Use stock photos and usage rights


Fotoaparat, stock fotografija in pravice uporabe

What is stock photography?

As I wrote in one of my previous blogs: a picture says more than a thousand words. Of course, the phrase is stripped, but nothing says, it is still relevant. In this post, I will touch on, in fact, more about what stock photography is and the rights and restrictions we have when using it.

For most people who are at least a little involved in design or photography , the term “stock” is familiar, but it actually means what it is supposed to mean – that is, stock. In practice, however, it means that we have pre-taken photographs with certain motifs and specific copyrights that allow use for design or agency purposes (editorial). The latter are usually pictorial plugs and supporting pictorial material for news. There, on a symbolic level, they display and equip an article or news item a little more plastically, if we do not have concrete pictorial material available.

The story is similar in graphic design – sometimes it is not advisable to take photos specifically for an ad or banner, but we use what is close to what we want. The exchange of this material has experienced a real euphoric boom with the use of the internet and micro stock agencies. Which again has its consequences, but about that a little lower.


Types of rights to use stock photography

Well, let’s go back to the rights we have when buying such pictorial material. In general, we distinguish between two different rights of use: RF (royalty free) and RM (rights managed). In the case of stock materials, the first is most often used, which roughly has the following characteristics:

  • Even if its use is called “royalty free”, it does not mean that photography is free, it is protected by the same laws as all copyrighted works.
  • We can edit the photo as we wish, but we cannot resell such a product as an original stock product
  • We pay the usage fee for each use or publication
  • There is no time limit for usage (so we can make our own stock, which doesn’t make much sense)
  • Exclusive rights to use such material: the photographer can sell the same photo to any number of customers.
  • Use is limited by the number of reproductions (say 50,000 copies of a newspaper containing the material in question)

“Right managed” use

However, some stock photos may also be subject to more general usage rights, which are typically used for commissioned photos. Usually, such a procedure is used more by stock agencies than micro stock. Such use is called RM, which means “right managed” or licensed use. Here, however, the matter is different and restrictions on use may be as follows:

  • Type of use: agency use, corporate use and “editorial” – use in the media
  • Specific use: advertisement, poster,…
  • Expiration date
  • Circulation
  • Exclusivity (photo may only be used by a specific subscriber who purchases these rights)
  • Territorial restriction
  • Size of use in print media – ½ pages, ¼ pages,…

As we can see, the rights to use stock photography are very different, as are the prices for buying this material. Micro stock agencies (typical examples are Shutterstock and iStock ) usually use the Royalty model (only for larger editions, say 400,000, a special price is paid), and prices range from one to 50 euros. Real stock agencies ( Getty images , Buenos Dias,…) can have prices 10 times higher. The quality of the pictorial material is also much higher there on average, which is not the rule. At micro stok agencies we can find top photos for a ridiculously low price, the problem is mainly in the search.

Since they have an open type of publication / sale, this means that anyone who takes the basic questionnaire can sell the photos and the photos are of sufficient technical quality (not content!). So the biggest challenge is to find a suitable photo that will meet our criteria. Bases can be huge and go up to 10 million photos (or more) and the choice is really big. At the same time, with such a flood of pictorial material, we are faced with a multitude of unsuitable and bad materials – this is the darker side of micro-stock.


For ending

The matter is simply put: if you are an agency with a large budget and very demanding clients and little time, the right choice is a large stock agency that will offer you less, but better quality. However, if the agency is smaller, has limited resources and a little more time for the project – micro stock is an ideal thing. The results can also be top notch, we just have to take a little more time to search. He who seeks finds.