Are “Royalty Free” photos free of charge?

“Royalty-free” within the realm of stock photography means that the creator of the content (the photographer, in this case) has granted resale rights of their work to a stock agency. This agent (usually a stock photography agency) can then resell the content to a buyer at a one time cost, with a commission paid to the photographer every time the content is sold. The buyer of the royalty-free content can then use it as many times as they like, for as long as they like, and they do not have to pay any additional fees (royalties) to the original photographer. This agreement thus relieves the buyer of current and future copyright concerns.

“Royalty Free” does not mean free

The term “royalty free” does not mean free of charge, as the initial payment to the agent must take place; it just means that additional payments are avoided in the future.  The purchase of royalty-free content does not guarantee any exclusivity rights, however, as the content creator retains the copyright, and can sell the image himself or via other sales channels.

There are some restrictions to consider when purchasing royalty-free content:

  • a royalty-free license may not include the right to use the image for commercial purposes, such as printing the image on goods to be sold like tote bags, t-shirts or coffee mugs, or selling the image as a poster or print. (You may need to purchase a extended licence for this purpose).
  • The license does not include the right to resell the content to someone else, or to share it.
  • The content cannot be posted for download by others.

There may be other restrictions which differ from seller to seller.  Buyers must always be sure to read the license terms and conditions before purchasing. So while royalty-free does not mean “free”, it is an inexpensive way of obtaining content for a wide range of uses for an unlimited time period, and is very cost-effective.

Free Images

You can download free images from most stock photo agencies. We publish the best free photos within one free photo category. Feel free to download them as soon as you can. They will only stay one week for free at the most stock photo agencies.

Royalty Free Images from Shutterstock

Find “Royalty Free” images from one of the biggest Royalty-Free Stock Agency – Shutterstock by entering your search term into the Royalty-Free image search above.


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 and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, 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.

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