How to understand images licensing

Whilst a picture says a thousand words, not ensuring you are licensed correctly can cost you a thousand dollars! This is a quick guide to ensure that you understand how we handle the licensing of images, graphics, icons and custom fonts.

If you are supplying your content

You cannot just take pictures that you like, no matter where you found them on e.g. on Google, Instagram etc. You can only use content that you have the rights to use.

If you are supplying content to us, the onus is on you to ensure you have copyright compliant imagery and content. If you have any questions on this, please feel free to ask us, we’re super happy to assist you with this query.

Some clients like to have their own licenses. If this is you, then you will need to take out an account with the correct library, purchase the image and share that image with us. We can only use that image for your project and cannot use it for any other client’s work.

We find generally that this option is not chosen as its time-consuming and requires you to have access to a company credit card which can be challenging. As the files cannot be used in isolation, holding the license rights to them doesn’t necessarily benefit you in the long run.

If we are going to supply your images and graphics

Most of our clients prefer for us to source images and graphics. We subscribe to many image libraries and are able to source content for our clients. This includes images, custom fonts, icons and graphic elements.

It is important to note that if we supply images etc. that we have purchased, that we are the license holders. 

As the purchasers, we then become the license holders. We may use that content in it’s final form (eg. website, presentation, brochure etc.) but we may not give you the actual images, nor may we transfer the license to you.

Stock Image Licensing types

There are different types of licenses, here is a very basic overview. It’s important to note that this is a generalised overview of licensing and you need to check the fine print on the actual site you acquire your assets from.

1. Rights Managed

We hardly ever used Rights Managed as it’s more expensive and more difficult to calculate the costs. The cost of the image is based on the usage – ie you would purchase it for use on your website, but then would need to recalculate the usage if you wanted it for your brochure. You can also choose to buy the exclusive rights of the image so that it cannot be purchased in the future. We’d recommend this only for high-level, above the line campaigns.

2. Royalty-Free

This is our most commonly used license. The benefit of this is that we can purchase an image and can use it across your entire brand. This is a non-exclusive contract so that image can be purchased by other companies around the world. If you are purchasing a Royalty Free license for sale in a derivative product (eg T-shirts, mugs etc. ) then an Extended License is required.

3. Editorial Use License

As a commercial design and marketing agency we don’t purchase Editorial use licenses as they can only be used as part of news stories. Editorial use images feature logos, brands, recognisable places, products and celebrities.

4. Creative Commons License

Creative Commons licenses are often by photographers who share their work online on Creative Commons sites. You need to accredit the content creator and often they cannot be used in commercial applications. This is very notable with fonts on sites like

4. Public Domain

Public Domain is when the content creator has allowed their content to be used without limitation.