The Editorial license for stock photos seems to live under a cloud of confusion, but it is really, really easy to understand when it makes sense to buy editorial images, and when you need to buy a royalty-free, commercial license.
Now let’s dig a bit further.
There are many stock photography agencies offering editorial collections. The same stock photo sites that sell royalty-free images tend to have a section for editorial-use-only material, that usually has to be bought separately, but still at very affordable prices.
- Shutterstock Editorial is a very large catalog with millions upon millions of super-relevant pictures, current and from archives.
- iStock also has Editorial Use Only pictures available on their site, and they're very high-quality. You have an advanced filter option on their site, to see only Editorial images for any keyword you search.
- Getty Images Editorial segment excels in exclusive and very high-end editorial content, the kind that requires a press-only credential not many outlets can get. The prices are considerably higher for that reason, but it might be worth it for you if you want VIP images.
- Dreamstime is another stock photo site that includes an Editorial collection, that keeps up to date with relevant newsworthy, and public-interest images.
- 123RF stock agency also has Editorial Only images in its large catalog. You can search for them using their search bar, and all Editorial images are marked with an “E” icon plus details of the Editorial-Only license in the image details.
Check out this licensing option and see if the stock photos that fall under could be useful for your editorial content.
Editorial licenses are just that, images that can be used for editorial purposes only. Editorial purposes refer to informational and/or illustrative. Commonly, this covers publications where you use an image to illustrate an article, commentary, or written description. A magazine article, a blog entry, a news video, etc.
Editorial-licensed images can be used for:
- Online publications: bloggers, digital news portals, etc.
- Print publications: newspapers, magazines, editorials, newsletters
- Non-commercial uses relating to events that are newsworthy or of general interest (in social media, for example)
When it comes to editorial imagery, understanding how not to use them is as important, if not more, than knowing the accepted uses. Because misusing editorial images can bring on a considerable amount of legal and financial trouble.
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)
If you will be using the image for any commercial (yet non-resale) purposes, you will need a royalty-free
Every time your design relates to promoting a business or product or generating profits in any way, you will need a commercial-use license agreement. In microstock, that is usually a royalty-free license agreement.
The potential uses for royalty-free images are long and include marketing visuals and campaigns, adverts for all kinds of mediums, but also themes, templates, website images, social media graphics, etc.
If you are not sure about which license you need, you have two possible paths to take: you can ask the stock photo agency directly, or you can purchase an image with a royalty-free license just in case… which is what most stock photo sites will recommend doing if you’re not clear on the parameters of your intended use.
Why? Simply because royalty-free images cover both commercial and non-commercial usage, whereas editorial images only cover editorial, non-commercial purposes. It makes sense to get the most coverage possible to avoid any misuse and consequent legal problems.
Besides the fact they are for illustrative purposes only, the curious stock photo buyer might find it useful to learn the reasons behind editorial photography being labeled as such, and how a stock photo agency decides whether a photo will be issued under an editorial or a royalty-free license.
For a photo to be used commercially, under a royalty-free license, it is necessary that all the visible people, identifiable brands, logos, and trademarked items, as well as locations and private property, are properly authorized for said use through legal release documents (a model release, a property release, etc.)
When images contain one or more of the above-listed subjects without a legal release, said image can only be used for editorial purposes. For example, if a photographer takes a photo of a busy table, and there happens to be a beer bottle on it with its brand label showing, but no release from the brand owners is included, then the photo will be for editorial use only.
Keep in mind, that editorial licensing has different contract models. Rights-managed editorial images have the usage terms tailored according to the desired use, and pricing accordingly. But most microstock sites have editorial licenses that are similar to royalty-free in the sense that they include a generic list of accepted uses, and for an affordable one-time fee (but they are NOT suitable for commercial use).
An example of an editorial photo from iStockphoto
But if the photographer took the same photo of a beer on the table, but the bottle wasn't branded, it would be a royalty-free licensed photo.
Another example: if a photographer takes a photo of people playing on the beach, and they do not get signed releases from said people, this picture will be for editorial use only. If the photographer is able to get model releases signed by all the subjects portrayed, this photo could be licensed as royalty-free.
One more: a regular person might take out their iPhone and document in pictures a breaking news event happening in front of them. Instead of sharing them with the world under the public domain, they might put them up for licensing, so other media outlets can use them to illustrate their coverage of said news. Since the person wouldn’t have any signed releases for people or private property depicted, but the content in the images would be considered newsworthy, the images could only be licensed under editorial terms.
You might want to check out this post to know more about these licenses.
Header image: © shutterstock.com/editorial