Ivan Nesterov / Alamy Stock Photo

How to find a royalty-free image

When buying an image license a royalty-free (RF) image can be a flexible option, especially if you’re looking to buy an image to use across multiple projects. We’ve created this two-step guide to help you find and buy RF images:

1. Check the image’s annotation
2. Filter your search by license type

1. Check the image’s annotation

Depending on where you’re searching for images, the image annotation could appear in a couple of places:

a) In the search results

Most stock image libraries show the license information on the search results page.

In this example from Alamy’s website, an information bar appears as you hover over the image, telling you straight away that the image is ‘RF’.

Royalty-free image of a giraffe

b) On the image preview page

If you can’t see the license information in the search results, try clicking on the image to go through to the image preview page. Every stock image site will display the information differently, but the license type information should be displayed on this page.

On the Alamy site, you’ll know if the image is royalty-free if, when you select ‘See pricing options’, the option for ‘Royalty-free license options’ is displayed to the right of the image.

2. Filter your search by license type

Whether you’re searching for images using a search engine or on a stock image library, there are filters available to help you narrow down your search.

Use the filters to search by license type.  By selecting RF images only you can be confident that the images you’re viewing are all royalty-free and that you’ll be able to use them for your project.

It’s easy to filter your search on Alamy –  you just enter your search term in the search box, check the ‘Royalty-free (RF)’ box and your results will be RF only.

Royalty-free search bar example

Why choose royalty-free?

With a royalty-free image, you select the resolution you need, then pay a one-off fee that allows you to use the image however you want, for an unlimited amount of time. Royalty-free is perfect if you want to use an image across multiple projects. It’s also a good choice if you don’t know how long your project will last, and therefore how long the image will be in use.

Start exploring our collection of RF imagery now, by taking a look at our royalty-free category.

This article from the Houston Chronicle gives a good definition of royalty-free images.

What are the alternatives?

Royalty-free isn’t the only option when it comes to image licenses, and depending on what you want to use the image for, a rights-managed (RM) license could be the best option for you. With an RM license the cost is based on how you want to use the image and how long you want to use it for.

You can find more info on RM licenses here.

Head to our picture research page for tips on how to search and use filters
Want help finding the perfect stock photo? Check out our insider tips blog post


Alamy is a global digital platform for creatives looking for fresh and inclusive content. Powered by Create search, Alamy delivers fast, catalogued search results, which include editorial photos, vectors, 360-degree images and videos from individual photographers, picture agencies and archives. Its global contributor base supplies upwards of 150,000 new images a day.

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