5 Steps how to protect your Stock Photos

Whether you are a buyer or a contributor to stock photo agencies you will want to protect your stock photos from others. As a contributor you will want to protect your photos from being downloaded and used by third parties either for free or without purchasing the right license.

As a buyer of stock photos you will want to ensure you are protected from accusations that you did not buy the rights to use the photos on your digital media, advertising or retail product sales.

How a contributor can protect their stock photos

Contributors should work with a stock photo agency that uses watermarks on all stock photos to ensure that photos are not used illegally or without payment. If the stock photo agency or seller of your photos does not use watermarks when displaying online images before they are purchased, do not enlist with this stock photos agency. Watermarks are transparent images or text that are placed across a photo to protect the use of an image. Once a buyer purchases the license for an image, the watermark is removed from the downloaded image.

Shutterstock, for example, watermarks all images on their library. Find out the 5 ways to download images without watermark from Shutterstock, legally!

If you are concerned about buyers purchasing the right license for your images, you have the right to request verification of the licensing invoice that will show which license was purchased for the image. This applies to images that are used on resale items, and it could apply to the number of copies of the resale item sold. Stock photo agencies each have limits to how many copies and sizes of an image is allowed under a license.

5 Steps for Contributors to Protect your Stock Photos

  1. Use only reliable Stock Photo Agencies (we have a great list here)
  2. Check if they have a proper Watermark over ALL of your images
  3. Check their Licenses and Extended License Options
  4. Check their reputation in the Market on Microstock Diaries and Microstock Insider
  5. Read Forum Threads in Microstock Group and ask other Stock Contributors there

How a buyer can protect their purchased stock photos

If you buy stock photos or a third party designer purchases stock photos for your designs, obtain the invoices that prove the stock photos were purchases and the license that was obtained. For further protection, you may want to credit the stock photo agency and photographer for the photos.

If you are not sure where an image comes from do an image search on Google to find the original source of the photo. If it is found on a stock photo agency site, pay for it and the license that best suits your needs.

If you are using free images, read the terms of use as free stock photos have different terms of use, credit the photographer or designer and if applicable the stock photo agency that has enabled the free download.

Create a database of where you downloaded and purchased photos and images so if you are asked it is easy to find where and when you paid for the use of the photo. This may seem a bit over the top but image rights and use is becoming far more important then ever before.

5 Tips for Stock Photo Buyers

  1. Make sure you can prove that you bought all images in use
  2. If you are not sure that you can prove the ownership – search for it via TinEye or Google Images and buy it
  3. Make sure you own the right license for your usage – i.e. check the print runs, check the sizes you can use it online, check if you can produce products with this image
  4. Keep the original file you have downloaded from the stock agencies
  5. Create a database or use a software to index where you have bought which image with which license

Protect your stock photos and protect your stock photo purchases

Whether you are a buyer or contributor to stock photo agencies, protection of your art or protection of your purchases is important. Don't lose your right to make money and don't find yourself in a legal battle by not documenting your purchases. Purchase the right license for the image use and save yourself a headache and a lot of money by making the right image purchase and licensing agreement.

Image by ©IngImage

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

Amos Struck, a renowned expert with over two decades in the stock photography industry, is known for his profound expertise in both stock imagery and artificial intelligence (AI). He is the founder of StockPhotoSecrets.com and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, Stockphotos.com. His pioneering work in visual AI is marked by co-founding Ximilar AI. Amos also established the Microstock Expo Conference, a key event in the stock photography sector. As a regular speaker at major industry conferences like DMLA and a prominent member of CEPIC, he consistently contributes to the industry's growth and evolution through a blend of technological innovation and market insight.

  1. With what happened recently at IStock/Getty I am not sure I will put Istock as a reputable agency for our image protection:)

    • I get your Point Laurent! The question is how the stock photo buyer still see iStock and Getty. For some of them there is no other way finding creative and niche images than using iStock or Getty.

  2. Protecting stock photos is necessary otherwise people will use it illegally without paying. So if you are selling stock photos then you should know how to protect them. The tips provided here will surely help both the contributors and sellers in protecting their stock photos.

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