How to use Stock Photos Legally for your Business Website

Do you know the one reason most business sites don’t perform well? It’s the absence of attractive visual content.

Let’s face it, media assets such as photos and videos significantly affect a website’s readability. These elements break large blocks of text and make the overall content easy to skim through.

Legal stock photos

But we can’t deny that keeping a professional photographer in the loop might not be a financially sound decision. Not only can it be expensive but immensely time-consuming too.

So, how do you ensure that your website is visually appealing without breaking the bank? The answer is easy; you have to resort to stock photos. And as we have come to know, there are various incredible free stock photo sites across the internet. Each of these sites boasts a massive library of elegant assets.

But using stock photos isn’t exactly a walk in the park. In fact, there is a set of legalities attached to their use.

But what are these legalities? How can we use stock photos for our business website? These are the questions that I will be answering in this article.

So, without any further ado, let’s get right into it.

Is it Legal to Download a Photo from a Stock Photography Website and Use it for Commercial Gains?

Interestingly, the answer to this question varies from photo to photo and site to site. Just because we can download an asset from a stock photo site (for free or a minimal fee) doesn’t permit us to use it freely.

There are stock media files that we can only use for editorial purposes. For revenue-generating uses such as advertising, we can only use stock that is licensed for commercial use. Using any other media file can land us in legal trouble.

The aforementioned license is mainly issued by the file’s original copyright owner. If that isn’t the case, there’s a chance that the right to issue a license is in the possession of a distributor.

When it comes to free stock sites, some of these clearly specify which files are licensed for commercial use and which aren’t. Despite that, some people bypass the disclaimers and proceed to use the image for their business website. This is a sure-shot method of having a legal notice arriving at our doorstep.

Photographer and cameraman Simon Palmer found out about the do’s and don’ts of using a stock photo the hard way. All it took for him to land in legal trouble was to download an image from Unsplash and use it on his blog.

Different Types of Stock Photo Licenses

Stock photo licenses

There are legal aspects, and people are not sure if they can use stock photos for their projects legally? The answer is mostly yes, but there are variations in each case. There are different license types for stock photos, and they guide users about any limitations with using those pictures.

To remove any confusion, one must understand the various license types. It’s not a very complicated subject, and a little bit of attention can get the job done.

1. Rights Managed

A right managed license has the most restrictions with it, generally associated with very high-quality assets. The cost of the image depends on several variables such as the usage of the assets, the image size, and placement, etc.

You must utilize the image according to the specific agreed-upon terms. Using it for other purposes or projects not under the scope of the license can be subject to legal action by the asset owners.

2. Royalty-Free

The images are sold based on file sizes, essentially charging more for higher resolution than the lower resolution of the same image. You can use these images for most kinds of projects without any issue.

However, there are certain restrictions on the use of royalty-free images as well. You must fully understand the terms and conditions to ensure that you can use the photos for your core purpose.

You cannot use these images for creating trademarks or selling them to third parties. You also cannot gift them to a third party. Pictures with clear pictures of models cannot be used for product or service endorsements or portray models in a negative light.

3. Extended License

The extended license allows specific commercial uses of the stock photos, such as printing them on mugs, t-shirts, etc. These can be distributed to third parties as well. An extended license is an upgraded version of a royalty-free license that does not restrict how you utilize the images. It is practically a one-time fee model.

4. Creative Commons License

Creative Commons is another option for people looking to use creative work from others. It is an organization that helps by providing free and easy-to-use licenses. Many individuals and companies allow their work, such as photography, to be used for creative purposes by others.

These assets can be used and modified as per the needs of a given project without any legal violations. Attributions are generally required. There are different variations in the creative commons licenses, so be sure to study them and ensure that your creative commons license allows the kind of creative freedom you’re looking for.

Using stock photos

Best Practices for using Stock Photos

While getting a license covers you for the most part, be sure that you have paid attention to each aspect. Some important points to bear in mind while using stock photos are

  • It’s better to attribute the image to the photographer. Even if it isn’t needed, it is a safer and moral path to go.
  • Read licenses for your images closely and ensure that you do not violate the agreement in any way. Such attention to detail will help your campaigns while ensuring you do not face any legal trouble.
  • Be careful with your picture selections. Easily identifiable models, properties, or landmarks may not be covered in your license, and they can object to their appearance in your work. It’s best to avoid such images in the first place.
  • Try to select high-quality images while avoiding blurry ones. Also, avoid using generic photos since they’re probably used in many campaigns already and do not leave a great impression.
  • The images must also incorporate well with your content, and your audiences should relate to them. Also, ensure that rival brands are not using the same photos.

The Bottom Line

We can conclude that many license options allow a person to use high-quality stock photos for personal and commercial use. It is, however, vital that you understand the permissions and restrictions of the license you’ve acquired and follow them to the letter.

Being careful about these details will help you avoid any copyright violations as well as unwanted legal drama. By taking some extra time out to ensure you get the right images, you can make your website, campaign, or any other kind of project look amazing.


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