image licensing

Top 5 Common Types of Image Licensing

Can you imagine spending hours putting effort, creativity, and care into a project only to have someone take the credit right out from under you? They claim it as their own, share it with others, and you never get a second glance. Many professional marketing creatives passionately put all they have into each project and proudly serve each client to the best of their ability. But when that content is stolen or misused, it’s not only a huge letdown but a financial loss as well. Image licensing not only protects the artist or photographer but the client, too.

Sometimes, image misuse happens unintentionally, or it’s not the client or the brand at fault but someone else who steals those images upon seeing them in an ad or on social media. Here are a few things to know about image licensing and the most common types of image licensing you’ll see in both digital and traditional marketing.

image licensing

What Is Image Licensing?

In most cases, the artist or photographer retains the copyright to the work produced, even after the product has been given over to the client. When a company hires a commercial photographer, they aren’t just paying for a service; they’re asking the artist to create a custom image for their brand. Then, they must get permissions in the form of a license to use that image for specific uses. Anything outside those uses violates the copyrights and could result in fees or legal action. If you want to dig deeper into image licensing, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Image Usage Rights.”

image copyright

Royalty-free vs Rights Managed Images

Royalty-free images have very few restrictions. You pay the photographer a one-time fee, and you can use the image as you wish indefinitely (within reason—you can’t claim the image as your own or try to resell it.)

However, if you hire a food, product, or branding photographer for a digital marketing project, you’ll probably deal with rights managed images, which means that the photographer and the client will create a licensing agreement outlining when, how, where, and what size the images may be used.

Note: The overall cost will reflect the sizes, purposes, and amount of time you’ll need the images. So, it’s important to narrow down how you’ll use the images and how many you’ll need. More photos and broader use will lead to higher costs.

types of image licensing

Who Needs an Image License?

All professional photographers and artists should include an image licensing agreement with their images. Anyone who pays for photography services should adhere to the license guidelines to use the photos legally.

*Even family photographers have a print release attached to their licensed images. Most portrait photographers offer a Personal Use License for digital images; however, that’s not typically relevant for digital marketing, so I’ve omitted it from the list below.

image usage agreements

5 Most Common Types of Image Licensing

Social Media

Make sure the license includes all necessary platforms and required sizes, and check the levels of sharing, too. Some licenses may require you to provide a link or cite the photographer or business as well.

Paid Digital Ads

Before booking a photoshoot for digital ad images, check the sizes that you’ll need for your ads up front. Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and other paid ads all have unique image criteria, so you’ll need to be sure your license includes the correct sizes.

Online Point of Sale

Remember, you need image licensing and specific permissions for each separate image use. Make sure “point of sale” images are covered.

Print Packaging

All this talk about digital images—but don’t forget your print material, too!

Billboard Ads

Get permission before you go big!

Make Your Products Pop with Lindsay K Photography

Lindsay is a Los Angeles-based food, product, and commercial photographer. She specializes in Still Product & Food Photography, Lifestyle & Portrait Photography, Stop Motion, and Food Styling. Connect with her here for product marketing!


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