How a Stock Photography Website Works

A stock photography website uses a database of images of fulfill the needs of its audience. These images may be purchased and viewed in two ways: as a royalty-free (RF) or rights-managed (RM) image.

The website works by obtaining images from photographers for placement on the website. Whether the professional or amateur professional receives payment per transaction or simply for the site to own depends on the stock photography site.  However, whether the consumer pays for each license or for one fee is determined by whether the website uses a RF or RM platform, which it to be covered.

Photos are often placed on the website in a low-resolution form. This way, the user can see its effectiveness, and this is a common way to draw the consumer into purchasing rights to the picture. Photographers can place their images on the website on some contractual basis, but again this is dependent on the standards of the stock photography website.

Royalty-free (RF) Photos
For RF photos, the consumer pays a one-time fee to use a particular image.  This transaction does have limits: there are certain limits as to how many times the photo can be reproduced.  A royalty-free license can not give exclusive rights for a image.  Also, there are no time limits to when the image can be used.

Rights-managed (RM) Photos

RM photos are determined along several categories of usage. Typically, RM photos are determined by area of usage (industry), specific use (medium), duration, print run, territory, size, industry and exclusivity.  These guidelines are managed with the photo so that they are not used in a similar way; e.g. the consumer retains a level of exclusivity, even if it is not completely exclusive.

RM photos can also be specified for particular uses.  For instance, an "editorial" RM photo can not be used for advertising or for depicting controversial subjects, but only for educational and news purposes. RM images differ from RF images in that the former typically allows for a much larger print run per image.


Traditional stock photography websites, such as Getty Images, offer images shot by professional photographers.  They typically use agencies to negotiate licensing fees for the photographer.  The agency also determines the price of the image for its use on the website, which can depend on a number of factors such as the size of the audience, the duration of the use of the image, and the country where the image will be used, among others.

Microstock photography services allow professional and amateur photographers to sell their work on stock photography websites as well.  These sites tend to offer more pictures at lower prices.
Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: