The difference between image licenses and image releases

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chaiyapruek youprasert / Alamy Stock Photo

Get to grips with two of the most commonly confused terms when it comes to buying stock photography and make sure you’re fully covered to use the images you buy. Image licenses and releases are both important in the image-buying process, but they’re very different things! In this blog we explain the key differences between the two and tell you everything you need to know about them.

Image releases

What is a release?

An image release is a signed document that means permission has been given by the people or owners of property that’s featured in an image or video clip for it to be used commercially.

There are 2 types of releases:

  1. Model release – this is for any people featured in an image even if they are un-recognisable, body parts like hands or feet will also require a release.
  2. Property release – this is for any recognisable property that’s included in an image. ‘Property’ refers to things like buildings, trademarks and logos, works of art and brands.

We’ve created a handy infographic to help you tell whether an image needs a release. Check it out here >

Do I need to buy an image that has a release?

Not always. You only need to buy an image that has a release if you’re planning on using the image commercially. Commercial uses include using an image to promote or sell a product, for marketing or advertising purposes, on packaging, for product merchandising or to raise money for a cause.

If you’re going to use an image for editorial purposes, it doesn’t need a signed model release. Editorial uses include using an image in context to support or illustrate an article, story, critique or educational text.

For more information on editorial and commercial uses, check out our blog on understanding editorial and commercial usage.

Image licenses

What is an image license?

If you want to use an image or video clip in your projects, you’ll need to buy a license. Depending on how you’re going to use an image, the license you need to buy will differ.

There may also be other things you need to consider in addition to a license, such as model and property releases, to make sure you have all the right permissions to use the image or video clip. If you have any questions, get in touch with our customer service team.

What types of image licenses are there?

There are two types of image licenses available and the one you need will depend on how you want to use the image.

Royalty-free (RF)

With a royalty-free image license, you choose the size or resolution of the image you need. You pay a one-off price that lets you use the image however you want, for an unlimited amount of time. RF is great for using an image in multiple projects, or if you’re not sure how long a project is going to last for.

Rights-managed (RM)

Rights-managed licenses are ideal if you know exactly how and for how long you’re going to use an image. You can tailor the image license to suit your specific needs. Options include the size of the image, the size of a print run and how long you need the license for, as well as several others.

To give you some examples, here some of the most popular RM licenses that our customers buy:

Personal use license – this is great if you want to use an image for a personal print, card or a gift. Find out more about personal use licenses in our blog!

Presentation license – this is perfect for use on your slides to support the points you’re making in a presentation, using a tool like Powerpoint or Keynote. Get some top tips on using images to make your presentations more engaging! 

Website and online use – this license will cover you for using an image on your website, social media channels or on your blog, for up to 5 years. Start searching for the perfect image now with our advice! 

For more information on image licenses, our handy blog on choosing the right image license will help you out.

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