What to do if you see yourself in a stock photo

A busy Oxford Street, London, England, UK
© P.D Amedzro / Stockimo / Alamy

There are 2 reasons why you might be featured in a stock photo

1. You‘ve recognised yourself in a photo that was taken in a public place without you knowing, and the photographer is selling the photo on a stock site

2. You’ve agreed to be in the image, given permission to the photographer and signed a model release

Depending on which one of these you fall under there are a few things you can do. In this blog we’ll be looking at option 1, if you‘ve had your photo taken in a public place without knowing. Next week we’ll discuss the best things to do if you’ve appeared in an image that you’ve signed a model release for.

3 things you need to know about being in a stock photo (when you haven’t given permission)

1. The photographer probably hasn’t done anything wrong
Although laws vary from country to country, more often than not it’s perfectly legal to sell an image of a person or group of people without their permission as long as the photo was taken in a public place. For more information on what rights photographers have when shooting in public, there’s a great article on the Digital Camera World website.

2. Unfortunately, being in the photo doesn’t mean you’re entitled to any money or a free print!
Even if you’re in the photo, the image still belongs to the photographer. And as they own the copyright of the photo they’re the only one who’s entitled to money when it’s used. If you would like a copy of the image you can buy it from our site for around £10/€10/$15.

3. Sometimes it’s not ok for your image to be used without your permission, even if you’re in a public place
When it is ok to use the image without permission (a model release):

  • If a photo of you is used editorially* e.g. featured in a newspapers or magazine to illustrate a story.
  • If the photo is a crowd shot e.g. walking through oxford circus, or in a crowd at a festival

When it’s not ok to use your image without permission:

  • If the image is being used commercially* e.g. if it’s being used by a company in their advertising or marketing campaigns and they’ve made it look like you are endorsing their product
  • If the image is being used on consumer goods e.g. greetings cards, t shirts or calendars

If you think a photo of you has been used in either of these ways without your permission you should call the stock agency for advice, or contact your lawyer.

Quick definitions:

Model Release – A legal release form signed by the person or people in a photograph, giving permission for the photographer to use or sell the photo in one form or another.

Editorial use – Editorial use generally means when an image or clip is used to illustrate a newsworthy article, a critique or an educational text.

Commercial use – Commercial use generally means that an image is used to sell a product, promote something or raise money for a cause. This includes use in advertising, marketing, promotion, packaging, publication covers, advertorials and consumer or merchandising products.

*Friendly disclaimer, we’re not lawyers and this advice could change. If you’re unhappy about the use of a specific photo that we’ve sold please give us a call or get some legal advice.


  • David Oneppo

    How can you publish worldwide photos of my personal property and sell them on the Internet and that be ok…..thru Alamo who claims the photographer has the right to take this picture and sell it then the photographer and Alamo are making money off my personal property without my permission and that is illegal. Please address this situation immediately.

  • Lorraine

    How can you sell a photo of a child that was taken without permission. This was done at an event where you had to pay to enter????

    • K Lio

      I have the same issue–a clear, close-up photo of a child, identifying his family name and the location, being displayed and sold on the site without parental permission (and this is a parent who has experienced stalking, no less!). I’m hoping they’ll remove it without a fuss.

  • J kaur

    How can they uploaded the pictures on worldwide without the permission? I want to sue this company and photographers, please give me an advice for the procedure.
    Thank you!

  • Mike Stratton

    That’s me tattooing in the photo at Tattoo EXPO ’95.
    The tattoo artist(s) would at least be credited if/when their images were used in/by any publishing media of the day, taken by the small handful of professional photographers at the time & it was generally accepted that the photos taken by the attending public were for their own personal use.

    Of course, this was ‘back in the day’ when tattooing was still just a minority interest, the ‘interweb’ thingy and digital cameras etc., were in their infancy, phones were for actually making phone calls on and none of us imagined that a tattoo fans casual snap would one day be making £££’s for someone else – and I would be required to pay HOW MUCH??!! if I wanted a copy of it.


    Trust me, I have MUCH better images from this and previous/subsequent tattoo conventions, so wouldn’t pay ten pence for it, never mind ten quid!

    What I DO know is that:
    a) I didn’t give my permission the the poor quality amateur snaps taken by a member of the public/tattoo fan at this (or any other tattoo event) to be used by any publishing media that existed then (or in the future, as in this case!)
    b) Neither did my customer – especially not with the ‘Woman smokes a cigarette whilst getting a tattoo on her leg’ title to it! (smoking wasn’t the crime back then it’s made out to be these days, either!

    As this is now the internet age and anything/everything/anyone/everyone is fair game, to be used by anyone to rinse a coin from – it’s the poor quality, crappy images that are being charged a ridiculous sum for that bug me…

    IF you want decent images of tattooists, tattooing, women being tattooed (and smoking too!) use some half way decent ones, not this sort of low end shit – and don’t line someone’s (that deserve nothing but contempt) pockets for them, either.

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