All you wanted to know about editorial content

September 10, 2019 / by Stacy

When it comes to image submission and buying on microstocks, many people have a hard time understanding the difference between editorial and royalty-free images. However, you can differentiate them by understanding their particular uses.

You can use Royalty Free images for commercial purposes as long as not on retail/resale products. Editorial photos, on the other hand, cannot be used for commercial purposes. To help you understand better, we look at how you can use editorial images.

Usage of Microstock Editorial Content

Editorial images were first accepted on Shutterstock, and other microstock agencies followed. Other microstock agencies started receiving editorial content, and even today, some agencies are reluctant about accepting them. This content has a scarce market, hence the reluctance in acceptance.

Just like the name suggests, you can only use editorial content for editorial purposes. Editorial image use is limited to places with an article, a description, or a commentary. That includes:

  • Blogs
  • Newsworthy content
  • Newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and editorials


When uploading editorial content, be aware that it won’t be used for any commercial or advertorial purposes. This means your images won’t appear on brand or product names whereby you can receive fees from sponsors or a third party advisor. These images include photos of real-world subjects such as:

  • Objects
  • People
  • Places
  • Locations

Difference between Editorial and Royalty-Free Images Licensing

Royalty-Free images possess all the necessary model releases and, hence, given the royalty-free license. The license gives these images flexibility that allows the buyers the rights to use them for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. This means you can use the photos on your website, for advertisement, or advertising.

The license for Royalty Free images is non-exclusive, meaning that the seller can sell as several licenses on the same photo as long as there’s a buyer. As a result, many microstocks sell these types of images at a flat and low price. For this reason, you may find different brands, companies, or people using the same photo for different purposes at the same time.

Unlike Royalty-Free images, editorial images lack releases for property. Their license offers time and geographical limitation, specific usage rights, and exclusive usage. This means it’s limited to the co-signed use and if you want to use it differently, a different license must be obtained.

As a result, neither the photographer nor the microstock agency has the right to use these images for commercial purposes. Therefore, editorial images can’t be used in any way intended for making money such as promotion, marketing, or advertising. The cost of editorial photos depends on the intended use, making them affordable at times and considerably expensive at other times.

The availability of editorial images is limited due to the complicated buying process and the exclusivity of their license. In return, you won’t find multiple duplicates simultaneously in usage.

Why You Shouldn’t Tire from Submitting Editorial Images


Despite the limited usage licensing, there’re many benefits of submitting editorial images. These include:

  • Although the microstock agencies require quality images, they are not as stringent with editorial pictures as they are with commercial use images. Therefore, if you own a point and shoot camera or a low-end DSLR, consider selling editorial photos as opposed to Royalty-Free.
  • Compared to commercial images, editorial images are cheaper to shoot.
  • Uploading editorial images is fast since you don’t need to spend time getting, scanning, and uploading property releases.

Choosing a License for Your Images

Now that you know the difference between the two image licensing models, you need to decide on the best one to invest in. It turns out there’s more to consider when buying stock images than just the price. Evaluate your needs to help you determine the best license to purchase.

First, consider the exclusivity factor. Royalty-Free images are affordable and have multiple usage rights, making them popular among photo users. Due to this, you may find many buyers using the same image at the same time.

Although many sellers submit images to microstock agencies, the agencies only choose the best quality images. As a result, the image pool is limited than you would expect, resulting in different buyers selecting the same photos.

Therefore, if you’re planning a marketing campaign using microstock images, price and budget shouldn’t be your number one factor to consider. However, if you run a small business in a smaller geographical location, you can benefit from royalty-free images.

Bottom Line

In most cases, people overlook the exclusivity factor and prioritize monetary consideration. But as you have seen, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each licensing model and evaluate your usage needs. Whatever your stock photo needs are, you’ll always find a suitable licensing model to match your needs.

See also

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