Buy Images for Commercial Use or Where to Get Images Licensed to Print on T-Shirts?

Stock photos are a great resource to save time and money in creating visuals for marketing, advertising, branding, social media presence, etc. But what if you want images you can print on t-shirts (or any other item) for series production and sell them to make some bucks, but you can't shoot your own photos? Well, you can use stock images. All you've to do is purchase images for commercial use, under an Extended License agreement.

Don't be put off by how complicated it sounds: it's dead simple. An Extended License is the same Royalty-Free license you use for every other project, only adding the necessary rights to use the pictures in products for resale, and unlimited copies.

So, when do you need an Extended License? Where to buy stock photos for commercial use? How much will they cost you? Read on as we answer all these questions one by one and find a list of stock agencies with a focus on commercial usage, below!

Quick advice: you can get images for commercial use at the lowest price in the market with the new Extended Licenses at SPS Shop or if you need a larger collection check out Shutterstock's offer here.

Best 4 Stock Photo Offers: Prices for Extended Licenses

Agency Price per Photo with
Smallest Investment
Best Price per Photo
SPS Shop $80 / $40 for members $44 / $22 for members
iStock $192 $152
Shutterstock $99,50 $68
Adobe Stock $79,99 $79,99

Quick Guide to Buy Stock Photos for Commercial Use

First of all, let's make clear here we are talking about images under the Royalty-Free license, which gives you a number of preset rights for a one-time fee, letting you use the photos forever, in as many designs as you want.

Now, stock photos under this license can be used for commercial purposes (the agency makes sure to check all rights are cleared for such use). Standard licenses (the default one at pretty much every agency) cover the use of photos in any commercial design that doesn't involve selling the image repeatedly and directly. Marketing campaigns, adverts, banners, websites, blogs, social media posts –like Facebook posts, Instagram stories, etc.– store decoration, and more are typical commercial image licensing uses. Giving credit to the artist isn't required, and you can edit and modify the images as much as you want.

The main restrictions in this license are the number of copies you can distribute (commonly set at 500,000 units), and the prohibition to use photos in products or designs you will then resell for a profit.

What is a Commercial Extended License?

You can click here for detailed info on Extended Licenses and practical examples of its uses. But simply put, it's an upgraded version of the Royalty-Free license. As its name gives away, it extends the usage rights you get, removing certain limitations of the Standard license and adding some very useful rights. It is also a one-time-payment model: you pay once and gain the usage rights forever.

Extended License usually adds two very important rights:

  • Unlimited print run
  • Use in products for resale

When you buy images under an Extended License, they are commercial-use photos that you can legally include in products you will repeatedly sell to multiple clients. And you don't have to worry about the production run, as you can use the image in unlimited reproductions.

These are bought similar to how you would a standard stock photo: sign up for a customer account on a stock imagery website, choose the desired picture(s), select the Extended licensing option instead of Standard, then finish up by uploading the payment information, and finally clicking on the download button.

When Do I Need an Extended License?

As you likely guessed, you're going to need an Extended License when:

  • You intend to distribute more than the Standard limit of copies (even if it's not for reselling purposes)
  • You want to use the photo in a design that will be reproduced and sold for a profit (be it in physical or digital products)

If you're looking for images for designs created to print on t-shirts, hats, mugs, posters, etc., then you definitely need to purchase images for commercial use with an Extended License.

Tip: In some agencies, you would need Extended licensing for certain uses than others cover in standard. Things like videos for streaming services or for TV or film, for example. Here you can see the best stock photo licensing agreements compared with all the relevant info.

When you Don't Need an Extended License!

  • Blog posts or website
  • Social Media
  • Online Marketing
  • Images for Personal Use
  • Affiliate Promotion
  • eBooks
  • Limited Print Runs

What is the Best Source for Buying Images for Commercial Use?

As we said, many stock photo agencies include Extended Licenses in their offer. In pretty much all cases this license can be acquired on-demand, but not with subscriptions.

Here we bring you a list of the best places for downloading stock photos for for-profit usage with an Extended License. Most of these agencies are also amongst our Best Stock Photo Sites ever. Have a quick look at their amazing prices!

Buy Images for Commercial Use – The Best 5 Offers

StockPhotoSecrets Shop – lets you use photos for commercial products

StockPhotoSecrets Shop is a stock photo site thought specifically for small to medium businesses, with very cheap deals on high-quality images. Here you can buy photos for commercial usage with one of the best offers on the market!

The shop has a collection of 7 million images, vectors, and fonts to choose from, all up to XXL size at no added cost. Plus, 100,000 new files are added every month. Search and finding the perfect picture will not be a problem! Having deals for monthly and annual subscriptions, plus on-demand image packs and a very popular annual plan -99club offer-, the shop has recently added great Extended License packs that let you purchase stock images for commercial use including products for resale.

Extended License packs come at 1 image for $80, 5 images for $300, and 25 images for $1100. Now, these prices are very competitive, but what's even best for our buyers is that there's a 50% discount on any pack for customers on any of the monthly or annual subscriptions! That's right, if you have a monthly or annual plan in SPS Shop, you will be able to buy Extended License packs with commercial-use images at half price. Plus the packs never expire, you can buy them and use them whenever you want. Getting to as low as just $22 per photo, it's by far the cheapest image license offer in the market! You can learn more details about Extended License packs here.

Get your Extended License pack at SPS Shop today! And don't forget to check the monthly and annual offers to seize the chance of getting awesome cheap photos and a 50% off on Extended Licenses! This is a good place to start!

Shutterstock

One of the most popular stock media agencies in the business, Shutterstock offers Royalty Free images at super low pricing for both for-profit and editorial use. When it comes to images for commercial use, they include an Extended License (what they call an Enhanced license) in their service at reasonable price points.

Shutterstock has one of the largest image collections in the industry with over 400 million photos, vectors, and illustration files. They offer subscriptions and image packs, and when it comes to Extended License they're available on-demand, also in pack form where the more images users buy in advance, the more they save in the long run.

Their Enhanced License packs aka photos for commercial usage are at $199 for 2 images, $449 for 5, and $1699 for 25. Depending on how many you want to buy, they'll cost you between $68 and $99.50 each. The packs are valid for one year after the purchase date, so you have a lot of flexibility to invest and use your commercial-use photos.

Sign up for free at Shutterstock to buy their Enhanced Image packs! And if you want to get them cheaper, use our special Shutterstock Coupon Code with up to 20% Off!

iStock – purchase extended licenses from one of the best agencies

One of the oldest established and most popular stock photo agencies in the industry, iStock specializes in royalty-free images for commercial use. They offer a carefully curated library full of these images, and they include Extended License options with added usage rights including resale of products.

iStock offers millions of photos and illustrations curated into two main collections, one economic and the other exclusive. You can get these images with a subscription, or on-demand with credits. Extended Licenses are available with credits only, and each bonus permission comes as a separate license.

All Extended License options are 18 credits each (depending on the pack you buy, this will be between $144 and $170). Physical Products are the label of the option for products for resale, and there are also Unlimited Reproduction, Multi-Seat and other alternatives. It's important to note each of these options adds 18 credits to the individual image price, which is either 1 or 3 credits depending on the collection. Like this, a photo for printing on a t-shirt or any other item can cost you roughly from $152 to $192. Considering this agency offers premium, exclusive images, and high-quality budget photos, it's a very reasonable deal.

Sign up for free at iStock to get awesome images for your t-shirt designs!

And we have excellent news: for a limited time, we offer you an exclusive iStock Promo Code with 15% off in EVERYTHING! You can buy credit packs (to get Extended Licenses and everything else) at super cut-price and also subscriptions with this great discount! This offer is available to all customers, but only for a limited time, so don't miss it!

 

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is Adobe's very own stock photo brand, which is deeply integrated into its Creative Cloud platform providing a seamless workflow for designers using stock photos. Their offer is complete with an Extended License, and you can buy images for commercial use at convenient pricing points.

Adobe Stock has over 90 million files in its library, all royalty-free images for commercial use. They have subscription plans with many options, and also credit packs for bonus content. All their photos have an Extended license (called Enhanced) available, which gives you the right to unlimited print run and use in products to be resold.

Their Enhanced license is priced at just $79,99 per photo, and you pay as you go. It's a very simple and straightforward system that lets you get just as many images as you need, whenever you need them.

Explore Adobe Stock's collections for free! If you want to test their service, seize this Adobe Stock Free Trial with 10 standard images for free!

Stock photos are not the only resource for a great t-shirt design. Have you thought of stock illustrations? If so, check out this list of the best 6 sites to buy stock illustrations, most of them have extended license available!

Commercial Usage of Photos FAQ

What does commercial use mean for photos?

In stock photography, the term “commercial use” usually means two different things.
1. That you can use the images in designs connected with a for-profit activity (marketing and advertising, for example). This is covered by most standard licenses.
2. That you can use the pictures as part of products that you will then sell for a profit (such as stamped on a sweatshirt, for example). This kind of use tends to be available with an extended license only.

Can I use my photos for commercial use?

Yes, as long as the license specifically covers it. If you want to use your photos in products for resale and you have an extended license that covers it, you are in the clear.

Can I use free images for commercial use?

Depends. Free stock photos are still licensed. If the contract for usage permits it, you should be able to use free stock images in products for resale.
However, free photos are tricky. When you visit a free stock photo platform you notice that most of them work with Creative Commons licenses, and a minority of them have images under the public domain. But almost none police the content to make sure all rights (such as copyright and model releases) have been clearer. So legally free photos aren't very safe for this kind of use.

Licensing Images for Commercial Use: Cost-Effective Way to Make Money from Your Designs!

Being a one-time fee license that grants you perpetual use of the images, buying stock photos for commercial use with an Extended License is a very cost-effective way to create amazing designs to print on t-shirts, hats, mugs, and any other apparel or physical item you can then sell to make a profit.

The costs are really low: at any of the above-listed companies, you can buy photos for commercial use for less than $100.

By far the best deal is that of our SPS Shop, with the cheapest Extended Licenses to buy images for commercial use in the market at just $22 per photo. Purchase your Extended License image pack today!

Amos Struck

Amos Struck

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

10 Comments
  1. If I am trying to make a T-shirt to sell on a Shopify store, do I need to purchase a license for commercial use of an image or will I be okay using a stock royalty-free image?

    • You need to buy an extended license for the graphics/images you want to print on the shirt to sell via your Shopify store. Make sure to produce the tshirts first and then start selling them. I hope that helps.

  2. I would like to purchase a stock photo and then edit that photo — e.g. A photo of cocktail — eliminate the background, and make it look like a watercolor. Then, use that image for designs in my on-demand shop (printful) How do you recommend I navigate this? Will the extended comm license typically allow this?

    • Hi Mel, that sounds like a “normal” extended license for me which most stock agencies should cover. Always ask beforehand for your specific usage because some of them might not allow heavy editing. But it should be OK for most of the stock agencies. Also check beforehand if you need a print-on-demand or extended license (i.e. do you buy and download before production or buy only after production of t-shirts). I hope that helps.

  3. Hi, I am hoping you can give advice. I have created a digital product, incorporating royalty free images from pexels and unsplash for example. I plan on selling these files as a PDF file? Is this allowed?

    • Hi Marie. thank you for your question. You are mentioning that you want to use images from these free stock photo websites. We can not recommend using those files to create a product for resale. Why? Mainly because the rights of anything on the image are not cleared. This means that neither have the people on these images signed any model release which confirms that you can use these images commercially nor have anyone checked for any logos or recognizable other copyrighted items. We can only suggest buying some proper checked and model-released stock photos from a stock agency that does all the due diligence. I can not recommend using images from free stock photo sites for that matter. I hope that helps.

  4. Why do all photo platforms have the monopoly on damn every photos, pictures, and images.

  5. We are planning to print licensed photos on fabric from one of these platforms and sell them on demand. Probably with slight editing. We would like to have about 20-30 options for clients. Is it possible to buy the extended rights once a client selects an image for the first time so we aren’t buying 30 Extended licenses for images that don’t ever get selected/purchased? So if we had a storefront with images to browse for clients. Do we need that extended license yet? Thanks so much for the feedback.

    • Hi Bill, thank you for your question. That actually is a bit of an issue with most stock agencies. They either have their extended licenses option or a print-on-demand (API) connection which let you build your own store. This means you can not just use all their images on display and then print-on-demand with your customer with the extended license. The extended license is not meant for that. It is meant to pick the design and then produce products. If you really want to build a print-on-demand store, then simply contact us to get info how to integrate our images into your shop. You then only pay us if a customer picks an image. But you would need to do the integration work on your end. Does this makes more sense? Happy to give you some more infos.

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