What Are Royalty Free Images?
Usually, when you want to use an image that someone else has created – a photographer or an artist, for example – you have to pay royalties. These images are called “rights managed images”. Every time you use one of these images in a different place – such as on your website, in a printed advertisement, or in an online marketing campaign – you have to pay again. The longer that you use the image, the more you owe.
Royalty free, as the name suggests, means that you don’t have to pay the artist royalties every single time you use the image. Once you have a license to use the image, you can use it as many times you want, for as long as you want, without having to pay any additional fees.
Many stock companies sell thousands of royalty free images, all of which you’re free to use once you’ve purchased them. Everyone else who uses the site can also purchase these images, though – meaning they aren’t exclusive to your business.
Does “Royalty Free” Mean I Don’t Have to Pay?
Unfortunately, the name is a bit of a red herring. Royalty free images aren’t actually free. You still have to pay to use them – it’s just that you only have to pay once. As soon as you’ve paid a one-time fee, you’re then free to use the image as often as you’d like.
Royalty free licences are perpetual. This means you can use royalty free images forever, as long as your business continues to operate, without having to pay a penny more. You aren’t limited to any geographical region, which can often be the case with rights managed images.
As for the price? This will depend on which stock agency you use. Some stock agencies are more expensive than others, and some charge more if you want a higher resolution image. They can range from under £10 to thousands of pounds per image. Some sites have the option of subscribing instead – you pay a flat rate per year and you’re then allowed to use any image that the site offers.
Where Can I Find Royalty Free Images?
There are hundreds of stock agencies out there, all offering countless great quality royalty free images.
Here are 5 great sites for royalty free images.
- Getty Images: one of the most popular and well-known stock image sites. The majority of their images are extremely high quality and shot by professional photographers.
- iStock: this is a very user-friendly website, with affordable images and good search functions. iStock sometimes even offer free stock photos just for signing up.
- Shutterstock: with 33 million royalty free images, you could use this site for years and never get bored. Over 20,000 new images are uploaded each day.
- Adobe Stock: these images are specifically designed for use with other adobe products such as Photoshop. There are millions of photos, illustrations, vector graphics and even videos.
- Bigstock: this site offers pay-as-you-go and subscriptions, depending on which suits you best. You can buy one image at a time, or subscribe to them all.
Are There Any Restrictions on How I Can Use Royalty Free Images?
Yes, but not as many as with rights managed images. With royalty free images, you’re generally allowed to use them wherever you want, for as long as you want, without having to think about it. However, there are some restrictions.
Firstly, images aren’t transferable. That means if you’re the one who has bought the license, you can’t share the image with, or gift it to, anyone else. Nor can you sell it on.
Secondly, although you can use the images on your website and in marketing campaigns, be careful with photos including people. You can’t make it look as though the people in the photo are personally endorsing your product.
You also can’t use a royalty free image in your logo or trademark. Although you have a license to use the image, you don’t actually own it. So if you include it in a logo, you won’t be able to register the design as your own.
Is There Anywhere I Can Find Completely Free Images?
If you’re strapped for cash, there are sites where you can find completely free images for commercial use. These images are generally labelled “public domain” or “creative commons”. Sites which offer free images include StockSnap, Pixabay and Unsplash.
There are drawbacks to this, though. Firstly, sites that offer free images are often very limited. The images are often not as good, and they don’t have as wide a range of pictures to choose from.
You also have to be careful, because if you use an image without paying for it, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re not infringing on copyright. Sometimes, images end up on these sites accidentally, when they aren’t actually eligible for free use. A classic example is any photo containing the Eiffel Tower at night – the lights on the Eiffel Tower are actually copyrighted, so it’s technically illegal to offer an image of them for free.
So, that’s everything there is to legally using images for your business. Now you can go out there and start finding your pictures! Whatever site you decide to use for your images, though, be sure you read the terms and conditions so that you understand any restrictions.