How to Legally Protect Your Business When Using Stock Photos


You bought a photo from a stock photo gallery, and you’re ready to put it to use.


Before you modify the image and use it on your website or your social posts, it’s vital you take a look at the fine print and ensure you’re using the photo within your rights.

You read that correctly: Just because you purchased the photo, you don’t necessarily have to right to use it any way you wish.

Importance of Terms of Use

Not every image is created equally, and not every image may be used in the same way. Some stock photos are sold only for online use while others may be used commercially or in print materials. Every stock photo subscription (or individual stock photo) has terms of use attached to it.

Just like the app you downloaded yesterday or the online software you recently invested in, customers rarely fully digest the terms of use for stock galleries. But they’re legally binding and it’s important to read and understand them so you can use your photos appropriately without violating those terms.

What Royalty-Free Means

“Royalty-free” is a type of licensing available with some stock photos. When you purchase royalty-free photos, you have more flexibility in how you can use them (and this tends to be a more affordable route). The photos on our website are all royalty-free, however that’s not the case for every site. Know what you’re buying and using.

What to Look Out for

Even with the best of intentions, a photographer can make a mistake. Trademarked images (like logos) in photos are a big no-no for stock sites. If you purchase a photo that has a big-name logo in it (Apple or Disney, for example), be sure the logos are used within their terms of use. Even better: avoid images with logos on them altogether.

You can’t simply pull a photo from the internet and use it in your marketing. Even if it comes from images you search with the keywords “public domain.” You need to look at the fine print and ensure that it’s clearly marked with terms of use—and that you use them in only the ways those terms describe.

With an advanced Google search, you can look for photos by usage rights. But you should still do your research after you find an image to be sure you have your bases covered.

In short, you just need to protect yourself. You have an accountant do your taxes. You have an attorney draw up your contracts. Arm yourself with knowledge when it comes to stock photos too.

Our Disclaimer

We are not attorneys, but we encourage you to consult with one if there is any question about the terms of use for any photos you purchase. Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation and photographers are the copyright owners, having exclusive right and ownership of the photos.