Are Royalty-Free Images Free?

Are royalty-free images free?


Royalty-free does not mean an image can be used for free.

Royalty-free means that after a license fee has been paid the image may be downloaded and used according to the type of license you have purchased.

Just because you can save an image, that you see on a stock photo site or any other site, to your computer it doesn’t mean that you have any rights to use it.

Didn’t your mother ever tell you… Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

I spent a little time the other night searching for a few of my images that are available over at and found several of them being used online. I’ll post something about those tomorrow. For today I am posting about the images I found being used that still had the stock site’s watermarks on the face of the images.


Once you pay for the license to use an image from a stock photo site, or pay for a personal use or web use download directly from a photographer’s site, or pay for a print to be delivered to your home the watermark will not be visible.

If you see an image that is being used and it still has a watermark on it odds are that the user has not gotten permission from the photographer to use that image. [Yes I know that on these small copies of screen shots it’s hard to see the watermarks; but they are there.]

Capture14When I post images online I add my watermark so that if anyone is interested in the image they will know who to get in touch with if they would like to use the image. Many many many photographers out there do the same.

A watermark can be thought of as the wrapper around the poster. Pay for the poster and you can take the wrapper off… pay for an image use license and the watermark goes away.

It’s funny how someone who wouldn’t even consider walking into Wal-Mart and stealing a poster to hang on their wall sees nothing wrong with stealing a digital image to “hang” on their website or  social media pages.

Capture21Capture22Let’s get the idea out of our heads that photography is free. It most definitely is not. Royalty-free does not mean use for free.

For my fellow photographers out there who have also had images stolen- Popular Photography has a great article on what you can do about it.



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