Taking Stock: The Dos And Don’ts Of Using Stock Photography | Foundd Legal

Taking Stock: The Dos And Don’ts Of Using Stock Photography

Understanding the terms of use

Before you use an image for any purpose, it’s super important to understand whether you can use it for that purpose or not.  Make sure to check the terms of use for the image.  Some of more common terms of use that you need to keep an eye out for are set out below:

Open Licenses

An open license says that you can use the image however you please (anyone else picturing 300 print outs of an image being thrown from an American high school stairwell?).  Even when there are open licenses, be careful, as there are sometimes caveats or exceptions to that open license.

Print/ Electronic

The owner is allowed to say where you may use the image they own.  For example, they may say that you can only use the image for things that will be displayed in a “hard copy” such as brochures, or signage etc., but you may not use them online at all, including on your website or on social media. Alternatively, the owner may say the image is only to be used for electronic use, then this means that you are not allowed to use it in print at all, but website use and social media is a-okay here.

Another option is that the owner may be very specific as to the way you may use the image. For example, they may say you can only use it on Instagram.  Particular, but fair dinkum.

Commercial/ Personal

Instead of (or as well as) saying where you’re allowed to display an image, the owner may specify whether you’re able to profit from the use of the image (whether directly or indirectly) or not.  For example, if you’re allowed to use something commercially then you’re able to use the image on advertisements and on a business social media page.  If you can only use the image for personal use then you may only use it, for example, to hang and look pretty on your wall at home.  So pretty!

Use/ Edit

Only because your head obviously wasn’t already spinning with the options (we won’t be mad if you take a quick tea break here, because...) here’s another - whether you are able to use or edit (or both) the image.  Some people wish to use an image and crop it or change it or edit it in some way.  Other people just want to take the image and use it exactly how it is.  Either way, it’s important to know whether you’re allowed to do that.

TOP TIP: One thing to be careful with in terms of images that you are only allowed to use, not edit, is be careful about filters as this could be considered an edit.

Liability and Warranties

Generally, stock images don’t come with any sort of warranty or guarantee from the owner or the stock image third party.  Additionally, the third party stock image supplier and the owner don’t accept liability for any loss caused by the use or are associated in any way with the use of the image.

Before I show you some examples of how it all plays out in the real world, if you are a photographer or are planning on hiring one, don't forget to check out our Templates for Photographers section where you can find everything to get you legally legit.

Some examples


Stocksnap images have a Creative Commons license to use the image for personal or commercial use and either edit or use the image, without having to attribute the image to the owner. This license does not extend to being able to say that any model or owner associated with the image provides any sort of endorsement.


You may use the images for personal or commercial use and you may edit or use the image, but you must give attribution to the image. However, if you are going to sell the image in any way you must edit it, you may not simply resell or redistribute the image.  You may not imply any offence or portray the image or it’s identifiable people in any bad light, or imply any endorsement from the image or its associated people in any way.


You may use the images on Unsplash for personal and commercial use and you may edit or use it.  Similarly to Pexels, you must edit the image if you are going to sell, however, Unsplash requires you to edit the image significantly.  You may not use Unsplash images to compile images and create a service that competes with Unsplash.


Reshot gives you an open license, except that you cannot compile images from Reshot and create a service that competes with Unsplash.


One thing to keep in mind when using other people’s images is that you don’t own the copyright.  Even if you incorporate it into something else with other things you’ve created or own copyright in, depending on the license, it’s likely that you’re not able to claim copyright if you’ve used someone else’s work in it.

How’s that for information overload?! Happy snapping!


Want to stay legally legit but don't know where to start? Download our Photo Licensing Basics Checklist and do it like a pro or book in a consult with one of our lawyers, so we can give you the legally legit lowdown!


Riz McDonald is an e-commerce business owner, business coach, podcaster and a lawyer for over 16 years. She’s also a mum and a lover of good wine...she only ever drinks the cheap stuff when she’s stoney broke.


***Disclaimer. Please read!!***  


This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance. It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice. 


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