Can You Edit a Stock Photo?

This question that might run through your mind when you are new to buying stock photography is, can you edit stock photos? The most useful answer to whether or not you can edit a stock photo is – most of the time. This means, in general, most stock photo agencies, including Stock Photo Secrets, allow you to alter or do professional photo retouching to your downloaded, and fully licensed stock images.

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Always Check the License Agreement Before You Edit a Stock Photo!

It’s also important to note that each standard license agreement is different from stock photo agency to agency, and you must read the agreement before you intend to use it to make sure you have permission to use it in a specific way. And the next great rule of thumb is that stock photos that are considered ‘editorial’ in nature may not be altered at all, and that is pretty much the same, agency to agency.

Background Remover remove image backgrounds Canva Pro > Can I retouch a stock photo?‘s subscription plans offer you one of the most lenient image retouching rights in the stock photo game, and they have great offers that will save you tons of money on stock images. So, How much does a stock photo cost? learn more about the costs of stock photography here.

Currently, they have three plans: the Club Easy, for $99 USD, you get 200 XXL stock photos, vectors, and fonts (The cost per image is $0.49); the Club Plus subscription comes equipped with 500 XXL images for $199, which is only $0.33 per image! And the Club Ultimate, where you get 1,000 images for only $299. Click here to learn more about Club Easy, and here to learn more about Club Plus and Club Ultimate subscriptions now. Read the review here.

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Understanding How You Can Retouch Stock Images

After you purchase the rights to use an image from a stock photo agency (like in this agency list), it is generally acceptable to alter or change the image.

Images that are considered fine art or feature a celebrity or notable public figure should not be altered without specific permission from the artist, photographer, or the public figure whose likeness you plan to manipulate. So images purchased from paparazzi agencies or of other copyrighted work should be handled with care.

But if the image comes from a stock photo agency, is general in nature, and you have paid for the right to use the image, you can generally feel free to change the photo.

Some standard changes to stock photos include cropping, resizing, flipping the image to fit a specific design, or even retouching the colors a bit to fit in with an overall look and feel of a project. You can also use Photoshop or other photo editing software to apply effects to customize a stock photo image.

How You Can Edit Stock Photos

So, can you retouch photos you buy from Yes, you can, and their rules are pretty lenient when it comes to editing or retouching your purchased stock images. All photos bought through come with a standard license, allowing you to alter the files easily. editor and/or its suppliers own all images, even if it is modified. You may modify an image, but you may not claim copyright to that image. To retouch, edit, or modify royalty-free stock photos like the ones from, you must read the license agreement to understand what you can and cannot do, but it’s safe to say that you can retouch photos from most stock photo agencies according to their standard license agreement.

Here are some examples of what you can do with your stock photos:

  • Want to make a brochure using a stock photo, but want to remove the background? Go ahead, that’s fine.
  • Have a handout where you only want to use a certain element from a stock photo? No problem, you can do that.
  • Want to use a stock image in a video but want to change the color and only use a small portion of the stock image? You can do that too…
  • Want to retouch a stock photo portrait to clear up skin blemishes? This is OK also
  • Want to make lots of different image edits to your purchased stock photo? It’s yours to change, but doing so does not mean you now own the copyright, it still belongs to the photographer/designer or stock agency.

If you want to remove an image's background, Canva has the perfect tool. The Canva Background Remover eliminates image backgrounds with precision and in one simple click.
Try the Canva Background Remover here.

What you cannot do with your stock photos:

  • Do you want to retouch/edit an image labeled for ‘editorial’ use only? An editorial image cannot be altered and must be used ‘as is.
  • Want to make a stock portrait of a man to represent an AIDS patient? You cannot use a stock image to portray someone with a bad disease.
  • Want to use a stock photo for your political ad? Nope, you can’t do that.
  • Want to use a stock photo in a pornographic or defamatory way? This is not permitted.
  • Want to use the image to sell t-shirts? You can’t do this with a standard license agreement, but with an extended license, you can resell things commercially.

If you need an image for a more commercial project, you can buy an extended license for $70, or if you have a subscription plan like the Club Easy, which gives you 200 XXL images for $99, you can buy an extended license for just $35.

Here’s What You Can Resell With a $35 Extended License

  • Unlimited runs on prints and wall decor
  • Unlimited runs on T-shirts & apparel
  • Unlimited runs on mugs, calendars, games, greeting cards, web templates

Here is a licensing comparison table that shows you how Standard and Extended licenses stack up against each other.

Club Plus Subscription Basics

The Club Plus subscription was created specifically for small- to medium-sized businesses who need hundreds of stock images per year but at an affordable price.

  • Access to over 8,000,000 premium stock images
  • Includes High Res Photos, Vectors & Fonts (no Videos)
  • 500 XXL downloads each year
  • Extra 250 downloads the first year
  • Bonus image upscales, video downloads, and vehicle templates
  • Royalty-Free License
  • Use your images FOREVER
  • The subscription is only $199 with NO additional fees!
  • NEW: Auto-renew: secure the low-price deal for as long as the offer exists

Club Easy Subscription Basics club easy > Can I retouch a stock photo?

The Club Easy was made especially for designers, small businesses, marketing agencies, bloggers, etc., who need a source of affordable royalty-free stock photos

  • Access to over 8,000,000 premium stock images
  • Includes High Res Photos, Vectors & Fonts (no Videos)
  • 200 XXL downloads each year
  • Extra 100 downloads on your first year
  • Bonus image upscales and video downloads
  • Royalty-Free License
  • Use your images FOREVER
  • The subscription is only $99 with NO additional fees!
  • NEW: Auto-renew: secure the low-price deal for as long as the offer exists

See if Club Easy is the right fit for you by clicking here

Why Alter Stock Images?

One of the benefits of using a professional stock photo agency is access to a catalog of images that can work in any number of settings and situations and can be customized to make every project personal and professional.

The limitations when using stock photos, especially under standard license agreements, allow you unparalleled access to changing images for your creative projects. Now that you know that alterations and retouching of stock images are generally permitted for royalty-free stock photos, you can feel confident that your editing of stock photos is not as much of a gray area anymore.

While standard license agreements can vary, they generally hold true that you can make modifications, retouches, image edits, and more to your image as long as you follow the rules laid out by stock agencies. You can feel confident that by buying a Club Easy or other Club subscription plans, you don’t have to worry much about changing stock photo because of its flexible license agreement.

To buy a Club Easy subscription click here, or if you have a need for more images, purchase a Club Plus or Club Ultimate subscription.

  1. This retouch photo idea is great and more essential resources. thanks for this

  2. That was really a very informative content you shared. Many people like me are confused that what to do with the stock images for editing. But after reading this post I am quite clear about the do and don’t about this type of images. Explanation with the examples was much helpful to understand.

  3. hi i am from a book publishing company can i use stock images using standard licence to make children books

    • Hi Steven, most stock agencies like ours will actually let you use the standard license if the images are used as a secondary item in the book. You just need to make sure to be below the maximum print-run of 300,000 or 500,000. On the other hand if this is, for example, a book with only graphics to let kids color them, then you would need to a buy a extended license. This is because the main part of the book are the images. I hope that answer helps a bit.

  4. I purchased a stock photo to use to promote our honey business. I was hoping to add our business logo to this but am having difficulty adding text to this photo and removing what is currently there. Help please!

  5. Thank you for this informative content.

  6. Avatar of Rosie Williams
    Rosie Williams March 4, 2021 at 11:34 am

    This really important tips for Photoshop Retouching. Thanks for sharing with us.

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