What are editorial images licences?

An editorial image license for stock photos is one that lets you use the stock photo for editorial, non-commercial purposes only.

A photo under editorial license will be highlighted as such by the stock agency, as it means the image may show a brand, a trademarked logo or product, a public personality, or recognizable people, without a signed release or with limited releases. Why images are put under editorial license, is up to the photographer and the stock photo agency.

The main concern with editorial images is that they cannot be used for commercial-oriented designs, and so it's important for stock photo buyers to understand how an image with an editorial license can be used, and how it cannot be used.

How can an editorial image be used?

An image with an editorial license, as the name indicates, can only be used for editorial purposes, which is, to illustrate an event, concept, or idea, without a direct profitable gain.

You can use editorial photos in the following ways:

  1. In a newspaper or magazine article
  2. On a blog or website, to describe an idea, not to brand or promote anything
  3. In a non-commercial presentation (video, slideshow)

For example, if you were to report news on a cyber attack, you would need hacker stock images to accompany your article.

An editorial image can only be used in ways where this is no personal benefit or commercial gain.

An editorial licensed image can not be used for the following:

  1. Any commercial purposes, including advertising or promotions
  2. To receive any fees from a third party sponsor or endorsement

How do I know a photo has an editorial license?

Only a few stock photography agencies have editorial licensed images. Dreamstime, iStock, 123rf, Shutterstock and Bigstock. On each of these stock photo agency websites, their search tool has an option to search for editorial licenses images only. The stock agency websites highlight that the image has an editorial image, so check what their format is.

istockphoto editorial > What are editorial images licences?

When you know you are using a stock photo for commercial purposes, and the agency you're using has editorial images in their offer, it's best to narrow your search to exclude editorial licensed photos, and most agencies enable you to do this.

iStock for example places a watermark on their editorial photos that states, editorial image. You can request in your search that editorial images be left out, so your search for a commercially used image doesn't include them. Dreamstime has licensing options as part of their search criteria, so you can search for just Royalty free images. If you forget to request just Royalty free images, when you go to purchase your stock photo, it clearly states that the image has only an editorial license.

Why would I want to buy an editorial licensed photo?

If you are reviewing a product on your blog, it is useful to have a photo of the product you are reviewing. A stock photo of an iPad or Blackberry would be an example. If you are on vacation and want to write a review about a product you came across on your travels, you can find the product with its logo on stock photo agency websites.

Editorial licensed stock photos serve a purpose. As a buyer of stock photos, it is important to understand the value and uses for editorial images as opposed to Royalty free. You can also conduct a better image search if you know to block editorial licensed images from your search options.

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.

  1. I am curious, what if the editorial-use-only image is used on a website of a conference, which is of non-commercial purpose? eg: a knowledge-based conference…

    • Hi Charotte, thank you for your question. This is hard to answer without seeing the actual usage of the image. Editorial images usually can used i.e. in blogs, online-magazines or newspapers. If the website has i.e. a company blog and they use the image within a blogpost, it might be OK.

  2. If a website sells things but the Editorial image is used as a Category image (i.e. a general introduction image) rather than as a product page image where you’re offering something for sale is an Editorial image acceptable to use?

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