Stock Photography—Terms and Conditions of Use

Read, Understand, Download, Use Responsibly

In a perfect world—with all of the time, talent, and money you desire—you’d art direct and shoot your own photography for your next ad campaign, your new website, or even today’s blog entry. In most cases (and budgets), that’s not a reality. And when it’s not and you need photography, your next step is to determine how to legally obtain and use stock imagery.

HOPEFULLY you know it’s not as easy as right-clicking on some image you come across on the internet and selecting “save as”—or dragging and dropping the picture if you’re on a Mac. Someone else owns the rights to that image and it’s not yours to use as you please just because it appears on the world wide web.

There are rules to be followed!

If you’re new to the world of stock photography sites, and even if your not, reading those lengthy, ever-changing Terms of Use and Content License Agreements (which are different for each site) are enough to make you break out in a cold sweat! Panic generally sets in when you’re not sure of the definitions as it relates to terms like…

Rights-Managed vs. Royalty-Free

Single License Fee

Standard vs. Extended Licensing

Terms of Use



…But, don’t panic! First, determine how you will be using the photo… How many times will it be printed? Where is it going to appear? Will the image appear on a product that is intended to be distributed/sold? How large does the photograph need to be? Are you concerned that a competitor could use the same image you’ve chosen? Answering some of these simple questions will help you choose whether you’ll need, a Rights Managed vs. Royalty Free photo, or Standard vs. Extended License for your stock image needs.

The use of stock photography has become a convenient, budget-friendly go-to for designers, advertisers, and marketers of all types—especially with the accessibility and affordability of popular royalty-free sites offering subscription-based or pay-as-you-go options for downloading what you need. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for with the ability to search by keyword, orientation, color, etc. And, on some sites you can even download illustrations, videos, and sound clips. The downside to royalty-free sites is that someone else may very well like the same image as much as you, and choose to download it for their own use. If that is a concern, although it will be more expensive, you may want to investigate a rights managed image.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Yes there are tons of resources online that direct you to free stock photography sites. While that may suite your needs, be sure to read and understand the specifics. There are Pitfalls to Avoid When Using Stock Photography. And at the end of the day, if you are still unsure or confused, utilize the support contact that is generally in the footer of every website. That’s what it’s there for!