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How to Use Stock Photos Legally?

What catches your eye instantly when you land on a new webpage?

For most viewers, it’s the visuals! Images generally take up prominent space on a website. They also make the page more vibrant and noticeable.

However, integrating images in web content is far from a piece of cake. You cannot take any photo from the internet and infuse it into your content. On the other hand, taking original photos requires time, effort, and resources. Thus, marketers rely on stock photos to make their webpage visually appealing.

Purchasing stock photos becomes easier with time and practice, but initially, dozens of questions whirl around one’s mind. Especially, the information about legal use seems confusing. Plus, it often overwhelms new marketers. The critical point is not to use stock photos without permission. Or else, you can land in hot waters as owners can take you to court. Let’s delve into the pointers that explain how you can use stock without violating any rules:

Several images on the internet are copyright protected. Using them without owners’ permission can get you sued. When choosing photos for their digital space, most marketers often consider only the quality and relevancy. However, you need to look into copyrights as well. Content creators often do not like their work to be used without mentioning their name. Some demand money, but several only want to be given credit. Look into this thoroughly and take the necessary permission from the author before uploading any image.

Stock photos may not have a prominent watermark or a copyright sign. Still, they may be copyrighted. The absence of a copyright sign gives some people the illusion that they can use images without seeking permission. For many marketers, free stock photos are a lifesaver. Most of them are generally appealing. If they fit well with content, marketers do not search further and zero down on them. However, this can be a huge mistake and may land you in trouble. Whenever you come across a stock photo that you find suitable for your web page, do not rush to integrate it. Dig in deep to ensure that you do not violate any law.

2. Check Licenses

Before you begin using stock photos, you must put in the effort to understand the different licenses available.


Royalty-free stock images are the most affordable type of stock photo license. The pictures are usually sold as per file size. Once purchased, the photos can be used as many times as needed – for different projects. Still, you must be vigilant and read the terms and conditions thoroughly. Most images do not allow buyers to sell or gift pictures forward. Even after purchasing, you may not be allowed to use photos as a part of a trademark.

Rights Managed

The most exclusive license of stock photos is rights-managed. As a buyer, you pay according to your use of the image. One license covers consigned use, and you must purchase another license to use the image separately.

Extended License

An upgraded version of a royalty-free license is an extended license. Here the buyer pays once to get exclusive rights for the image. However, an extended license has its limitations. It is only allowed for specific uses, such as items printed for commercial selling like t-shirts and mugs. They are also allowed for unlimited print runs.

3. Use Creative Commons License

A nonprofit organization that provides free yet easily integrated copyright licenses is creative common. It allows users to use stock photos while agreeing to creators’ conditions. Generally, a common creative license requires you to credit the source. Sometimes owners restrict the usage and allow only for specific uses. Creative Commons license is easy to get. If you agree to creators’ terms, you can use high-quality stock photos, making your blog stand out.

Double-check your images to see if you have collected all the necessary releases. If you are using stock photos for editorial use, you do not have to worry about the releases. However, you need to obtain the owners’ consent for commercial services. For example, suppose your chosen stock image has a clear picture of a person, animal, or private property. In that case, you need to take written consent. The same rule applies to landmarks such as Eiffel Tower and logos.

5. Identify the Use

Are you using stock images for editorial purposes or for commercial use?

Before you search for your images, find the answer to the above question. A common phrase on many images is ‘fair use.’ It is a legal term and means that some excerpt of content can be used for specific purposes, even without payment. Plus, you do not need to wait for the owner’s permission. If you are using a stock image for news reporting, criticism, or educating people, you can use some parts without permission. Suppose you are using a stock image to advertise your product. You must trace the photo source and do the needful before using the image.

6. Understand Key Terms of Licensing

License agreements use legal vocabulary that is not easy to understand. Ensure that you understand all the terms before you use any stock image. Let’s find out what are the standard licensing terms:

Seat license: Talks about the number of people eligible to use the image. A single-seat license is for one individual. In contrast, multi-seat licenses can canter around 3 to 5 persons. Single and Multiple Application: As the name applies, there can be one user and a single product in a single application. Multiple application has more than one user; however, the end-product is single. Commercial Use/ Editorial Use: Commercial use licensed images are for selling. Editorial use license can be used to specify a point.

7. Credit or Not to Credit

Users are often confused about whether they should credit the original source or leave the accreditation. Unless the license specifies that attribution is necessary, you do not have to do so. Both royalty-free and rights-managed license does not require you to credit the source. Still, you can give credit to the source as an ethical practice.


Stock photos are marketers’ go-to place whenever they need an aesthetically appealing visual. Although they often get what they are looking for, they ignore the legalities. Using stock photos requires more than copying and pasting them in the website content. Beginners often feel overwhelmed with the technicalities involved in using stock photos. The points mentioned earlier will help you use stock photos without getting yourself embroiled in legal trouble. Good luck!

Author Bio:

Amos Struck is a publisher and entrepreneur of the stock imagery niche. His passion includes digital marketing, technology, and visual images. He focuses on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors, and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry.

Alice Jacqueline is a creative writer. Alice is the best article author, social media, and content marketing expert. Alice is a writer by day and ready by night. Find her on Twitter and on Facebook!

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