Brian Jackson / Alamy Stock Photo

Understanding editorial and commercial usage

Understand the difference between using an image for editorial and commercial purposes and buy your stock images with the confidence that you’ve got all the right permissions to use them. In this blog, we explain:

  1. What an editorial use is
  2. What a commercial use is

Editorial use

Editorial use is when you use an image to support or illustrate an article, educational text or critique. An example of an editorial usage would be an image used in a newspaper to support an article.

How to tell if an image is available for editorial use

Most of the images on Alamy can be used editorially as you don’t usually need a model or property release. There are some images that have been restricted for editorial use, but if this is the case, you’ll be able to see this on the image page. You’ll notice a blue box above the pricing section of the image page, which will notify you of any restrictions that are in place. For example:

Restricted for editorial use

Commercial use

Commercial use is when an image is used to promote or endorse something, sell a product or raise money for a cause. Common commercial uses include the use of an image in advertising materials, promotional marketing materials, on publication covers and consumer or merchandising products.

How to tell if an image is available for commercial use

There are a few things to look out for if you’re looking to use an image commercially:

  1. Does the image have the right releases?

In order to use an image commercially, if the image contains any recognisable people and/or property, including brand logos and trademarks or buildings, a release will need to be signed by the people in the image and the owner of the property in the image.

Model and property releases are signed documents that give permission from the person (model) or owner of the property in an image to the photographer to use the image for commercial purposes.

To check if an image has any releases, all you need to do is check the image page to see if the contributor has indicated the right releases for the image have been obtained

model release check

You can also filter your search results on Alamy so that only images with model or property releases show up when you search.

For more information about model and property releases, or to check if an image needs a release, check out our great infographic!

  1. Are there any restrictions on the image?

Some images have restrictions placed on them by the contributor, meaning that they are not available for certain usages.  So, if you can’t see the license you’re looking for when you’re on the image page, or if you notice a message on the image page that states the image is ‘available only’ for a certain type of use, the most likely reason is that a restriction has been applied.

In some cases, the contributor may lift the restriction depending on how you’d like to use the image. To find out if this is possible, all you need to do is get in touch with our customer service team. They’ll speak to the contributor on your behalf to see if there’s an option to remove the restriction for you.

If you’re still not sure whether your use is commercial or editorial contact our customer service team.

Some more handy blogs to help you with buying images:

Why buying an image license is important 

Buying stock photos – the truth about rights-managed licenses


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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