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When can i use editorial images and when do i need to buy a royalty free licence


Editorial Image
The Editorial license seems to live under a cloud of confusion, but it is really, really easy to understand parameters of its use. Editorial images can not be used for any commercial use. Royalty Free stock photos can be used for commercial purposes, but not on resale/retail items.

How editorial images can be used

Editorial licenses are just that, images that can be used for editorial purposes only. Editorial uses are places where there is an article, a commentary or description.

Editorial-licensed images can be used for:

  • Blogs
  • Editorial purposes: newspapers, magazines, editorials, newsletters
  • Non-commercial uses relating to events that are newsworthy or of general interest

Editorial-Use-Only files cannot be used for:

  • Any commercial use
  • Any advertorial use (sections or supplements featuring brand or product names, or sections or supplements for which you receive a fee from a third party advisor or sponsor)

When do I need to purchase a Royalty Free Licensed stock photo

If you will using the image for any commercial non-resale purposes you will need a royalty free image. The list is long and includes themes, templates, marketing campaigns, website images, etc. If you are not sure, either ask the stock photo agency or purchase an image with a royalty free license just to cover your company. Most stock agency websites that sell editorial images will enable you to search only royalty free images if you are still not clear on the uses of editorial licensed images and do not want to be in a position to decide on an editorial or royalty free image.

Why are editorial licenses different?

As a stock photography buyer, you only need to understand how you can use an editorial licensed image. The stock photo agency determines for the buyer how the stock photo is licensed. For the curious buyer, here is the reason why editorial licenses are different and how a stock photo agency determines if a stock photo is issued with an editorial license or a royalty free licence.

These stock photos may contain identifiable brands, locations or people without the proper legal releases, all things required in royalty free licenses but not required in editorial licenses. Example. If a photographer takes a photo of a table and there happens to be a beer on the table and the brand is showing, this is for editorial use only. You might want to check out this post to know more about these license.

A example of a editorial photo from iStockphoto

Editorial Shot – Corona Extra Bottle of Beer
© Giorgio Fochesato / iStockphoto

If a photographer takes a photo of people playing on the beach and the photographer did not get signed releases from the people, this is for editorial use only. If the photographer took the same photo of a beer and did not have the brand in the photo, it would be a royalty free licensed photo.

Beer on table – real stock photo not a editorial one

If the photographer took a photo of the people playing on the beach and was able to get a signed model release, this photo could be licensed as royalty free.

The stock photography agencies that offer editorial licensed images are iStockphoto, Dreamstime and 123RF.  Check out this licensing option and see if the stock photos that fall under could be useful for your editorial content.

Image: © diego cervo / iStockphoto


About the author

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus in 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 the PixelRockstar WordPress Plugin. 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.