How to use other people's images legally?

5 min read
11 September 2019

Most pictures and images on the internet are protected by copyright. This should be taken into consideration, when you use them, especially for commercial purposes. There are different types of licenses that give the right to use other people’s images, some of them are free and some are not.

Pictures from internet resources (stock photo agencies) are sold according to several types of licenses. These licenses might have different terms of use and give different rights.

We have already written how photo authorship works on Instagram, and where to find free images. Now let’s talk about paid licenses.


This license gives the right to use any image for a particular project and specific aims. In this case, when obtaining the license, you will need to indicate the aims a photo will be used for. You won’t have to pay extra if you use the same photo for the same project twice.

For example, you buy an image to advertise your services (on the internet or other media). Having provided all the information about the project, you will be able to use the same photo many times.


This license can also be called a manageable rights license and can only be used by big photo stock agencies. The license allows you to obtain unique rights for using the image. The price depends on the variety of factors, among them:

  • the aim (where and how the photo will be used);
  • the field or industry (news, charity, for an advertising campaign, etc.);
  • the territory (country);
  • the term of use and number of photocopies;
  • how exclusive or unique the photo is;

The rights-managed license guarantees obtaining exclusive rights for the photos. The customer can be sure that the image won’t be used by competitors. The information on the sale and usage of every photo is recorded by the company.

Exclusive Buyout

This license is only used if the buyer wants to obtain the copyright for the image and be able to transfer it. After the purchase, the author waives the right to sell or use the image ever again. The price for such a photo can be up to several thousand dollars.

The parties enter into a written agreement to transfer the copyright. International stock image agencies operate online, thus sometimes the buyer will need to send a scanned copy of their passport or driving license to the author.


This license is needed to illustrate an event or incident in newspapers, magazines, books and other media. Photos in these media depict people quite often. The written agreement of models (people in the picture) is not required. Though, the license doesn’t apply to some photos, for example, close-ups. These images can’t be used for promotional or commercial purposes.

The license is intended for legal entities (companies or editors of different media platforms). For example, it can be bought by any officially registered internet company. These images are also not cheap, both on Russian stock agencies or international ones.


This is the most common license for photo stock agencies and microstock photos. It doesn’t give the right to use the image without a license, all rights are kept by the author. The buyer obtains only the right to use the photo. The license has the following features:

  • the seller pays for the license only once, but he can use a photo without any limit and for any purposes;
  • the seller only pays for the license once, but can use the photo for any purposes an unlimited number of times;
  • the term of use is not limited;
  • the seller doesn’t obtain exclusive rights, the author can sell the photo to different customers as many times as they want;
  • there is a limit to a print run (number of copies) with the photo.

Extended Royalty-Free

This type of license allows making more print runs and lifts restrictions to the number of copies. This license is required if you are going to use the image for commercial purposes. The cost of one photo under the extended royalty-free license is 5-10 times more expensive than under a standard license.

Where to look for quality images?


One of the most popular international photo stock agencies is Depositphotos. The resource provides an opportunity to buy images under a royalty-free license and contains more than 100 million images.


A similar resource is Shutterstock. Images are sorted out in categories that make it easier to find a required photo. All of the photos are sold under Royalty-free license.


It is another resource that provides an extended license (Royalty-Free). This resource has its currency – credits. One credit equals $11.

You can buy a required number of credits and spend them on photos, audio, video, illustrations or buy a subscription.


This stock agency offers a 7-day trial and a chance to download up to 35 royalty-free images. It is a perfect opportunity to understand how often you are going to use the service and how many images you need.


This service is just as popular as Shutterstock. Its biggest advantage is a section with free photos. But you should bear in mind that the images can also be used by other people.

Pixabay and Onlypult

Now has the option of finding Royalty-free photos. The search is carried out at Pixabay photo stock agency. Click the button «Add media» and look for a photo or an image of your choice.

You will be redirected to the image stock website where you can find a required photo in a variety of categories. Use keywords:

Read the rules of using other people’s images and photos and choose the licenses that suit you the most.