Creative Commons Stock Photo Usage Basics


Stock Photography comes from simply refers to a supply of photographs that are licensed for a specific use, mainly used to fulfil the needs of creative and design assignments, without the need to hire a photographer. Nowadays, stock images may be purchased from agents, and delivered online.

In total there are 3 different types of stock photography:

  1. Macro, also known as the Traditional stock photography, refers to highly exclusive and priced stock.
  2. Micro, refers to low price and non-exclusive stock photography.
  3. Mid, which is a term used for all the stock photography which is between Macro and Micro.

Stock images could be filed at either an agency or an online supplier. Once a photographer has entered a contract with the supplier, the supplier or agency will negotiate the licensing fees on behalf of the photographer in exchange for either a percentage of their sale or in some rare cases, full rights to the image. The pricing of stock photography is majorly determined by the size of the image, the length of time in which the image will be used, and what the usage of the image as well as the audience of readership, and whether the royalties are to be paid to the stock image creator or owner.

Stock photography can be advertised with a number of added benefit licenses. Two of these licenses include Royalty-Free and Rights-Managed stock photography. A Royalty-Free license, often advertised as RF, means that once bought, the buyer may use the image as much as they like without having to pay additional fees every time the image is used. Buying royalty-free photographs enables the buyer to have the right to use the stock image many times for different purposes by just paying a one-off fee. There’s no limit as in the number of times the buyer can reproduce a royalty-free image, and there is no specific time in which the buyer can use the image. However, when creative commons stock photo usage is listed as royalty-free, buyers are unable to claim or buy exclusive rights to the image and the photographer may sell the stock image as many times as they want.

Rights-managed licenses, often advertised as RM or “licensed images,” provide the buyer with an assurance that the image would not be used by anybody else. Rights-managed images often allow a larger print out per image than the general Royalty-Free license. A Right Managed agreement includes exclusivity hence an added value. However, not all creative commons stock photo usage rights are exclusive, specific terms and conditions can be found in the agreement between the buyer and seller.

The value of the license is mainly determined by the image usage. Terms of the usage are clearly stipulated and negotiated to enable the purchaser to receive maximum value, as well as clear protection in there purchase by a level of exclusivity.

Throughout the years, stock photography has become very popular amongst creative artists and designers. There are currently numerous online suppliers of free stock photos and free royalty free images which enable additional parties to purchase and instantly download stock photos for a small, one-time fee.

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