Royalty Free Images: What, Why, Where and How

Buying stock photos online is one of the best ways to get professional images to use in your projects: it's fast, it's easy, and it's safe. And if you choose Royalty Free images, it's also very cheap.

When you buy stock photos online, you're not really buying the photo, but a license to use the photo. You pay a determined fee for the right to use the images in certain defined ways. Royalty Free license is one of the most convenient license types in the market: simple, flexible, and low cost.

At Stock Photo Expert we focus in agencies selling Royalty Free images for this very reason, but we want you to understand it too. Here we will tell you all you need to know about this licensing model, so read on and learn!

What are Royalty Free Images

Are images sold under a Royalty Free (RF) license. Before we start, it's important to clarify the most common mistake to make regarding these photos: Royalty Free images are NOT free. The “free” in the name refers to the lack of further royalty obligations; when you buy a RF licenses, the initial fee is the only fee you'll ever pay, you are not required to pay again for the usage, not for volume, time extension nor geographic placement. As the name indicates, it's free of royalties. But you do have to pay for the right to use the image.

Now that's out of the way, let's see the main features in this licensing model.

RF is a very simple and straight-forward license. Although of course the legal vocabulary in the stock agencies' license agreements might sound complicated. In essence, it's a one-time-pay license that gives you multiple usage rights in perpetuity. In plain English: you pay for the photo once, and it's yours to use forever, in as many projects as you want (as long as they fall within the accepted uses stated in the license).

There are no time limitations, no geographical restrictions, nor further obligations. And unless expressly said, there are no prohibitions about simultaneous use either, so you can use the same photo in as many ways as you want, paying only once. You can use the same image in your website, in flyers, in a Youtube ad and in your social media channels, for a very modest cost.

Commercial and Editorial Use

This is a key distinction to know when purchasing RF stock photos. Most stock agencies sell Royalty Free stock images for Commercial use. The images have been cleared for copyright, model and property rights (meaning there's legal permission from the people and owners of the property depicted in the images for them to be used), and are legally safe to use in any commercial-related project, such as marketing and advertising, websites, social media, brand identity, corporate material, and more.

But some agencies also include photos under an Editorial Use license. These images are only suitable for editorial purposes: they can be used to illustrate or accompany articles, news coverage, educational content, books, etc. But they cannot be used in any way that reports profits directly. Editorial stock photos commonly are not rights-cleared regarding the people and private property appearing in them. For this reason, it's absolutely forbidden to use them commercially.

It's also worth to know that Commercial RF images can be used for editorial projects, but Editorial RF images should NEVER be used for commercial or for-profit purposes.

Low Prices

Given RF license is perpetual and unrestricted for time and geographic location, this is also a non-exclusive license: many buyers can acquire the same image, and use it in different ways at the same time. While this might reduce the uniqueness in them by a little bit, it also means the photographer who owns the image (and the agency who manages it) can earn from that piece of work over and over.

This is what makes possible to price them so low. RF images are very affordable stock photos: the average price buying on demand is from $1 to $20 each, but this can drop to as little as $0.25 per image if you hire a stock photo subscription.

Why Should I Choose Royalty Free Images

If you've read this far, you likely already figure the answer to this question. RF images are one of the most convenient resources to get professional visuals for your work for several important reasons.

  • It's Simple: All you have to do is pay for the license, and the image is yours to use forever within the accepted terms. No further payments, no hassle.
  • It's Flexible: You can use the image for as long as you want, wherever you want, in any way you want (as long as it respects the license terms). This gives you a wide range of possibilities in visuals and graphics for a minimum investment.
  • It's cheap: You can get all this, for as little as $0.25 per photo, and for $20 max. And that's all you'll ever pay for each image.

Where Can I Buy Royalty Free Images

The best place to buy RF photos is at stock photo agencies. These companies are specialized in image licensing, and their websites host huge libraries with thousands and even millions of images to choose from. Cheap stock photo sites are certainly the best sources for stock images.

Buying at a stock agency you get high quality images, variety of content, and the added value of knowing you're dealing with professionals who know what they are doing and have revised all the images to grant their legal status.

Of course, the next question is “What is the best stock agency to buy from?”. Now, this question has multiple answers, because every buyer has different needs, and the agency that works best for one not necessarily is the best for another. However, this wouldn't be Stock Photo Expert if we were not telling you where to start, right?

Straight to the point, your best bet is to use one of the Top 5 Stock Photo Agencies in the market. These companies are established, reliable, and very successful. Most of them have been in business since over a decade, and their trustworthy status is pared by the quality of their images and their service.

If you want to be more meticulous, then think about your specific needs. Do you want only a handful of images to start with? If this is so, then you should go for on-demand buying. You can learn more about on-demand system (credits or image packs), and you can then choose one of the Best Stock Agencies to Buy On Demand.

Do you need lots of images constantly? If this is your case, then a stock photo subscription is the right choice for you. Learn more about stock photo subscriptions, and when you're ready, find yours in the Top Stock Agencies for Subscriptions

Are you a graphic designer or an online publisher? If you are, you must know your needs might be a bit different than that of a marketer or business owner. In this case, you should check the Best Stock Photo Services for Designers and Online Publishers, you might find a valuable option for you there.

How Can I Use Royalty Free Images

The value in RF stock photos is not just that they are cheap and easy to get, but also that they are very versatile, and can be used for multiple purposes.

Commercial Use

As long as they are labeled as Commercial, these images can be used in many business-related projects. Marketing and advertising is the most obvious one, but not the only. You can use stock photos in your website design, in your corporate material (letterheads, leaflets, etc), in presentations, in promotional material (flyers, etc.), in your in-house decoration, and (with an Extended license) even in T-shirts, mugs, and other products for resale.

The main restrictions in RF Commercial photos is related to copyright and privacy rights. You cannot use stock photos in logos or other trademarked work, because you do not own the rights to the image, but only a license to use it. You cannot use the images in any defamatory, illegal or morally questionable concept that gives a negative connotation to the people depicted in it, and you cannot make use of them in a way that makes it look like the models are endorsing a product or service directly. Lastly, you cannot publish nor make the image available for download as is, and you cannot sell it, gift it nor redistribute it to anyone.

Another important limitation is about reproduction and redistribution. Commonly, the standard RF license has a print/copy run limit, for both digital and print formats (often around 500,000 units), and it forbids using the image in items for resale. But there's also an Extended RF license type that, usually for a higher fee, gives you unlimited copies and usage in products for resale.

You will easily see that the restrictions are very few compared to the usage possibilities, and that you can find multiple ways to make use of your images over and over again, in varios and very different projects, which makes them a very good investment. You get versatile and flexible-use visuals at very low cost, and rest assured you are using legally-safe files.

Editorial Use

Editorial RF photos can be used for pretty much any editorial-related project. Essentially, the images are used to illustrate or accompany text, be it a blog post, a news article, a text book page, etc.

Any use where the purpose of the image is to highlight a point in the body of the text, and not to sell anything or generate profits directly, will fall under Editorial Use.

The main restriction here is commercial use. You absolutely cannot use images under Editorial license for any commercial-related intention. Besides this, all the other above detailed restrictions about sensitive use, reproduction and redistribution also apply.

However, if you run a non-commercial blog, a non-profit organization, or a news publication, you will easily see the value in Editorial RF photos. They give you access to content you would never find available under commercial label (images of celebrities or famous landmarks for example), without breaking the bank.

Exploit the Value in Cheap Stock Photos with Royalty Free Images

So there you go. Royalty Free stock photos are one of the best resources to get high quality photography to use in your designs, due to its low price, usage flexibility, and wide availability.

For a very small sum, you get multiple usage rights with very few restrictions, and the quantity, quality and variety of images offered at stock photo agencies grants you to find a photo that fits your needs.

Are you ready to buy cheap RF images? Then discover the Top 5 Stock Agencies to Buy Photos, and start downloading compelling imagery for your projects!

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