Definition of a Royalty Free Image


There are many reasons why someone would want to use royalty free images. Royalty free images can be used on websites, in advertising, on blogs, in brochures or in many other design-oriented ways. The Internet is the best place to find royalty free images.

What Does Royalty Free Mean?

Royalty free means that in most circumstances an image can be used without having to pay royalties to the creator of it. Under a standard royalty free license, a photo or illustration may be used for private and professional creations and application; for example, on a website or in print advertising. The license does not allow the photo or illustration to be used for commercial purposes. For example, you cannot use the photo on a coffee mug or T-shirt and then sell those for profit. You also cannot sell the image itself by reprinting it as a poster or other print.

Royalty Free Versus Rights Managed

Another popular licensing term for images is Rights Managed. This differs from royalty free. With Rights Managed licensing, the buyer receives the right to use the content in specific ways. There are restrictions placed on the usage. These might include the period of time the image can be used, the geographic region it can be used in or what size it can be reproduced.


Royalty free does not mean a user can just pick any image and use it for free. The creator of the image always retains the copyright to his creations, including the ability to distribute it himself or allow others to redistribute it. Royalty free licenses can vary by image and by creator—it's important to read yours thoroughly before using an image or illustration purchased under a royalty free license.


Royalty free image licenses cannot be tracked. This means it's possible someone else can use it, too, and there's no way to predict who, when or where that might be. It may not make a difference if you are using an image on a personal blog, but it could make a big difference if you are using the image in advertising in your business and a competitor uses the same image.

Where to Find Royalty Free Images

There are many royalty free image websites online where you can find images with licenses that range from $1 to several hundreds of dollars. Getty Images is a popular website as is iStockphoto, Fotolia and Jupiter Images. You can search by category, medium or keyword to find the right photos or illustrations for your project.

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