Including a picture with any content created for your business is critical to attract attention and entice people to read what you have published. Before you run off to start an image search, let’s cover how to use royalty free photos. When you search for the perfect photo and find it under an image search, you have to be certain you are allowed to use it before including it in your material. Since some of the terms and licensing are confusing and you certainly don’t want your site taken down or a fine for using a photo that is under copyright, you have to know what is a royalty-free photo.

What is a Royalty Free Photo?

When you see stock photos that are labeled as royalty-free, that does not mean you can use them for your own purposes without paying the creator or owner of the photo. Royalty free is a term used to describe the type of license you are purchasing in order to use the picture. In other words, you must pay the amount requested in order to use the picture. The “free” portion means you can use the image as many times as you like without having to pay extra, provided you comply with the license agreement.

Understanding Licensing for Photos

Most images you will find online are subject to copyright or licensing fees for commercial use. Even if you do not see the copyright symbol on a picture or photo, the law in the US grants an automatic copyright to artists which means you have to have permission to use their work. Infringing on an artist’s copyright, or using a photo without purchasing a license first, can carry a penalty of up to $25,000 plus court costs. Understanding licensing for photos before using them for your business is critical. Here are some other terms you may encounter:

Royalty Managed

Royalty managed images have a set of limitations for use of the photos and include a fee for each use. The fee structure may vary according to use and you are not authorized to use the image without paying a royalty.

Creative Commons

While some of these images may be free to use on your website, you must read the license terms carefully. Some have restrictions on commercial use and others may require credit given to the artist who holds the copyright.

Public Domain

Photos that are attributed as public domain are copyright-free and are completely free for use. Government-produced images are all public domain and images created before 1923 also fall under this law. There are some sites online that share photos and images under public domain.

Finding Royalty Free Photos to Use

Finding an image doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Remember what we covered above and head online. Here are 4 of our favorite stock photography sites:

  1. BigStock – BigStock offers a wide selection of high-resolution images, illustration and video; all available in affordable packages.
  2. Pixabay – They have a wide variety of royalty free images for use at no cost. Most are suitable for social media and blogging aplpications.
  3. Pond5 –  We like Pond5 for 4K video and HD images from the same series.
  4. Adobe Stock – This integrates right into Adobe Creative Cloud, for us it’s a no-brainer. Get 10 images free when you join, with a low monthly cost.

Err on the Side of Caution

Now that you know what a royalty free image is, finding affordable, high quality photos to complement your content will be easier than ever. If you are in doubt whether or not a photo or image is under copyright, it is best to err on the side of caution and pay the small fee for a royalty free image. Compared to the cost of your website being pulled by your service provider or a hefty fine for copyright infringement, the security for a paid license is priceless.