Editorial Stock Photography: How It Can And Can’t Be Used

No model releases of people in stock photographs and trademarks of products shown in photographs. These are two problems that will be guaranteed to lead to rejection and disqualification of images for inclusion in a royality-free or rm collection of stock photographs.


Dreams TimeStock agencies and the images buyers need model released people photographs and product images that don’t show trademarked or copyrighted products in the imagery because only model released people and trademark free products can be used in advertising and other published material.

So in general, this is what the stock photographer looks for – but what about all of those other times when a stock photographer is out walking around with their camera and they come across some exciting event or perhaps even a newsworthy happening?  Well, with certain agencies equipped to handle editorial imagery, the stock photographer can also shoot these images and find a market for them.







What Can They be Used For?

Editorial stock images can’t be used in advertising.  For example a photograph of a Ford car can’t be used in an advertisement for Chevy without the car manufacturer’s legal department going into full lawsuit mode. But a magazine article on new hybrid cars might have the need for such a image showing the two cars side by side.  This is the point of editorial stock images, photographs used to illustrate news or editorial articles in newspapers, magazines or  blogs.

In editorial stock images, public spaces and people and things in public are fair game.  This can involve anyone from celebrities to everyday people watching a parade or doing street performance.  Basically editorial images are used to illustrate an article but not used to sell an article.  If you think about it, it just makes sense that a newspaper could run an image of firefighters saving a burning building – you see these type of images everyday on the news, but you wouldn’t expect to download a stock photograph of Brad Pitt and try to slap it on your product ad and imply that Brad Pitt uses your brand of aftershave.   That is the difference between editorial and royalty free commercial stock.

Are Editorial Images Worth the Trouble?

So should your typical stock photographer bother with editorial images?  In my experience it’s a big “yes.”  Not only does the acceptance of editorial stock photographs by a stock agency increase your portfolio offerings by giving you an outlet for images that you can’t secure model releases for, or can’t remove the trademarks for some reason, but editorial images also sell well.

My overall most downloaded stock image in my Dreamstime portfolio at the moment is an editorial image.  I was walking around Boston one fall day and I happened to come upon the filming of this summer’s movie R.I.P.D.  I got a shot of Peter M. Lenkov the producer and writer of this upcoming Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds graphic novel movie R.I.P.D. about zombie police.  It’s been downloaded a number of times and no doubt has been used in articles about the movie in blogs and magazines.  If it wasn’t for Dreamstime accepting editorial, this image would probably just sat on my hard drive.  It’s nice to there is an editorial market out there and one that pays for editorial stock images.

Author Bio


Edward Fielding is a professional stock photographer who contributes regularly to Dreamstime stock photos and images. His portfolio can be viewed at