Best websites for royalty-free images in 2023

The best royalty-free stock image websites no matter your budget

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Best websites for royalty-free images

The best royalty-free photo websites are few and far apart—either they’re too expensive, or they offer poor licensing terms. Through years of experience, I identified several royalty-free images websites that are worth your money because they tick all the boxes: cost, quality, variety, licensing, and customer support. They also come with neat features that will make your life easier.

Top 5 best sites for royalty-free images (that I use):

  1. Shutterstock
  2. Adobe Stock
  3. Envato Elements
  4. iStock
  5. Depositphotos

To find the best website for royalty-free images for your needs, you’ll need to compare brands, prices, quality, and more. Most stock photo sites offer a variety of media assets: photos, vectors, illustrations, videos, and audio.

Using stock photos is critical when you need photos fast or cheap without hiring a professional photographer or taking them yourself. Stock photo sites are also great because you get indemnity for each image your buy — one of our ranking factors — that protects you if you get in legal trouble. This way, you get professional photos at affordable costs, secure licensing, and within minutes.

Also: Best stock photo sites

Photutorial tested the best websites for royalty-free images on this list based on the number, quality, and variety of photos, price, licensing terms, customer support, and extra features. Shutterstock is our top pick for the best royalty-free photo site, thanks to the largest collection of royalty-free stock photos, broad licensing terms, and affordable pricing. Read on to find the best sites with royalty-free images for your own business or personal projects.

Best websites for royalty-free images

Why you can trust Photutorial? Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what’s best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.


Best website for royalty-free images overall

Shutterstock pricing
pros & cons
  • The largest collection of stock images (434 million)
  • 30-day free trial with 10 images worth $49
  • Wide variety of buying options.
  • Big discounts with the annual prepaid plans.
  • Content packs need to be bought for each content type separately
  • Editorial images are expensive ($99.50–$199)
  • Enhanced License affordable only when bought in bulk
more details

Shutterstock features: Images: 434 million | Cost: $0.22–$14.50/image ($67.96–$99.50 with Enhanced License) | Copies/impressions: 500,000 (unlimited with Enhanced License) | Merchandise: Yes, with Enhanced License | Indemnity: $10,000/$250,000 | Coupons: 15% | Free trial: 30 days with 10 images

Shutterstock is my top choice for the best royalty-free image site. It’s one of the most popular stock photography sites out there, offering the largest collection of royalty-free images, and it’s a well-regarded, trusted platform.

Your buying options include the more affordable subscriptions ($0.22–$4.90/image) or the more flexible on-demand packs ($9.16–$14.50/image). You can also get images as a single purchase, but these are more expensive and cost almost as much as editorial images ($99 or $199). If you’re not ready to take a dip, you can taste the waters with the 30-day free trial.

Coupons: How to get a 15% discount on Shutterstock?

Shutterstock has two forms of an industry-leading royalty-free license: the Standard and the Enhanced licenses. The Standard license is ideal for blogs and social media, granting you 500K copies and a $10,000 indemnity. The Enhanced license is more costly at $67.96 to $99.50 but lets you use the image for merchandise, and you get a $250,000 indemnity instead.

More: Shutterstock licenses explained

Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with Shutterstock. It also has very high customer satisfaction thanks to excellent customer support and additional features, like reverse image search, image editor (like Canva), and plugins. Recently, Shutterstock also implemented an AI image generator (by DALL·E 2), so you can create anything you wish.

Adobe Stock

Best for Adobe users

Adobe Stock review thumbnail
Adobe Stock/Photutorial
pros & cons
  • Creative Cloud integration.
  • AI image search.
  • Diverse subscriptions and flexible credits.
  • Great image variety.
  • The largest free trial with up to 40 free images.
  • 800K free assets.
  • Expensive premium images.
  • Poor music track variety.
  • Extended licenses cannot be bought in bulk.
  • Customer support could be better.
more details

Number of royalty-free images: 326 million | Cost: $0.26–$14.50/image ($79 with Extended) | Copies/impressions: 500,000 (unlimited with Extended License) | Merchandise: Yes, with Extended License | Indemnity: $10,000/$10,000 | Coupons: None (Read more ») | Free trial: 30 days with 10, 25, or 40 images

Adobe Stock is a favorite among the Adobe community, favored by professionals and hobbyists who routinely utilize Adobe Creative Cloud applications like Illustrator, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro.

A key advantage that sets Adobe Stock apart is the seamless integration of its vast collection of royalty-free images with all Creative Cloud applications. This feature allows you to download photos and other resources directly within your creative workspace, preventing any disruption to your creative flow. This is a feature shared with Shutterstock and a few other royalty-free providers who also offer Creative Cloud plugins.

While Adobe Stock, like Shutterstock, allows the licensing of royalty-free images via subscription or on-demand packs, it comes at a marginally higher price point, averaging between $0.26–$9.99 per image. An exceptional offer from Adobe Stock is the availability of premium images under the so-called Enhanced License. This unique license is a hybrid of the Standard and Extended licenses, priced at around $100 per image.

Further reading: Adobe Stock pricing guide

Adobe Stock provides all its photographs under one of three licensing options: Standard, Enhanced, and Extended. Each license type adheres to the industry-standard RF license and includes a $10,000 indemnity. Even though the indemnity for the Extended license is on the lower end, the Standard license remains sufficient for most commercial uses. The Extended license expands usage rights to include merchandise.

A significant setback with Adobe Stock, and Adobe in general, is the lackluster customer support, albeit marginally better than Getty Images. Despite offering communication channels via chat and email, the live chat representatives often lack the necessary knowledge, frequently redirecting queries to other team members without effectively resolving the issues.

Adobe Stock is ranked number one on our list of stock image free trials. You can get a 30-day free trial of any of the lower-tier subscriptions, thus granting you from 10 to 40 royalty-free downloads at no cost. This free trial also goes nicely with other Adobe trials, like Photoshop.

Envato Elements

Best for unlimited downloads

Envato Elements review thumbnail
Envato Elements/Photutorial
pros & cons
  • Unlimited downloads with no daily limits.
  • 12 free assets each month.
  • Assets can be used commercially.
  • Simple licensing.
  • Plans for individuals, teams, and enterprises.
  • One of the lowest indemnities in the industry.
  • You can’t use creative assets for new projects after unsubscribing.
  • A small collection of photos and videos compared to other stock agencies.
  • No refunds after the first download.
more details

Number of royalty-free images: 8.1 million | Cost: $11.50–$39.00/month (unlimited downloads) | Copies/impressions: Unlimited | Merchandise: No | Indemnity: 6 month’s subscription fees | Coupons: Up to 70% discount (Read more ») | Free trial: 12 files per month (Read more »)

Our review and testing of Envato Elements instantly revealed its appeal to budget-conscious creatives. Envato Elements stands out as the most affordable subscription for royalty-free stock photos, starting at a mere $16.50 a month, or $11.50 for students. This nominal monthly fee grants you unlimited access to over 13 million assets offered by Envato Elements.

Special offer: Photutorial readers get 70% off

Envato’s diverse collection boasts an array of assets, encompassing photos, videos, fonts, a variety of templates (video, presentation, CMS), plugins, graphic templates, WordPress themes, and more. This extensive selection and unlimited downloads make Envato Elements especially attractive to creatives managing multiple clients.

Despite its evident allure, Envato Elements is not without its shortcomings. The tantalizing $16.50 monthly fee is tied to a 12-month commitment, whereas the cost rises to $39 for month-to-month subscriptions. However, when it comes to team pricing, Envato stands favorably against its competition as the cost decreases with the addition of more team members.

Learn more about Envato Elements pricing

All unlimited downloads come bundled with a royalty-free license. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that nearly all services offering unlimited stock media asset downloads require multiple licensing for different uses of the same asset. Consequently, you may not utilize an already downloaded asset for new projects once your subscription is canceled, though its use in existing projects can continue. Another caveat is the restriction on using assets for merchandise, even though other commercial applications are permitted.

In sum, Envato Elements is an ideal option for designers, developers, and video creators requiring a plethora of assets on a budget. The unlimited plan provides cost-saving benefits compared to pay-per-download alternatives. For absolute flexibility and broader rights, traditional stock sites may be more suited. However, Envato Elements delivers impressive value overall.


Best if you don’t like Shutterstock

iStock review thumbnail
pros & cons
  • Standard (Essential) and Premium (Signature) image collections
  • 10 free images with the free trial.
  • Numerous integrations (Adobe CC, Dropbox)
  • Slow support
  • Free trial not available everywhere 
more details

Number of royalty-free images: 130 million | Cost: $0.22–$9.90/image ($144–$216 with Extended) | Copies/impressions: 500,000 (unlimited with Extended License) | Merchandise: Yes, with Extended License | Indemnity: $10,000/$250,000 | Coupons: 25% | Free trial: 30 days with 10 images

While iStock might not take the crown in any one area, it’s a solid contender in the stock image market, sharing the stage with Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. For some, iStock’s trump card lies in its Signature collection, a curated selection of premium photos available at a discount for subscribers. Still, from my perspective, these premium images don’t quite measure up to the high bar set by the likes of Getty Images or Shutterstock’s Offset.

iStock lets you purchase royalty-free images either through subscriptions or on-demand credit packs, much like its competitors. Its subscriptions are categorized into Basic (which includes Essential images), Premium (for Essential & Signature), and Premium + Video, with prices ranging from $29–$399 per month. This puts iStock pricing on a level playing field with Shutterstock, with a similar free trial offer.

Discounts: How to get iStock 25% off?

One noteworthy aspect of iStock is its licensing structure. All images and videos come with either a standard royalty-free license or an extended license for broader usage. The standard license covers use in digital and print media up to 500,000 copies and includes a $10,000 legal guarantee. The extended license lifts these print run limits, ramps up the legal guarantee to $250,000, and enables use for merchandise, albeit with certain volume-based restrictions. However, it does cost a pretty penny – 18 credits ($144–$216) – making it about twice as expensive as Shutterstock’s equivalent Enhanced License.

iStock doesn’t shy away from improving your workflow either, offering integrations with Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, and WordPress. Extra features, such as the iStock Editor for basic image edits and the Boards feature for organizing and sharing image selections, enhance the overall user experience. Searching for content on iStock is streamlined with robust search and filtering options, along with an AI-powered visual recommendation engine.


Best budget option

Depositphotos review thumbnail
pros & cons
  • Great customer support (phone, live chat, and email)
  • A collection of free images
  • No custom packs (only available for enterprises).
  • Limited flexibility of on-demand options.
more details

Number of royalty-free images: 255 million | Cost: $0.22–$14.00/image ($63.96–$89.90 with Extended) | Copies/impressions: 500,000 (unlimited with Extended License) | Merchandise: Yes, with Extended License | Indemnity: $5,000/$5,000 | Coupons: 15% | Free trial: 7 days with 10 images

With a collection of over 255 million images, Depositphotos carves out a niche for itself in the stock image world, particularly for bloggers. Its selling point? Affordability. Subscription prices dip as low as $1.44 per image, even for the smallest plans, making it a pocket-friendly alternative to Shutterstock’s $4.90 and Adobe Stock’s $9.99 per image.

When it comes to image quality and variety, Depositphotos holds its own, albeit falling slightly short of the diversity offered by Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, especially for fresh or trending topics. Subscriptions start at $24.92 per month for 30 images, going up to $166.58 for 750 images, translating to $1.44 to $0.22 per image. On-demand image packs, however, cost more, running from $2.99 to $14.00 per image. The Extended Licenses come with a higher price tag, ranging from $63.96 to $89.00 per image.

The licensing structure mirrors that of Shutterstock with Standard and Extended royalty-free licenses, although the indemnity offered by Depositphotos is significantly lower at $5,000 for both.

Where Depositphotos shines is its customer support. Regarded as one of the best among stock photo sites, it boasts quick responses via live chat and email responses within one to three business days. Depositphotos takes user experience up a notch with features such as integration with the VistaCreate editor and additional tools like a free background remover, an image upscaler, and an API. If you’re unsure, the 7-day free trial lets you take 10 royalty-free images for a spin.

Depositphotos also rolls out an array of discounts. Expect a 16% cut on yearly subscriptions compared to monthly plans, up to 78.6% discount on bulk purchases, and even a 33% markdown on bulk purchases of Extended licenses for videos.

What is the best royalty-free image site?

The best site for royalty-free images is Shutterstock, thanks to its wide image selection, great licensing terms, affordable pricing, and responsive customer support.

However, there are many royalty-free options on the market that are worth your time — and, potentially, your dollar, should you choose to trust them. When you consider which stock photo site to choose, keep in mind that the longer subscription you choose, the cheaper the photos will be.

Shutterstock434 million$0.22–$14.50/image$10,000/$250,000
Adobe Stock326 million

Envato Elements8.1 million$11.50–$39.00/month6 month’s subscription fees
iStock130 million
Depositphotos255 million$0.22–$14.00/image

How did we test the best royalty-free stock image sites?

Over the course of several years, we have closely monitored, used, and reviewed in-depth more than 30 royalty-free stock image sites. We have updated our reviews and guides several times throughout the years to reflect any changes in pricing, image count, and various other features that these platforms add.

Testing these sites isn’t as simple as adding and subtracting. It involves a meticulous evaluation process that hones in on specific, significant criteria. We tested and analyzed the best royalty-free stock images sites for 2023 using the following criteria to help you make an informed decision:

  • Image quality and variety (30%): Above all else, we examine the overall quality of images provided by each platform. If the quality or variety is low, we drop the provider immediately. We also assess the diversity of the image database, including different styles, subjects, and themes. After all, there’s no point in a stock image site that doesn’t have lots of quality images.
  • Pricing (30%): Evaluating pricing encompasses considering the lowest, highest, and average price of a stock image in relation to its licensing terms. Photutorial team also considers the variety of buying options, such as subscriptions, image packs, and single purchases. Finally, we consider special offers, like bulk and annual discounts, free trials, and coupons. Overall, we consider how affordable the platform is for different types of users, from occasional bloggers to full-time graphic designers. We also consider your payment options, safety and encryption, refund policy, and processing duration.
  • Licensing (25%): Licensing doesn’t differ much among royalty-free stock photo sites, but even minor differences can be game-changing. Thus, we check for the number of allowed impressions and copies, indemnity amount, extended licensing terms, and how much more expensive it is than the standard RF license.
  • Customer support and user experience (15%): Having a reliable customer support team is a nice bonus if you run into payment trouble or need help picking a license. There are many royalty-free stock image sites whose customer support teams do not respond at all (I’m looking at you, Getty Images). Good user experience also relies on website speed, having various search filters and tools at your disposal, being able to save your favorite images, and more. Here, we also consider the overall customer experience based on the reviews customers leave on other websites and forums.
  • Expert bonus (+/- 10 points): One might argue that a personal opinion has no place in analytical reviews, but that’s not what this is. This buying guide is a mix of facts such as the number of images, pricing, licensing terms, and personal opinions and experience. After being active in this industry for over a decade, I know all stock image websites inside out. On top of that, this category encompasses features that are not absolutely necessary for stock photo sites but can be a nice bonus, such as Adobe Stocks’ integrations into Creative Cloud, Shutterstock’s plugin for WordPress and their free image editor similar to Canva, or iStock stock photo insights.

Each stock photo site we review is not only rated and tested but is also used daily to ensure we get a well-rounded understanding of its offerings. Our resident stock photo expert, Matic Broz, conducts these examinations personally.

It’s important to bear in mind that, like any review, our evaluations can be subjective. Your needs may differ from what we prioritize in our testing, so we encourage readers to use our findings as a reference point rather than a definitive guide.

Please note that these reviews are snapshots of the sites at the time of our analysis. As companies frequently update their offerings, some aspects of our reviews might change over time. We endeavor to keep our content up to date, but we recommend checking the platforms’ official websites for the most accurate, recent information.

Which is the right royalty-free stock image site for you?

We have written about how stock photos work and how to find the best stock photo site for you.

Choose this stock photo site…If you want…
ShutterstockThe least expensive top royalty-free stock images. Shutterstock is a consistent player in our top stock photo site lists and for a good reason. It has the largest collection of royalty-free stock images at some of the lowest prices, so you cannot argue against its value for money.
Adobe StockFor Adobe users. Adobe Stock is natively integrated into all Adobe apps. You can access all of its assets from apps like Photoshop and Premiere Pro without disrupting your workflow and getting out of the zone.
Envato ElementsUnlimited downloads. Envato Elements’ image collection is smaller than other players in our list, but you can get them with unlimited downloads at the lowest monthly fee. It’s good for those on a low budget or needing lots of assets.
iStockShutterstock alternative. If you don’t like Shutterstock for any reason, iStock is the closest match in terms of licensing and buying options. But keep in mind that it has only about a third of its images.
DepositphotosBudget pick. Depositphotos is worse than other picks in this list, mainly due to lower indemnity. But it’s smallest subscription plan of 30 monthly downloads costs about the same as the 10 monthly downloads at competitors. Hence, it’s ideal for those on a low budget who need around 20 to 30 images monthly.

How to choose a royalty-free stock image site

Here are four tips to help you evaluate a royalty-free stock image site for your needs.

1. Take advantage of free trials and use them: Every stock image site has its unique traits, and every user’s requirements vary. You may be looking for images for a fashion blog, while another person might need them for a tech website. Before subscribing to a stock image site, make sure to test potential options thoroughly in your practical environment – that’s what free trials and complimentary images are for.

2. Be cautious of entirely free stock image sites: Hosting a large number of high-quality images is costly. If the image size isn’t making money from subscriptions or image sales, it may use intrusive ads to monetize your data or pepper your browsing experience. Stick with reputable vendors we’ve reviewed. However, remember that there can be exceptions. Some genuinely good platforms offer free images while maintaining a premium selection for paying customers.

3. Don’t get hung up on the platform’s country of operation unless: There are generally two categories of stock image users: Those who need images for casual blogging and those who require them for commercial purposes. Various countries have different copyright laws and legal restrictions on image use. If you’re using stock images for commercial purposes, make sure to research these laws thoroughly.

4. Finally, don’t stress over the licensing terms and conditions, but don’t ignore them either: Most users leverage stock image sites to enhance their digital content and make it more appealing. While it’s essential to understand the licensing agreement, don’t let it deter you from using these services. Just ensure you abide by the basic rules: attributing the image to the creator if required, not using the images for illegal or defamatory purposes, and not redistributing them as standalone files. In the end, finding high-quality images that meet your needs matters.

What are royalty-free stock image sites?

Royalty-free stock photos are a type of digital or physical imagery that anyone can use without having to pay royalties or license fees each time the image is used or displayed. When you purchase a royalty-free image, you pay a one-time fee to obtain the rights to use that image in a wide variety of ways, such as in advertisements, blog posts, websites, books, and more.

However, it’s worth noting that royalty-free doesn’t mean the image is free to use without purchase or permission. You must still initially buy or acquire the rights to the image, usually through a stock photo agency. These agencies have vast libraries of images, videos, illustrations, and other forms of media provided by photographers and artists who get paid when their work is licensed.

Furthermore, royalty-free doesn’t mean there are no restrictions. The exact usage of the image will be dictated by the licensing agreement, which may limit things like the type of use, duration of use, if you can use the image in derivative works, or whether you can resell the image.

Royalty-free stock photos are a valuable resource for individuals and companies who need high-quality imagery for their projects without the expense or logistical challenges of organizing a custom photo shoot. However, the easy accessibility of these photos also means they might appear in multiple places, possibly used by competitors or related industries, reducing their uniqueness.

» Dive deeper: Learn about the pros and cons of a royalty-free license

How does a royalty-free stock image work?

When you acquire a royalty-free image, you purchase a license that allows you to use the image in various ways, typically for as long as you want. The original creator of the image retains the copyright, but the license provides the buyer with the flexibility to use the image without having to pay additional royalties or licensing fees for each use.

Royalty-free images simplify the licensing process for creative projects, offering a more economical and efficient alternative to rights-managed licenses. However, it’s important to remember that “royalty-free” doesn’t mean “free of charge” – most of the time, you still have to pay for the license.

How can you tell an image is royalty-free?

Understanding if an image is royalty-free doesn’t require perusing dense licensing terms. In fact, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you, distilling down each license within our respective stock image review. Plus, every option we feature guarantees a royalty-free license. Here are the steps you can take to discern if an image is royalty-free yourself:

  1. Examine the stock photo website. Platforms that offer royalty-free licensing tend to advertise it clearly, often on their homepage or pricing page.
  2. Upon opening an image, you can usually find information about its licensing options. The most common choices you’ll encounter are royalty-free and editorial licenses.
  3. Price is often indicative of licensing type. If an image is priced between $0.20 and $100, it’s typically royalty-free. Conversely, images that are free usually fall under Creative Commons 0, while those exceeding $200 are often rights-managed.
  4. The purchasing process can also give you clues about the license. If you need to buy a subscription or an image/credits pack to obtain the image, it’s likely royalty-free. On the other hand, if it’s available for free, it typically falls under Creative Commons. Meanwhile, images requiring a comprehensive selection process, including specifying location, usage duration, and other details, are usually rights-managed.
  5. Check the watermark: Often, royalty-free images will have a watermark or some other identifier on them that indicates the type of license they have. If you see a watermark, search for the company or name indicated to find their licensing terms.

How do you know if a Google image is royalty-free?

It can be tricky to know if a Google image is royalty-free. Images on Google may be copyrighted and require payment/attribution to use. To determine if a Google image is royalty-free, click through to the website hosting it. Look for licensing information that often appears near the image or in their terms of use. Search that site for the image to see if it’s tagged as royalty-free or Creative Commons 0 (CC0). If no usage information is provided, it’s safest to assume the image is copyrighted and not royalty-free. Reverse image search tools like TinEye can help find the original source. Only use Google images when you can confirm royalty-free status through the hosting website.

How to find free royalty-free images

There are many amazing free stock image sites where you can get stock photos completely free. But the photos you download there are not royalty-free! Instead, these platforms license the images with the so-called Creative Commons 0 license. While you may use those images for free and for commercial purposes, there are two key disadvantages compared to real royalty-free: a) You don’t get any indemnity, and b) because they are free, they are often overused.

That said, you can still get free royalty-free images through stock image free trials. Those are trial periods of subscription plans, usually lasting 7 or 30 days, during which you may download between 10 and 40 royalty-free images at zero cost. By using those, you get a royalty-free license, including legal coverage. Our favorite free trials include Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, iStock, and Envato Elements.

Can you use royalty-free images…

…on a website?

Yes, you can use royalty-free images on websites. Royalty-free means you pay a one-time fee to use the image, then can use it multiple times without needing to pay additional royalties. Just be sure to check the license to confirm the image is royalty-free and any attribution required by the photographer. Popular sites like iStock, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and others offer royalty-free images. Look for their “royalty-free” sections when searching. Always credit the photographer if required. Using royalty-free images is a cost-effective way to get professional photos for your website.

…for commercial use?

Yes, you can use royalty-free images for commercial use. That’s one of the main benefits of royalty-free images – they allow commercial usage once you pay the licensing fee. You can use them in marketing materials, websites, mobile apps, advertisements, merchandise, presentations and more. Just ensure the image license confirms “commercial” or “for business use” to cover your specific application. Leading royalty-free sites like Shutterstock, iStock and Adobe Stock offer millions of commercially-licensed images, graphics, videos and illustrations that are safe for business use after purchase.

…on T-shirts?

It depends on the license, but many royalty-free images can be used on t-shirts. You’ll want to look for licenses that specifically allow “print” or “merchandise” usage. The image license may also stipulate a certain print run limit. Be sure to check terms carefully before using any royalty-free image on a t-shirt design. Some photographers restrict products with the image used “as-is” but allow edits. Always credit the photographer if required. There are also many sites like Freepik and Vecteezy that offer royalty-free vectors tailored specifically for apparel and merch use.

…on YouTube?

In most cases, yes, you can use royalty-free images in YouTube videos. The standard royalty-free license typically allows use of the image in digital or multimedia projects like YouTube videos. However, double check the precise license terms as some may limit or prohibit use in videos. Look for terms like “online video”, “internet video”, or “multimedia” to confirm YouTube usage is permitted. Be sure to credit the photographer if the license requires attribution. Using relevant high-quality royalty-free images is a great way to enhance your YouTube videos without worrying about copyright issues.

…for book covers?

Yes, royalty-free images can often be used for book covers. However, the license must explicitly permit “print” or “book cover” usage. Standard royalty-free licenses usually only cover digital use. Ensure the image license terms specifically mention usage in printed books or book covers before using a royalty-free image this way. The license may also limit the print run. Always credit the photographer on the cover or copyright page if required. Some leading stock sites like Shutterstock offer royalty-free images suited for book covers available to license and use commercially.

…for print on demand?

In most cases, yes you can use royalty-free images for print-on-demand products. However, the license must explicitly permit “print” or “merchandise” usage, which standard royalty-free licenses usually don’t. Ensure the license terms specifically mention print-on-demand, merchandising, or selling printed products before using a royalty-free image this way. The license may limit print runs. Always credit the photographer if required on the product page or packaging. Many leading stock sites offer royalty-free images now intended for print-on-demand use like apparel, phone cases, mugs, wall art, and more that are safe to use.

…in a logo?

No, you generally cannot and should not use royalty-free images in a logo. A logo should be unique, and using a royalty-free image can lead to a lack of originality, as anyone can purchase and use the same image. Moreover, many royalty-free licenses specifically exclude the use in a logo. If you try to trademark a logo containing a royalty-free image, you may face legal complications since the image isn’t exclusive to your brand. It’s highly recommended to work with a graphic designer to create a unique logo for your business or brand. Using an original design not only helps you to avoid potential copyright issues but also ensures your logo is unique and representative of your brand.

Can you sell royalty-free images?

No, you cannot resell or redistribute standalone royalty-free images. Royalty-free means you purchase a license to use the image, but you do not own the copyright. The photographer retains full copyright ownership. Your royalty-free license only allows you to use the image in your own commercial or personal projects, not resell it.

If you wanted to legally resell an image file, you would need a permission from the photographer which grants redistribution rights. Without this, selling the raw image file itself or using it in a way that allows others to download it freely would violate the standard royalty-free license terms. You can sell products featuring the image, but not the unmodified image file.

Can you edit royalty-free images?

You can edit royalty-free images, but how much depends on the license. Many standard royalty-free licenses allow you to make minor edits like cropping, resizing, color changes, etc. But significant alterations like removing main elements or people may not be permitted. Read the license carefully to see what edits are allowed and any attribution requirements. Licenses with more editing freedom will cost more. Some licenses stipulate you must not make an edited royalty-free image available for others to download freely. So editing is typically fine for use in your own commercial or personal projects as long as it complies with the license terms.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is a good site for royalty-free images?

There are many excellent sites for royalty-free images, such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and Unsplash. The best site for you depends on your specific needs, budget, and the kind of images you’re looking for.

Is it legal to use royalty-free images?

Yes, it’s legal to use royalty-free images as long as you abide by the terms of the license agreement for the image. Some images may require you to give attribution to the creator or the platform, and there may be restrictions on commercial use.

Are royalty-free images copyrighted?

Yes, royalty-free images are copyrighted. The “royalty-free” aspect refers to the licensing agreement which allows purchasers to use the image multiple times after a one-time fee. However, the original creator retains the copyright, meaning they own the image and control how it’s used.

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