What Type of License Should Free Stock Photos Have?

Owning a website requires updating content regularly. Not only does the text needs to be of high-quality but visually attractive as well. Therefore, you will be needing photos that help your website attract traffic. It does require a bit of effort but in the long run, it will pay off. When it comes to using free stock photos for your website, there are three types of licenses that you could use: Royalty-Free, Rights Managed, and Extended. Furthermore, you must understand each of them before buying photos that suit your content and site. The type of license you choose depends on the type of photos you opt for. Therefore, let us discuss and try to understand the basics of license types for free stock photos.


If you were to ask anyone who uses stock photos regularly, they will tell you that Royalty-free is the most flexible and affordable license. However, it needs to be mentioned that it does not mean that the Royalty-Free Images are free, they are not. The ‘Free’ in Royalty means that you are not to pay royalties to any agency or image owner. The only thing you will be paying for is the License fee.

Additionally, you only need to pay for a Royalty Free License one time at a flat rate. The provider of images will set up a price for the license and you will pay for that just once. What this means is, that you could use the images multiple times for different purposes and do not have to pay anything ever again for them. This is the primary reason due to which users opt for this license and is a perfect option for price/budget-friendly buyers.

However, while there are several benefits of using the Royalty Free License, there is one downside to it. The Royalty-Free Images are non-exclusive, which means that anyone could purchase the license and use them. Since they are affordable, comparatively cheap, and feature the least number of limitations individuals, companies, and organizations could purchase them at the same time. As a result, it could negatively influence the uniqueness and impact of your content and most importantly the website.

Rights Managed

Rights Managed License is different than Royalty Free but it offers something that the latter doesn’t: granting exclusive rights. The thing with Rights Managed License is that it is customized according to your usage. It allows the user to use the image or images for a certain time period, in a determined way, for a limited reproduction or distribution, etc. However, there are no limitations on such customizations and you could ask them to provide the exact right for your usage. Furthermore, Rights Managed License images as compared to Royalty-Free are expensive and it depends on the number and types of rights you include. It could go anywhere from $50 to a thousand dollars.

A big plus of using such images is that since RM controls the rights, you may be the only one who is provided exclusive rights for particular images. This means that only you would be using them for a limited time period. Furthermore, some agencies will even give you a history pertinent to the usage of image or images. This will allow you to observe and analyze the way the images were used in the past and you could use them more uniquely and innovatively. With that being said, you are bound to increase the value of your projects and website overall.

Extended/Enhanced Licenses

The Extended/Enhanced Licenses are quite similar to Royalty-Free Licenses interms of being flexible. However, Royalty-Free Images feature certain limitations and restrictions such as reproduction/distribution volume and the use of images on products that you intend to redistribute or resale. Extended Licenses in such cases, allows you to ‘extend’ those restrictions, which otherwise are prohibited by Standard Royalty-Free License.

If you have purchased an Extended License, you can increase the volume of redistribution or reproduction of the image or choose to completely eliminate it so that you have unlimited copies of the image. Furthermore, it will also allow you to redistribute or resale your products using the images downloaded.

Extended Licenses are comparatively expensive than the Royally Free Licenses, however, they allow you to extend your rights over the Standard Royalty-Free Licenses as well. In addition to that, you do not have to set up a custom Rights Managed License that is more expensive than Extended.

Additionally, there are certain things that you need to consider. First, if you were to purchase any of these licenses, it does not mean that you are the owner of the images. What you are actually purchasing is their usage. The actual owner will remain the same in addition to the copyrights. It could be an agency, photographer, or artist, etc.

Second, most agencies tend to be quite sensitive about how their images are used. This means that they will not allow you to use their photos for adult or photographic content in addition to illegal, criminal, or defamatory content. Anything that involves controversial subjects related to religion, race, gender, or hate will not be allowed. If you were to use images that include people for instance a model, the person and image could not be used in a way that depicts that the person is endorsing the product.

Third and last, agencies modify these licenses based on their likes and preferences. They can remove and add clauses depending on certain situations. Therefore, you are required to carefully go through the licenses and their clauses so that you are aware of using the images in a legal way.

Sites for Free Stock Images


Pixabay is perhaps the top website for royalty-free photos. You can download images for commercial use but there are some that you need to buy in order to use them. Just the right spot for developers.


Unsplash consists of thousands of high-resolution free images. If you were to subscribe, you will receive ten photos every ten days taken by different photographers.

Devian Art

Devian Art is a relatively different concept. With more than 3 million users, Devian Art is a community-based service. You could use images present here as long as you give the owners their due credit.

Final Word

Understanding and getting know-how of stock free images is crucial. Using images without the permission of the owner could land you in serious trouble. Since you have spent an ample amount of time and effort into creating a website, it is only right that you use the images the right way. Therefore, consider the types of stock free licenses mention above and go through the clauses as well.