What is Stock Photography?

A woman at the top of Gold Hill a steep cobbled street in Shaftesbury
A woman at the top of Gold Hill a steep cobbled street in Shaftesbury

At Media Bakery, we often hear about confusion regarding licensing of Premium (or traditional) Royalty Free and Rights Managed Licensing. This section will provide information on the types of license rights available to image buyers, who they are, and fees collected on images. Always be sure to read and understand all of the license agreements from any stock agency archive before you submit to one as a photographer or buy from one as an photo buyer.

What is a Royalty Free Image? Royalty Free Licenses (RF). 

Every Royalty Free image license grants you basic royalty-free usage rights. For a one-time payment, a buyer (often referred to an End User) may choose the photo size he or she may require and use the licensed photo over and over again for permitted uses defined in the licensing agreement such as advertising and promotional projects, websites, presentations, videos, commercials, catalogs, and broadcasting. Typically Royalty Free imagery provides 1-10 seat licenses for one End User.  A seat license is defined by the number of individuals having the right to access and use the photo at one given time. An End User is defined as an entity or person(s) who can access the photo and use it for for the permitted uses. Most agreements allow the image to be stored on a storage device.

What is a Rights Managed Image? Managed Licenses (RM).

The term Rights Managed is used to describe the temporary use of an image. RM license fees are priced on a per use basis and is often calculated on how many viewers will potentially see the image. The license price is calculated from image display size, placement, geography, medium and duration of use. Specifics matter on a license of a Rights Managed photo, and often after the rights expire, stock agencies use technology services like Image Protect or Pic Scout to scour the internet, looking for expired rights or infringement uses. The End User concept described earlier applies to all photo licensing.

Comping and Preview Policy for both (RF) and (RM) photos

Most stock agencies allow for the download of an photo with an applied watermark. Comping or Preview imagery is imagery that is available to potential image buyers to ‘try before the buy’. These images may only be used for preview purposes. Agencies permits an electronic version of it’s products to be used free of charge for a limited duration only if they are used for personal evaluation, and in any case, noncommercial use, and it’s grant of use is solely for test or sample purposes. Photographers who upload photos to stock agencies should feel comfortable with this business dynamic and use of their photos.

Below is a list of leading North American Stock Photo Archives who license RF & RM photos.

Royalty Free Stock Agencies:

Rights Managed & Royalty Free Stock Agencies:

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