Stock vs Royalty free images: the differences and benefits

royalty free photography


Many people often use the phrases ‘stock’ and ‘royalty free’ interchangeably when talking about photography and free images. While the two refer to somehow similar things, they are very different, and it is essential to have a detailed understanding of the difference when planning a design project.

In the past, when one needed a photo, he was supposed to hire the services of a professional photographer who had the skills needed to create custom shots. Fast forward to today, photography has dramatically evolved, and modern photos are often used to not only display images but also to convey a mood or set a scene. For example, a financial planning company will often use images of a retired couple walking and laughing along a beautiful beach to promote investment actions.

Stock photography

Stock photography is priced the same way a custom shoot is, i.e. the fee charged is generally based on the usage. With stock images, there are no direct or hidden costs of getting the shot made. Preferably, one is required to pay for the finished product. The fee paid is generally determined on where the image will be used and for how long.

When you pay for a stock image, you will be required to use it in only one spot. For example, if you pay a stock image and ask to use it on the front cover of a favourite magazine, you will be limited to only that. The license will not allow you to use the image in any other place like your website or any other marketing material which you may have.

Royalty free photography

Unlike Stock Photography, royalty free photography allows you to pay a flat fee before using the image in any place. The fee in this particular option is usually determined by the resolution of the image. A low refile that can only work as a small blog image will cost less as compared to a large-scale, high-resolution image which can be easily used in both print and web.



Another significant distinction between stock photos and royalty free images is that the latter option can be purchased over and over by different people while the first option can only be purchased ones. Basically, for royalty free images, the photo you have chosen for the front page of your marketing magazine may be the exact photo your competitor chooses to use on his website.