Do i buy a copyright of a stock photo or how does that work?

Stock photography agencies are a great way to get quality images fast and cheap, but there are some basic licensing matters that you need to understand, to ensure you use the photos you buy correctly.

If you are a new user of stock photography agencies –and stock photos–, these are the basic lessons to learn.

Royalty free copyrights are included

Royalty-free images are copyrighted, meaning the author of the image retains its ownership. When you buy a license from a stock photo agency, you get Royalty-free copyrights, that enable you as a buyer to use the photo but under certain conditions. These conditions can be viewed here or can be reviewed on each stock photography agency website.

If you want images that are not attached to copyright, make sure to check our article on non-copyright images. 

Royalty free does not provide complete Freedom of use

Royalty free does not include using the image on items for resale, the freedom to share with multiple users once a premium stock photo is purchased, or on all editorial pieces. Some digital media uses are outlined, but not all. If you are unsure if you are using a stock photo correctly, get in touch with the stock agency where you purchased the photo and ask.

Google image search does not give you copyrights to a photo

If you use a Google Image search to find photos, be aware that these photos do not transfer any copyrights to you. Google is not a stock photo agency, and you can not purchase the rights of these photos unless

  1. You find the photographer and ask for permission or
  2. Purchase from the stock photography agency that holds the photo.

A watermarked logo on a photo indicates that the photo can be purchased from a stock photography agency.

For a direct and easy search for copyrighted photos, check out Dreamstime and search their image and photo database of over 11,000,000 photos to find a photo you need.

Image © Norebbo /


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.

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