Fanatic Studio / Alamy Stock Photo

How to make sure you’re legally covered to use an image

As an image buyer, it’s really important to understand the legal side of things to make sure there aren’t any complications down the line. We’ve put together a three-step guide to explain releases and licensing, so that you can be confident your image purchase is safe.

1. Check you have the right releases

The first step is to identify whether or not you need a release for your image. To do this, you need to think about two things:

  1. Does the image contain people, or property such as works of art, trademarks, brands or buildings?  If it doesn’t, you don’t need a release, but if it does you need to think about…:
  2. How you’re going to use the image. Generally, your usage will fall under one of the below categories:

Editorial use – using an image to illustrate an article, story, critique or educational text. Providing the image is used in context to support or illustrate the text, you shouldn’t need a model or property release.

Commercial use – where an image is used to endorse or sell a product, promote something, or raise money for a cause. This includes marketing, advertising, packaging and consumer or merchandising products.

If you want to use an image that contains recognisable people or property for commercial purposes, you will need a model or property release for the image.

So, what are model and property releases?

Model and property releases are signed documents that give permission for images that feature identifiable people or property to be used for commercial purposes.

Ultimately, it’s down to you to make sure the image you’re buying has the correct releases, so if you’re in doubt, speak to your legal team or, if you’re using a stock image library like Alamy, get in touch with the customer support team.

For more details on releases take a look at our releases information page or download our helpful PDF.

2. Buy your image from a reliable source or choose an image with a creative commons license

With so many images to choose from on the internet, it can be difficult to tell whether an image has the correct releases and licenses needed for your use. With this in mind, it’s essential that you source your imagery from a site that you trust.

Using a reputable stock image library is the safest way to make sure you have all the relevant information about an image before you purchase it. What’s more, if you’re using a stock image library like Alamy, you can always contact the customer service team at any time if you’re not sure of anything.

Buying an image with a creative commons license is another way to make sure you have the right permissions to use an image that is in copyright. A creative commons license means anyone can use the image for free. Find out how you can tell whether an image has a creative commons license in our blog ‘Is it safe to use Google images?’

3. Make sure the license you buy is right for your usage

How you want to use the image will determine what license you need.  Making sure you buy the right license will mean you’re fully protected to use the image and you will avoid any complications down the line.

If you spend some time before you buy to check the details of the license, including where and how you can use the image – e.g. on a website or social media page, in a magazine, or in a presentation – and how long you can use the image for, this should help to ensure you have selected the right license to suit your use.

Alamy have put together some great price packages that are based on the most popular licenses and uses. If you’re unsure what the best option is for you, get in touch with our expert team who are available on the phone, live chat and via email.

Want to know more about licenses and releases? These handy blogs will help:

Model and property releases explained

How to buy images and stock photos online

I’ve signed a model release, what rights do I have?

With over 150,000 contributors and 675 agencies from 173 countries, we’re committed to ensuring that you can find the perfect image whether it’s local or international. And with 150,000 images added everyday, many of them exclusive to the Alamy library, you’re bound to see something new. Our unedited library offers you the most diverse collection, brimming with high quality, unique, authentic imagery. With Alamy, you can always see more.