Royalty-free images are a great way to access fantastic imagery when you’re not able to create it yourself or pay the fees charged by individual designers and photographers or by stock art suppliers.
In brief, Royalty-free images are images in which the copyright holder does not charge any fees for using the image in specified ways. They typically use Creative Commons licenses, which may require that the image be attributed or only used for some purposes, such as not for commercial use.
Types of Royalty Free Content
A) Rights-Managed Content: Generally means you’re paying for the right to use the image one time. You’ll most often have to give credit to the photographer who took the photo or the copyright owner in exchange for a one-time fee.
B) Royalty Free: also called “RF”. This is an image that is free of any payments to use. It can be used for any type of design project for yourself or a client.
C) Public Domain Image: Public domain images are not subject to copyright; they’re free to use for anything you want.
To be clear, you should never use an image that is NOT clearly marked as “Royalty Free” or “Public Domain” without permission.
There are also other forms of rights management for images (such as micro-stock and extended licenses), but we’ll focus on the two above.
When to use Royalty Free Images
The best time to use Royalty-free images is any time you need an image and don’t have the budget to pay for one. There are several sites that offer Royalty Free images that are specifically for designers. Sites like StockXpert and iStock have large libraries of Royalty Free images for use in your work.
The most common use of Royalty Free Images is when you need something for a project that doesn’t fit your style or you don’t have the time to create the image yourself.
When NOT to use Royalty Free Images
The most common time to avoid using Royalty Free images is when you need something that is unique or original to your work. While Royalty Free Images can be a great way to access a large library of images for a low cost, they can also be very generic and fit with a lot of different design styles. This is typically not the look you want to achieve, so if you want something that will be very unique, it’s best to hire an artist or photographer directly.
This article was largely written by AI with some human editing.
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