Let’s talk about website and commercial photography licenses. This is a follow up article to “Professional Photography For Websites“. If you haven’t read that, I recommend you do!
There are many types of photography licenses, I’m going to share and explain the most common licenses here. Remember though, I am a photographer, not a lawyer. (My paychecks aren’t nearly as big.)
So make sure to read to the end where I share how to confirm you are purchasing and using the proper website or commercial photography license.
Just because you see a lot of websites using a photo, doesn’t mean it is safe to use. There are companies that search the Internet for illegally used photographs and the fines can be hefty.

The Most Common Photography Licenses

Public Domain License

An image copyright lasts the life of the photographer or artist, plus 70 years following their death. For works made for hire, the copyright will last 95 years from the date of publication, or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Public domain images are photographs where the intellectual property rights have expired. Some photographers will release their images free of charge to the public domain.

These photographs may be used as you want, for commercial or non-commercial use, on or as products, etc.

Creative Commons License

There are several types of creative commons licenses available. Depending on the license, you may be able to use or share an image as long as it remains unchanged. Others will require a credit link to be displayed with the image. Make sure you read the license before you use an image from a free stock image service.

A Royalty Free License

Royalty free does not mean FREE! This type of photography license means once you buy the image you are able to use it as often as you like. You aren’t required to pay a royalty for each use.

Commercial License

The commercial license is required any time you use a photograph in a way that allows you to earn money. Writing a blog with affiliate links? You will need a commercial photography license.

Using a photograph to sell a product, for use in an ad or to promote your business? A commercial license is needed.

NonCommercial License

When you are allowed to use a photograph in a non-commercial manner. In some licenses you will be allowed to modify the image or crop and adapt it to your needs. The most important part of this is that the photograph or anything you create using it must be non-commercial.

Rights Managed Photography License

This license allows you to use an image a limited number of times. There are also extended licenses available if the initial usage limit is not high enough. Basically you pay to use the photograph to match your needs.

So how does a website or business owner know if they can use an image?

With so many different types of licenses, you need to be certain you have the correct one so no one comes knocking!  If you want to read a cautionary tale on a legal case involving photo licensing rights between two well known companies, click here!

If working with a professional commercial photographer, they will help you by licensing images for your use.

When working with a stock image service* you should consult with them to make sure you have the proper image license for your intended use.

*See this article for links to some of the most popular stock image sites.

Hopefully this article gave you some knowledge on the types of website and commercial photography licenses available. If so, do me a favor and share it on social media! If not, please reach out to let me know how I can improve this information!

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