Stock Photography Business Terms You Need to Know


At first glance, the terminology used in the stock photography industry can be difficult to understand. This is a easy guide for anyone to learn the lingo, weather you are a stock photography buyer, user or contributor.

For buyers, it is important to know which licences are required for the needed usage. Users must be aware of the limitations that can apply to the different licences and how they can and cannot be used. As a contributor it is important to know how your content should be categorised, and the reason why payouts may differ for different licences. Most importantly, contributors should be aware of how their photos can be used, depending on the license that is purchased.


A stock photo agency payment option were buyers pay a monthly or annual fee to the stock photo agency. The buyer is then awarded either a set amount of images for that monthly or annual be downloaded, or be given access to unlimited downloads.


Editorial photos refer to a news worthy story. Either illustrated or documented in the photo. Identifiable people in these photos do not require to sign model releases. On the other hand, use is limited to illustrating news stories, magazine articles, blog posts etc. They cannot be used commercially.

Royalty Free (RF)

The most commonly sold license, allowing the buyer to use the photo without having to continuously compensate the photographer with royalty fees for every time the photo is used.

Extended License

Allows the buyer to use the photo on commercially sold items. They pay a higher fee than with a royalty free license, and the photographer receives a larger payment.

Rights Managed (RM)

Allows the buyer exclusive rights to the photo for a limited period of time and a set amount of copies. Often used when a buyer prefer the identical photo not to show up on their competitors website and social media. This way restricting the usage to their brand for the time being of their marketing campaign etc.

Attribution / Credit Link

Publicly crediting the photographer were the photo is used. And ‘credit link’ actively linking back to the photographer’s portfolio or website.


Used to describe the quality of the photo. A resolution of 72 dpi is used for websites, apps and other digital products, while 300 dpi (or higher) for print.


The standard term to describe stock photography, referring to selling photo licenses in large quantities for ‘microscopic’ amounts per license.

Creative Commons (CC)

The photographer offers his/her photo for free, in exchange for specific licensing terms, photo credit etc.

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