Stock photos are an easily available and affordable resource to solve your creative needs. All of them come with different licenses, though, so it helps to know your license lingo! In total, there are three types of commonly used stock photo licenses out there that you should know about. Let me break it down for you.
Stock Content Licenses
1. Creative Commons
Photos that have the creative commons license are generally free to use. This means you’re also free to adapt and edit the images as you like. How does one tell if a photo has a creative commons license? Look out for the CC mark on the stock photos. For most creative commons-licensed stock photos, you’ll need to credit the original creator or state the source. There are also other cases where you’ll need to provide additional attributes. If you’re not sure, contact the source of that photo to check what type of attributes you should give.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into the two main types of stock content licenses below.
2. Royalty Free (RF)
While there is ‘free’ in the name, stock photos that are royalty free (RF) aren’t exactly free for you to use! Purchasing a royalty free stock photo doesn’t relate to you owning the image. There are a few limitations that we’ve addressed right here. In short, buying royalty free stock photos means you’re buying the license fee. You don’t need to worry about paying additional fees to the owner of the photo.
The price point ranges depending on the size of the stock photo you need, and what you intend to use it for. Royalty free stock libraries also provide Extended licenses, which cost a little more than your standard RF. This is because you’ll have an increased distribution volume of the image and certain permissions which the RF license doesn’t allow. Explore all the stock content licenses that fall under the royalty free umbrella right here.
3. Rights Managed
- What you’ll be using the photo for
- How you’ll be circulating the photo
- The type of media you will use the photo in/on
While stock photo licenses are confusing to navigate, they protect a photographer or creator’s rights to their creative work. When in doubt, always try to purchase from a stock photo library to avoid any legal issues that may potentially arise. If you’re still digesting this, here’s what to keep in mind: copyrights apply to ALL images you see on the Internet. The rule of thumb is, just like material possessions, everything belongs to someone even if it’s online. Taking things that aren’t originally yours is considered stealing. 🙂
Curious as to what happens if you commit infringement of copyright? Be prepared to take down that photo you used or deal with some very costly legal penalties. In severe cases, you could also be staring into the face of a lawsuit. About to make a purchase on 123RF? Here’s a quick read on which stock content license you should go for, and a comprehensive guide on where to apply stock photos.