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“What is the difference between commercial and editorial stock photography?”

If you’ve missed the last few common questions I’ve answered in these issues, you can find them here and here.

This week, let’s talk about one of the most common questions we get around here – what is editorial stock?

There are a few key differences between commercial and editorial stock photography, but it all comes down to this one main difference: How the photo is used.

People need stock photos for all kinds of uses, from ad campaigns and product labels, to text books and articles.

Whenever a photo is used to SELL something, it’s commercial use.

And whenever it illustrates an article in a newspaper, magazine, or textbook, it’s editorial use.

You can sell both through most stock agencies by simply checking the “editorial use” box when you upload a photo. Here are the main differences:

Commercial Stock Photos

  • Can be used to sell or advertise a product, service, or brand.
  • Need signed model or property releases if there are people or property in the photo.
  • Can be creatively enhanced or manipulated in editing software.
  • Must be logo- and brand-free.

photos of runners being sold as commercial stock photography

Notice how there are no logos visible on the models’ clothing in either of the above photos. The shots are carefully composed and the models likely followed the photographer’s direction to achieve a specific look. Overall, these shots have more of a polished feeling than the next set of photographs.

Editorial Stock Photos

  • Typically illustrate a news story, text book, or magazine article such as a travel piece.
  • Don’t require releases, since the photo is not being used to sell or advertise anything.
  • Can’t be heavily edited or manipulated in editing software; editorial images need to represent the TRUTH, since they can run in a news source.

photos of runners being sold as editorial stock photography

For editorial stock, nothing should be manipulated or removed and the shot should mirror real life. Although these running photos are very different from the images above, these types of shots are perfect for accompanying an article covering a specific event or place.

As a general rule, images available for commercial use will tend to sell better because they can be used for a wider range of projects.

But don’t rule out editorial stock. For the right images, this could be a great option. Photos that relate to current events often sell great in this category.

Hope this helps clear up confusion as you submit shots to your stock photo agencies!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about getting started selling your photos online in stock agencies – no matter how much or little photography experience you have – in the Breakfast Stock Club e-newsletter. It’s once a week, and it’s free to join, here.]

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