of students without consent and, following a complaint, ended up being forced to throw away all print copies of their prospectus.

Many colleges ask students to sign a general consent form at enrolment and make it clear that the content covers print and online media and social media use. Best practice includes setting a time for consent, at least for the student’s course duration and probably a couple of years extra. There is an example form below.

Some of these decisions around consent demand you make a judgement call; for example, we are not aware of a hard and fast rule that specifies how large a group needs to be before you don’t need to worry about consent, or whether the back of a student’s head means they’re identifiable.

The basic rules

  • Where a student is under-16 parental consent is required. Over-16s can give their own personal consent.
  • For all identifiable subjects (i.e. not large group shots) of marketing and PR publicity photography, a photographic consent form should be used. Some colleges ask all students to sign one of these general forms when they first enrol and keep them on file.
  • All consent forms should capture basic student details like name, course of study, date of birth, and ask them to sign consent that the image can be used in future college publicity material. Some forms have time limits on the use of material.
  • Be clear about the full scope of potential uses of the image, including being used in the media, sent out with press releases, on the website, social media platforms, for broadcast or in marketing materials (leaflets, brochures, prospectus).

Under the Data Protection Act you should allow students to withdraw permission for their consent at any time. However, this withdrawal cannot be applied retrospectively, for example for materials that have already been published.

There is a little more guidance about photo consents and the Data Protection Act specifically aimed at schools on the Information Commissioner’s Office website, which could be helpful for colleges too.

A template form can be found in here.

If you have any questions, or need advice, please contact Kate Parker, Press and PR Manager on